Leaving Finland

Lake Jyvasjarvi I have never lived anywhere for 5 months other than Jyvaskyla, Finland. As my Fulbright journey concludes, there is so much to still digest. It will take months, if not years, to truly assimilate all the learning. Before I left Southern California, I wrote about the what I would miss the most from home and what I  looked forward to experiencing in Finland. It is safe to say I met my goals. Top 7 Goals 1. Discussing Education Helsinki Workshop Through professional development programs, Fulbright Finland connected teachers with scholars and researchers, for the purpose of putting inquisitive minds together. The Making Democracies Resilient to Modern Threats seminar provided participants with fascinating research and presentations. 2. Nordic Model Bus station in Espoo What does an efficient and earnest country look like?  It looks like Finland. Yes, people pay higher taxes, but get so much in return. I for one appreciated the well-maintained ro

A Message From a Teacher in South Central

Dear Superintendent Cortines and LAUSD Board Members,

In the next week, you will be voting on important budget decisions that I am sure have taken their toll on your personal and professional lives. I have no doubt as to the integrity and thoroughness of your decision making process, but as leaders, I'm sure you will agree that the best decisions are made when the greatest amount of data are available to help you decide the most viable course of action.

As CCSS California Teacher of the Year 2009, I wish to share the data from my school, Los Angeles Academy Middle School, located in South Central Los Angeles.

Three years ago, the Jefferson family of schools was plagued by race-riots, student walkouts, and disturbingly low academic performance. Our school experienced the impact of the turmoil in the local high school, but made significant efforts to distinguish ourselves as academic leaders in our community. We targeted the issue of teacher turnover that peaked at a high of 35 teachers three years ago, and reduced it to less than 5 in the last academic year by instituting a comprehensive new teacher support program. In a community where students had to suffer the consequences of a non-stable faculty, we reached a point where we could offer students the knowledge and security that their teachers would be there to support them in their three year journey at our school. That is, until now.

L.A. Academy has developed a successful GATE/Advanced Studies Program that has doubled its participants to 580, almost 30% of the school population. Over 150 students attend our school on an Advanced Studies permit. These are students we might have otherwise lost to charter schools, but who made an educated decision to stay with LAUSD because of the quality of our program. This program could not have reached this level of quality without the dedication, and countless volunteer hours of our 42 GATE teachers. 18 of these teachers received Reduction in Force Notices, with more at risk. If these teachers are terminated, the quality of one of the few prosperous middle school GATE programs in South L.A. will be significantly diminished.

The talent and quality of our teachers can be seen in their biographies, located at:


One of our young and talented teachers, who is a positive role model for African-American boys, is at risk for being terminated. Lamar Queen's instructional rap videos are a hit in the educational community and have made mathematics instruction much easier to grasp and enjoy for his students, thanks to his creative videos. They can be seen at:

PEMDAS Rap:  Click on link

As a school, and as a community, our teachers are overwhelmingly new. As a result, 42 of our staff of 112 teachers received a RIF. This is 37% of our faculty. The actual number of terminated teachers might be higher, because provisional teachers are not sent RIF's. Most schools in West L.A. and the Valley received RIF's in the single digits. It is unconscionable that South L.A. is scheduled to bear the brunt of the proposed layoffs.

Because South Central has been disproportionately hit with 40% of the entire district's RIF's, our students will be left to wonder what they did to deserve this. No amount of explaining will help erase the feeling that once again, they are the forgotten children, the ones whose dedicated and caring teachers will be entirely gone from their lives within three months. As a point of consideration, most of these teachers choose to work in South L.A., as do I, and are not here because of demotions or forced service.

If you vote to pass the proposed reduction in force without any provisions to mitigate the destructive effect it will have on South Central Los Angeles, then let there be no doubt as to the wholesale devastation this will cause for our school, our community, and the academic and emotional well-being of all of our students. Please, do not forget South Central.

Leticia (Martha) Infante
NBC Teacher/GATE Coordinator
CCSS California Teacher of the Year 2009
Los Angeles Academy Middle School


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