Education LAUSD

Tales of LAUSD: Sandra Takes the High Road


I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog
railing about the problems and failures of our public schools in general, and LAUSD in particular.

Writer, radio commentator, and pal, Sandra Tsing Loh,
has done something else. Rather than throwing brickbats, she’s doing all she can to make her local schools better. Whenever Sandra speaks or writes on the subject it’s always worth our attention.

On an earlier thread commenter Reg
pointed out that there was a new Sandra article in the March issue of the Atlantic Monthly. It wasn’t online at the time, but it is now. Here’s a representative couple of clips:

Beating up on public schools is not just our nation’s favorite blood sport, but also a favorite conversational entertainment of the well-off—like debating the most recent toothsome plot twists of Big Love—who, of course, have no dog in the fight. And who adore a tragic ending. In my Los Angeles, everyone agrees that public education is a bombed-out shell, nonnegotiable, impoverished, unaccountable, run in Spanish. I wept over [Jonathan] Kozol’s books for years, but I myself am no freedom fighter. If I could have afforded either a $1.3 million house in La Cañada or $40,000 a year to send my two girls to a private school (that is, if we’d gotten into said school; I confess that, even though I described my older daughter as “marvelously inquisitive” when we applied, we were wait-listed) I wouldn’t waste two minutes on social justice. Let them spell cake! (Which is to say, let them spell it “kake.”) We tried to flee to the white suburbs, but we failed, and in failing, we seem to have fallen out of the middle class, because today my daughters attend public school with the urban poor….

….Our eldest daughter is the only blonde in her class of 20, her grade being about one-third English-learners.

Read the whole thing.


  • Taxpayers who foot the school bills, people who are forced to move their kids to decent school zones, and people who have to pass the torch to the next generation certainly do have a dog in the fight.

  • Since I read “Death at an Early Age” more years ago than I’d like to remember I’ve been a fan of Kozol’s. I don’t know the circumstances of Loh’s meeting but everytime I’ve heard him he praises the Latino and Black parents in his East Harlem District who struggle to get a better deal for their kids. As to the money argument, I always thought he had a killer. When some Scarsdale or White Plains resident tells him that money doesn’t make a difference, he replies: “Funny, it seems to in your schools!”

    But let us not go there. Here in LA the Headmaster of the Crossroads school is retiring. Crossroaads is a K-12 school of about 1200 for “troubled” and “Challenging” students. Its a fave of the “Industry.” Dustin Hoffman sent his kids there and so does Spielberg. Anecdotes said that the fued between Arnold Swartzeneger and Arianna Huffington began when they used to jostle for mposition in the parking lot at four to pick up their kids. And tuition is around $30,000 a year.

    I’m going to guess that techers there are very well paid. Why? Because the TIMES article said that the Headmaster was making better than 300 Grand a year! I know College Presidents who don’t make that much at institutions with far more students.

    But the kids at Crossroads will go to college and will get all the help they need. I think of another student – a Texan with severe personality disorders and signs of sociopathy. Put him in LAUSD and he’s definitely “Risk”. Put him in Andover and He’s the 43rd President of the US. Right. Money doesn’t matter.

  • Crossroads is for “troubled” and “challenging” students? Really?

    Good point though. That’s why so many of my liberal writer and editor friends had zero interest in writing or publishing about the school system. They had their kids in Crossroads or Harvard Westlake or Calmont or..Marlborough. So the subject of public schools seemed sort of …..tedious.

  • ric, I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make calling Crossroads a place for “troubled” and “challenging” students. I suppose many are “challenging” in that they’re pretty outspoken, compared to more traditional schools — it’s a very
    “artsy” campus compared to the traditional ones, like where Arnold sends his kids now. More suited for the Goldie Hawn/ Kurt Russells, whose daughter Kate Hudson went there. Or for musicians…

    I take exception with Sondra’s premise, though, that if you have money for a nice house in L A — she throws out the figure $1.3 million for out of town in the “Chinese Beverly Hills” as what sounds like a lot of money to her — you’ll have a good school. As I/ Maggie and maybe one-two others have pointed out, that is NOT the case. There is NOT ONE good middle or high school available anyone on the westside, which is what this fabled area of wealth is called (other than the city of Santa Monica, where Crossroads is located appropriately enough — and whose schools are better, though Santa Monica High has had some violence lately, too). Because the left of liberal LAUSD members like Julie Korenstein etc. etc., don’t believe in it philosophically — figure that since the people there will pick up the slack by sending their kids to private school (in a furtive scramble that Sondra does get right — eliminating competition in the private school sector because there is NO public choice), they can be ignored and disenfranchised.

    So Celeste, they’re not going to care about your efforts and have “zero interest in writing or publishing about the public school system,” because they’ve/ we’ve been shut out. And when we DO point out the facts to those not in this little world, WE are derided and blamed for the situation, because it’s so politically incorrect to point out that the liberal mantra — Kozol’s kind of dogma that affluent areas always have the most resources — is upside down in LAUSD. And STILL the system fails even for the bottom tier the financial and manpower resources have been skewed to help.

    When there ARE decent elementary schools, in a handful of pockets like Warner, even studio CEO’s and actors send their kids there, as they often do in Beverly Hills, and they put in lots of elbow grease, from classrooms to fundraising for renovations and classrooms. These parents aren’t always disengaged because they’re snobby and choose to be. (Sondra does get right — the parent volunteerism that makes schools like hers function at all, even if it’s turned her into a magnet school kamikaze — nice photo!)

  • It’s easier to understand when you see and hear the players discuss the problems and solutions.

    Video Link: LAUSD – Education Revolt in Watts:

    “Vikki Reyes has had it with Locke High, the school her daughters attend in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. She walked in on class one day and recalls “the place was just like a zoo!” Students had taken control, while the teacher sat quietly with a book.

    “Frank Wells has also had it with Locke High. When he became principal he says gangs ruled the campus. He tried to turn things around but ran into a “brick wall” of resistance from the school district and teachers union.

    “Locke seemed destined to languish in high crime and low test scores until Wells, Reyes, and many reform-minded teachers joined with a maverick named Steve Barr in an attempt to break free from the status quo. Their battle is just one example of the charter school education revolt that’s erupting across the nation.”

  • WBC I was just amused at the article in the LAT extolling the educational virtues of the Crossroads Headmaster. Hey, for 300 Grand he better have something!

  • I didn’t know the Headmaster was making $300K, but figures in a school like that, which has dropped AP classes as too test- oriented and not student-centered enough. However, since those extra credits applied toward college really make it easier to fulfill college requirements especially in languages it has cost them a lot of applicants to more traditional pressure-cookers. Still no shortage of applicants given the lack of any viable competition from public schools.

    It wouldn’t totally surprise me that lifelong animosities could develop from circling the parking alley for drop-off. Like other schools with limited parking and neighborhood opposition (including Curtis 1-8 on Mulholland), parents are “allowed” to get in line depending on the number of kids they have in their car, to encourage carpooling. Less than three kids and you’re made to wait, no matter who you are.

  • Cool link, Woody. I’ve never seen that footage. (I wonder who shot it all. I know my friend Philip Rodriquez had a camera crew there at the school board meeting for the Locke vote…..)

    Anyway, thanks. It was fun to watch.

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