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Carver Middle students protest impending takeover by L.A.'s mayor

March 2, 2010 |  4:14 pm

About 100 students staged a peaceful sit-in at Carver Middle School on Tuesday to protest the school falling under the jurisdiction of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The protest came one week after the L.A. Board of Education voted to shift Carver, a persistently low-performing school, to the control of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a nonprofit controlled by Villaraigosa.

"We are trying to show the mayor that we are well-educated and we don't need any partnership schools to come here to educate us," said eighth-grader Arturo Macias, 14.

Macias said he and fellow organizer Reyes Bravo — also a 14-year-old eighth-grader — didn't rely on Facebook or Twitter to get the word out: "I've been telling my fellow students about this rally for a couple of weeks now. The mayor thinks he's going to make our school better. He thinks he can run the schools. He can't even run a city."

The partnership now runs 12 schools, and added three more last week through a groundbreaking bidding process. Under it, groups inside and outside the Los Angeles Unified School District vied for control of 18 new campuses and 12 existing ones, including Carver, located in South Park.

The competing proposal for Carver came from a group of Carver teachers working closely with the school’s principal.

“There is much anger and frustration,” said one staff member, speaking anonymously out of fear of retribution. “We feel betrayed. Many of us worked on our plan for months. We neglected our families and our health … to try and come up with a really meaningful and usable plan that would be the beginning of turning our school around.”

Discomfort in the Carver community clearly has reached students, who began to gather on outdoor steps inside the school grounds at lunch, then declined to return to class. Students listened as Macias laid out concerns for the future through a microphone. About 30 minutes later, a school staff member (who’s also a parent) asked students to return to class, and they did.

The mayor’s team has insisted it wants to work with the current Carver staff members, but they wanted the opportunity to lead their own improvement effort. They were excited about the prospect of more local autonomy than the school had ever enjoyed.

Before the school board’s decision, the mayor’s representatives were greeted with an anti-mayor demonstration at the school and some catcalls at a public presentation. The local plan also trounced the mayor’s in non-binding school-level elections among parents, employees and community members. But L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines gave the mayor’s group the edge, saying it produced a higher-caliber proposal, and the school board ratified his verdict.

-- Mark Boster and Howard Blume

Photo: Eighth-grade student Arturo Macias addresses students gathered on the steps of George Washington Carver Middle School. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times