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Students at 13 campuses, including schools planned for Granada Hills, San Fernando, and Echo Park, will now be attending pilot, charter and magnet schools as a result of a Los Angeles School District Board of Education ruling Tuesday.
“Today, the lives of more than 20,000 students and their families changed for the better,” Villaraigosa said of the school board’s decision. “The vote on Public School Choice was another step towards improving access to a variety of quality public education options for students and parents in Los Angeles. Implemented less than two years ago, Public School Choice has already proven to be an innovative and ambitious program that cuts through an abundance of red tape when it comes to hitting the restart button on our failing schools and building successful new schools from the ground up.”
Not everyone is pleased with the Public School Choice program, a reform program designed to give outside parties the chance to improve student achievement.
According to A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, the Board is “giving away” public schools and public money.
Citing a “dire financial situation,” the LAUSD Board of Education issued 5,000 pink slips last week to employees (teachers as well as health and human services professionals) notifying them of a potential layoff, including four teachers at Melrose Avenue Mathematics, Science, Technology Magnet School.
Tuesday morning, parents, faculty and students at Melrose Avenue School held a rally in support of the teachers that may be let go at the end of the school year. The protesters stressed that education must be a priority.
Parent Mika Mingasson was one of the Melrose Avenue School rally’s organizers and is concerned about her child’s education.
“These children and these teachers have answered every challenge they have been presented,” Mingasson said. “They have performed beyond our wildest expectations. Upon learning that they are threatened with losing the teachers that have fostered this success and opened their lives to endless possibility, the kids are making a stand.”
At Melrose Avenue School, a magnet school for the last two years, it is the newest teachers without seniority that find their jobs on the chopping block. For second grade teacher Kevin Gaffield, who was handed his pink slip on Friday after six years with the school district, his main concern is his students.
“It’s about the students,” Gaffield said. “I’ll still come in to do my job for them but this interferes with their education.”
First grade teacher John Rivera, who has been with the district since 1996, was not in danger of losing his position but came out in support of his fellow educators.
“It’s a shame,” Rivera said. “They’re part of the school family. If you take teachers from the school it effects that school.”
Pointing out that incoming LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy recently signed a three-year contract with an annual salary of $330,000 (receiving $80,000 more than his predecessor), 5th grade teacher Gina Olabuenaga, seven years with the district, couldn’t help but point out the disparity.
“It’s disappointing, but I understand the temptation at the top,” Olabuenaga said. “It seems unfair. All the years we had a surplus the district threw money away on stupid things and never saved for a rainy day.”
Noting that there is no more stimulus money, and that Title I and Title III funds have been cut, Olabuenaga, who has been issued a pink slip every year of her career, believes she and her fellow fired teachers are “victims of poor planning.”
Melrose Avenue School was once an underperforming school, but last year recorded the highest increase in test performances statewide. Students achieved a 124-point increase in API score, the greatest gain for all schools in California including middle and high schools. Faculty members believe that layoffs will eventually chip away at what they’ve accomplished.
Pink-slipped kindergarten teacher Kelly Willis, seven years with the district, has already seen his class balloon to 29 students without the assistance of an aide, but holds no bitterness regarding the superintendent’s raise.
“People deserve a salary,” Willis said, “but teachers, we haven’t received any raises. As dismal as it is, keep things as they are.”
As teachers and students prepared to go to class after their 30-minute morning protest, parent Jennifer Babaahanyan, mother to a 1st, 3rd and 5th grader, hopes the students and the school won’t suffer as a result of budget cuts.
“This is terrible,” Babaahanyan said. “Our kids are our future. Now the school year starts late and ends early, it’s ridiculous. I hope this gets worked out.”
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