By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
One obvious attribute of new Superintendent Romer is his political adroitness in circles well outside of the school district. Besides having served as governor of Colorado, Romer chaired the Democratic National Committee until accepting the L.A. schools position this week. His role included helping to organize this August’s presidential-nomination convention in Los Angeles. But that experience is merely a starting point for what he‘ll deal with at L.A. Unified.
In short, Romer has to redirect the school district from its tried and failed path, evident at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School and so many other places. For three years, principal Jim Messrah has stared dumbfounded at an empty lot that was supposed to house a new classroom building. In this instance, the community wants the project, and the school district bought the land from a willing seller several years ago. The parcel is conveniently located adjacent to the existing school.
”Everything was approved, and yet the land sits vacant,“ said Messrah. ”One week I’m told it was underfunded. The next that the guidelines have changed because we waited so long. Now it needs another environmental study. Pretty soon you‘re in a fog, and you don’t know truth from fiction.
“I watch and wonder at the cathedral going up downtown. Everything goes up quickly except schools. The thing I keep hearing is that we‘re going to build 150 new schools -- we can’t build a building. Our kids deserve better.”
Junk the year-round schedule, and the length of each student‘s school year increases by a month. Eliminate long bus rides, and parents would start the schooling of as many as 2,500 children in kindergarten rather than first grade. That would provide an extra year of academics to those children at a vital stage in their development. Neighborhood schools also allow parents to become involved in their kid’s education. How much of a difference does that make?
As it stands, some high school students will be “on track” for homecoming or baseball season. Some will not. Some college-bound students will take advantage of summer enrichment programs. Others won‘t, because of the year-round schedule. And advanced-placement classes will either be packed onto one track -- for the preordained “smart” students (and God forbid if you’re a late bloomer) -- or be scattered among the different tracks, limiting access to some courses. And once again, the school district will drive away middle-class families whose buy-in and participation are sorely needed.
As for teachers, how much would it enhance their effectiveness to have a permanent classroom rather than having to pack up and unpack several times a year? The constant moving discourages teachers from assembling classroom libraries and other learning materials that are difficult to store or transport. It also contributes to burnout.
For Mayor Riordan, marshaling the full force of the city and its civic elite to solve the classroom shortage would be a legacy that not even Rampart could tarnish. The question is: Do Riordan, Romer and the city have the wit and will to pull it off?
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