Howard Blume’s article on L.A.’s overcrowded schools [“No Vacancy,” June 9–15] was excellent. I particularly agree with everything he said about year-round, multitrack schools. They are a disaster, and no “reform” in methodologies will change this. As a teacher, I feel like an itinerant worker when I have to move rooms every four months. I also feel like I’m working in a Ford factory that has three shifts, rushing to put out something before the next crew comes in. But we are not factory workers, and our students are not cars.
As an LAUSD graduate and the father of three children who are attending or will attend LAUSD schools, I was saddened but not surprised by Howard Blume’s story about the need for new schools in the district. Don’t the current and ongoing construction debacles, from Belmont to South Gate, suggest the need to start over, with a clean slate? The only answer is to break the district up into the smallest groupings possible — perhaps as small as four grade schools that feed two middle schools that feed one high school — and then charter them as new unified districts. Split that $5 billion pot of bond money among the resulting 30 or so districts, and let the parents whose children attend these schools elect local boards that care about their communities. It’s a tragedy what has happened to the schools in this city. It is time to stop the bleeding, and let parents — and only parents — take charge. God knows they couldn’t do any worse than the LAUSD board has over the past 15 years.
I was glad to see Howard Blume’s article “No Vacancy,” illustrating the already catastrophic level of overcrowding in the LAUSD, with even more growth in the numbers of students projected. How much degradation of the quality of life, how much traffic congestion, pollution and overtaxing of all our resources will it take before we can mention that there are too many people here for our infrastructure to sustain? Crawling traffic and chronic overcrowding get worse every year and already limit our mobility. How bad will it have to get before we can discuss limiting immigration at least to maintain an equilibrium at this already severely overcongested level?
The forces of misguided good intentions and failed ideologies have been hammering on our public school system for 30 years. All the chickens of busing, social promotion, bilingual education and vapid talk of “building bridges” to this or that community have finally come home to roost. And now it’s all on Roy Romer’s shoulders to fix. Can we really expect him to get it done when the people who created this catastrophe are still in place? Like any bureaucracy, the numskulls responsible are all covering their incompetent backsides, and they’ll do anything to keep their worthless jobs — including watching the system they created explode like the Death Star. Let’s give Roy Romer the essential tool he needs to muck out the barn. Give the man dictatorial powers before the desk fliers get a chance to ball him up with industrial-strength red tape. Broom the deadwood.
I want to thank you for your recent article on the school infrastructure, and to point out the irony of the fact that the LAUSD’s downtown L.A. headquarters over by the Music Center is actually a former school and could easily be converted back into a school by moving the administration offices into the empty buildings of downtown, as the Los Angeles Community College District so efficiently does. Another interesting example of using structures for academic administration is the county Department of Education building in Downey in what used to be the old Northrop Aircraft Co.
No More Macaulay Culkin? Yesss!
Thanks for Nancy Rommelmann’s well-done, balanced story on Jena Malone [“Jena at 15,” June 16–22]. Sadly, it’s just another telling of the same old Hollywood story of parental betrayal and childhoods that never were. More important, Rommelmann recognized the vital work that former child star Paul Petersen and his organization, A Minor Consideration, have done on behalf of child actors of the past, present and future. Paul went through his own post-star hell and, unlike many of his peers, came out the other end resolved to protect the interests of these vulnerable young ones. He has successfully lobbied Sacramento on several occasions for legislation to provide this protection. Most of us were warmed and cheered by the recent Oscar segment hosted by the latest preteen sensation, Haley Joel Osment, in which we saw clips of child stars of the past 60 years. But those boys and girls eventually grew up and had grown-up problems that most were unprepared to face. Perhaps with Paul Petersen and his group on watch, the cliché of the tragedy of the former child star will become a thing of the past. No more Bobby Driscolls, Carl “Alfalfa” Switzers, Trent Lehmans, Rusty Hamers, River Phoenixes, etc.
I just read the article “Jena at 15.” It was well-written and an interesting topic. Being a mom, my heart tugged at the way Jena’s mother was treated, even though it clearly shows she misused and/or misappropriated Jena’s earnings. Just because a teen has some money, it is incomprehensible to assume they can care for themselves and no longer need a mother.
I had the privilege of meeting Jena Malone in Utah last summer while my friend was working with her on the set of The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, and I thought she was quite possibly the nicest person I had ever met. Now to read about the shit she was going through with her mother at the time makes me even more impressed at how she could remain so focused, friendly and genuine.
Get a Grip, Dude
John McCormick’s article about the Maids [“Back to Bataan,” June 23–29] completely restores my faith in the L.A. Weekly. I recall listening to that song about Bataan on KUSF every morning before heading out for my job as a bicycle messenger on the streets of San Francisco in ’79 and ’80. Dude, I cried when I read this shit.
Blind Man Screaming
Re: Juan Gomez’s letter in the June 16–22 issue of the Weekly. Lalo Lopez/Alcaraz continues to be one of the few who don’t hesitate to skewer those whose incompetence and blindness scream out for it. This may not win him many popularity contests or huge residuals from syndication, but it has garnered him the respect of many of us unrepentant activists and our children.