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Parents challenge Crenshaw High shake-up

Los Angeles school district officials received a frequently skeptical and occasionally hostile reception Tuesday night when they met with parents and others to explain their plans to restructure low-performing Crenshaw High School.

More than 150 community members and others were packed into the school library to hear about how the current school would be closed next summer and reopened in the form of three magnet schools. Under the new format, the Leimert Park campus would retain its old name and traditions, including its respected arts and athletic programs, officials said.

Local residents and current students would be guaranteed admission to the new programs, which as “magnets” would be open to students from across the nation’s second-largest school system.

The school’s restructuring includes requiring staff members to re-interview for their jobs. Based on recent efforts at other L.A. schools, the result could be that few current teachers would return.

Senior district administrator George Bartleson characterized the meeting as part of a “listening campaign” to get community input, and his team got an earful.

“My son came home and told me what was going on. I should have been informed first,” said parent Rosalind Harris.

She complained that L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy acted with no input from the community, teachers or students.

“We should have had our voices heard first and then maybe Deasy come back to us with a plan, a suggestion.”

“Where is Deasy?” several voices then called out.

Deasy was not part of the delegation but has said Crenshaw’s academic results required assertive action on behalf of students.

The school with 1,500 students — nearly all from low-income families, has made virtually no progress in getting more testing as proficient in English and math. The percentage of students proficient in English has declined slightly over four years, from 19% to 17%; in math, the figure has inched from 2% to 3%.

This year there was an upward bump in the school’s overall Academic Performance Index score, which folds in results from all students tested. That figure rose from 554 to 569, which still leaves the school among the lowest scoring in the state and in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The school has experienced an enrollment decline, with many potential students choosing other district schools or independent, publicly funded charter schools.

Teachers and others blamed the district itself for the slow progress. The school has suffered through a parade of principals. And outside “partners” for the campus, including the Urban League, provided less support than anticipated, they said. District critics said L.A. Unified would be wiser to build on strengths of the school rather than start over, which would be disruptive for students and could create a new set of problems.

A number of parents praised the school’s staff and welcoming environment and said their children are making academic progress. Others said they are open to change and agreed that improvement is needed, but also wary of what the district has to offer.

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-- Howard Blume

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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