Education Green Dot LAUSD

Locke High School: Return of the Jedi?


Tuesday (today, by the time most of you read this) is the day that the LAUSD board will decide
whether or not it wants to jump into the drama that unfolded last spring around Locke High School. More specifically, the board will vote Tuesday morning on a resolution introduced last month by new board member Richard Vladovic, which would mandate an up-or-down vote by the board on the the Locke/Green Dot charter petition.

If that sounds overly complicated, let me refresh your memories: Last May, Green Dot and Locke’s activist teachers formally submitted a petition asking for the low scoring high school to be converted to a charter school, with Green Dot the administrative entity. The petition was signed by approximately 60 percent of Locke’s 73 tenured teachers. The Green Dot supporters only needed 51 percent, to legally trigger a charter conversion. So, bingo, the charter was all set to be mandated…..but…..

…. the Empire Struck Back. Furious union and district officials met with teachers, then bullied, hectored and scared the bejeezus out of them. The upshot was, seventeen of the teachers rescinded their signatures, thus dynamiting the charter majority. (Whether all this rescinding is legal or not, is up for debate, but in any case, there was now a cloud over the petition. )

While they were at it, district officials also fired Locke’s principal, Dr. Frank Wells, for supporting the charter move, and demoted Bruce Smith, the senior teacher who was a leader in the charter fight. (He told me that, last week when he got his paycheck, instead of getting around $40 an hour he got $31.86, another questionably legal move on the part of district apparatchiks.)

Many disgruntled district watchers (myself included) then called on the newly reconstituted LAUSD board to prove their would-be-reformist mettle and thus step in and settle the issue. Whether or not they choose to be….as Mr. Bush might say….the deciders, is what is up for a vote today.

The drama was upped a few notches last Wednesday, when in a surprising turn of events, LAUSD Superintendent, Admiral Brewer, came over to Locke and, in a meeting with the faculty, publically supported the charter conversion. Since that time, six teachers have rescinded their rescinding—with another half-dozen still on vacation rumored to be planning to do the same.

So….this brings us to this morning’s meeting. Eight union people will speak against the charter conversion, with four speaking for it. (Weirdly, there were only eight speaker spots and the union simply gobbled them all up. It was only after the Green Dot group launched a strong protest that four additional speakers spots were opened up. Gee. How debate friendly!)

But here’s the thing: the stakes here are far greater
than the fate of one inner city high school. The Santee teachers have told me they are watching Locke carefully to determine how they might fare with a similar movement. And if Locke and Santee both went Green Dot charter, what other high school dominos might then fall?

(It is telling that state senator Gloria Romero—who has recently let it be known that she plans to run for State Superintendent of Schools—made a point of meeting with some of Locke’s charter-supporting teachers earlier this month.)

If I was in town, I’d be down at Beaudry Street watching the board vote. But I’m not, thus I’ll rely on nefarious spies, education radicals and rogue informants.

So stay tuned.

(And, yes, that is Steve Barr in the photo.)


  • California schools are doomed. G. Romero overseeing California schools is like the County Supervisors overseeing MLK-DEAD.

  • This story is California and Los Angeles political drama at its best/worst. You have the ever powerful Teachers Unions who have Mike Tyson knockout power over any politician who dare challenge them. And you have the same politicians trying to reform the same schools the teachers work at. Is there anything wrong with this picture?

    You have Fabian “Big Sneaky” Nunez pushing SB92 limiting charter schools to win favor from the teachers unions, I guess he wants to ensure support and money for his next campaign and job maybe mayor of Los Angeles. Luckily we have our big terminator Governor ready to block any bill like SB92. He has done this before (AB1860) and will do it again. Arnold I apologize for laughing at the way you pronounced Kaleeforneea, you proved me wrong many times.

    ( Way to go Arnold)…-a0122727760

    (Fabian’s Filthy Trick )

    I think the only way we can reform the political system is to eliminate all these career political snakes a short list that comes to mind. Gloria Molina, Gloria Romero, Richard Alatorre, Fabian Nunez, Janice Hahn, Bitter Bernie Parks and etc, etc even might short list would take to much space.

