Yolie Flores, lifelong voice for families and students, recently decided not to return to her chair on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board. Her disheartening enlightenment about the state of the district is chronicled in this week's L.A. Weekly print story 'The Education of Yolie Flores' by Jason S. Mandell.

The Public School Choice Resolution — a radical reform which Flores spearheaded in order to set up smaller, more accountable schools within the failing district — is being met with a wall of resistance.

Sadly apparent is the fact that students are being played as brainwashed pawns by those opposed to change within the schools:

Flores held a meeting a few months ago — she intended to discuss with parents some proposal options that Huntington Park High could follow when the plan to divide it into smaller, better functioning schools continued to move forward. Flores was surprised to be met, instead, with an upset group of dozens of students and several teachers.

The meeting turned into a “lets yell at the 'bad lady'” fest.

This month's Huntington Park school newspaper, the Spartan Shield, features a front page article about the meeting. The meeting is referred to by students as a “smack down” and “The Parent Center Smack Down.”

The article spews back up what teachers and administrators who are afraid of reform have been feeding students.

The article, and the Huntington Park (HP) students at the meeting, do not seem to comprehend the irony of their arguments and the concerns.

First, students are angered to be chosen as a focus school in the Public School Choice (PSC) process. The school was chosen because of, among other reasons, its failure to obtain a 600 Academic Performace Index (API) rating.

Students (and some teachers) argue that HP scores rose to 603 API – however these scores are an average including a second school: Libra Academy.

As the Los Angeles Wave reported:

Libra Academy is one of the Los Angeles Unified School District's autonomous pilot schools. It opened Aug. 31 with 120 ninth grade students. Enrollment is expected to grow to 400 by 2013, said district representative Eduardo Cisneros.

The school will emphasize the importance of college readiness and success, he said.

The opening of the school is part of the transformation currently under way in the district, which hopes to provide a structure for accelerating education reform efforts, fostering greater accountability and offering families more educational options, Cisneros said.

Libra Academy is the first small, autonomous school in Local District 6 and the Southeast Los Angeles area to open up under the Small Schools policy, introduced by Flores Aguilar and approved by the Board of Education in June 2008.

Without Libra Academy, API scores drop to well below 600. More than 20 points less.

In other words, pupils and teachers at HP want to be able to include test scores from one of the new schools (that is doing better than theirs) in order to make their school look better.

This new school is exactly what they are trying to fight happening on a larger scale.

Many HP teachers and students want to stay below the acceptable level of educational standards, fight the expansion of an idea that is succeeding, and hide behind false test scores by averaging the schools together.

One HP student at the meeting said: “We want this education, we don't want a change. We are here because we want education to stay the same.”

As reported by Jason S. Mandell in the Weekly's 'The Education of Yolie Flores:'

“Only 24 percent of its students are meeting California standards in English; just 5 percent are up to par in math.”

At the meeting Flores was stunned to find out that students have been told that no Spartan logo will exist once changes take place: school colors will no longer fly.

“You are getting lied to,” Flores told the group. “That bothers me. Not only does it bother me, it pisses me off.”

She tries to explain that she wants students to base their opinion — for OR against the plan — on true facts, not on propaganda that is being fed to them by teachers and administrators who are afraid of the plan — and who are abusing their role as an authority figures by brainwashing students.

“Be informed,” Flores implored the students. “There will be a lot of lies, a lot of misinformation, because there are a lot of people that are afraid of change. They want the status quo. And they don't want things to change. And do you know why? Because everybody is going to be held to a higher account. Principals, administrators, teachers, parents and students.”

The Spartan article implies that the fact that Flores is moving on to work with a Bill Gates start-up was discovered in some sort of investigative journalism effort:

“One question on the back of every person's head was to know if Mrs. Flores is an advocate for small schools because of her part-time job revealed by The Wave as a “newly created education advocacy organization backed by Bill & Melnida Gates Foundation, that will focus on education reform …” The name of that non-profit organization was unnamed.”

A graduate of Huntington Park High herself, Flores feels an affinity with the school. The current state of it is disconcerting – just 55 percent of freshman graduate in 4 years — And according to the Spartan Shield, only 66 percent graduated at all in 2008.

Parents are upset – complaining of the principal who threatens to throw students out if parents step up, teachers who talk on cell phones instead of to kids and others who are racist.

Flores will continue her struggle from outside, at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – where she feels she will actually stand a chance to make positive changes.

In the meantime she hopes the students will start thinking for themselves:

“What I ask of you, is, if you really want to be a part of this process, read the plan,” Flores said at the meeting. “Don't just do what other people tell you to do or say.”

Check out the meeting turned verbal attack. Here is a video posted on Youtube labeled “Parent Center Smack Down.”

Contact Mars Melnicoff at mmelnicoff@laweekly.com / follow @marsmelnicoff

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