    But the greatest tragedy of all this is, that most students in LAUSD schools don’t know the function of the – three main branches of California government (Executive, Legislative, Judicial), or city council, board of supervisors, the board members of LAUSD.

  • Does anybody know any decision makers inside the teachers union? I’d love to hear their perspective on why it’s not a good idea to work wtih Green Dot. From where I sit, their approach is both counterproductive and ultimately doomed, but I’d love to know what they think and I wonder if they are worried that this kind of fighting makes them look bad.

  • Mavis, the head of the union, A.J. Duffy, who has been pretty intractable (to understate it), seems to see the writing on the wall, and I think is pretty much ready to deal. Or nearly so, anyway. The second in command, Linda Guthrie, is quite level headed and, if it were left up to here I think she’d work out a contractual accommodation for Green Dot, which is what Steve Barr’s been asking for all along. On their existing budgets, the Green Dot charters can’t provide life-time benefits, which is the main sticking point for tenured teachers. But if there was a waver worked out, the teachers for whom that was important, who were near the end of their careers, could simply teach elsewhere in the system. In the end, it can’t be about the grown-ups well being, if that runs counter to the well-being of the kids.

    In the case of Locke, the local district rep, and the school rep are the real Troglodytes. Such was also the case and Jefferson, but at that time Duffy was also on the war path because he assumed he could defeat the upstart Barr. Ooops. His mistake.

    At Santee, the present and former union rep are among those looking into a charter conversion, and interested in it. Also, the local district rep for Santee seems not averse, although I admit I’ve not spoken about it to her directly.

    In the case of both Locke and Santee, their teaching staff is comparatively young, so the lifetime benefit thing is less of an issue, plus in both schools, there’s a solid core of smart, idealistic teachers who are ready to do whatever’s going to benefit the kids.

    L.A. Res, if your comments get hung up and I don’t free them quickly, email me. Up in Montana right now I’m quite web challenged so I only check the site once or twice a day at most (if that). But I do monitor email on my blackberry. My spam catcher seems to snatch and hold comments that have more than one link.

  • One missing piece of the story (or maybe I just missed it–bad habit of skimming)…what’s the latest with Frank Wells, the former Locke principal? He became my personal hero when all of the controversy was happening at Locke, and I do wonder what he’s up to now. Has he been reinstated by a contrite union? (I joke). Did he find another position where he’d be appreciated? I’d like to see some follow up on that aspect, if anyone knows anything.

  • Hmmmm, good question, Watcher. Too bad I didn’t check the comments earlier, as I was just on the phone with Steve Barr who was sitting with Frank Wells. When I do an update at the September 11 vote, I’ll be sure to find out. (I’ve promised myself to cease and desist LAUSD reporting for most of the remainder of my vacation.) But if I happen to talk to any of the Green Dot or Locke folks before then, I’ll post an answer to your question. It’s my understanding that he’ll be part of the charter if it goes forward, but as to what he’ doing now… ? As I said, I’ll be sure to find out, but it likely won’t be until I get back.

  • […] Interspersed with the union speakers, a string of students and teachers from Locke—plus a couple of local church pastors—come up to the microphone and plead for the conversion. “It’s too late for me,” said a sixteen year old Locke senior named Alnesha Jones, “but I want my younger brothers and sisters to have a good school like Green Dot is talking about.” “They tell us we’re taking a big risk,” says one of the pastors. “But as a Bishop I know used to say, ‘ You can’t fall down if you’re already lying on the ground.” As the speakers continue to cycle up to the microphone, Steve Barr leans against a side wall and, although he looks decidedly exhausted, he professes not to be worried. “We went out and got more signatures,” he says, “so today we have 38 permanent teachers who have signed the petition, out of 71 teachers at Locke. That’s more than half, so they have to give it to us,” he says. “I’m betting it’s going to be five to two in our favor.” [For the back-story on the signature battle click here.] […]

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