A Tale of Two Back to School Nights

Excitement and enthusiasm were in the air as teachers in my new high school in a middle class neighborhood prepared their classrooms by decorating their bulletin boards, displaying student work, and straightening desks. Welcome messages abounded, Remind.com messages were sent, and we opened our doors to meet the parents.
I have done these events for 24 years, four times a year at my former school in South Central L.A. But this year’s Back to School Night left me reflecting, and perhaps shedding a tear.
First, my new parents were fantastic. They were friendly, enthusiastic, and supportive of the new ideas I bring to the school. I knew in them I would have allies to incorporate my findings from my Fulbright exchange in Finland earlier this year. Parent after parent nodded their heads and strongly affirmed that break time was important to students, teachers, and workers in general. They were excited to hear about the summer travel programs I had prepared.
As I looked at their warm and s…

Spring at the Academy

We are settling into the final two months of the year, now that the turbulence of C Track is behind us.  It's funny how every year there seems to be a cluster of students who define themselves by their disagreeable behavior.  It can happen at any grade level, any track.  It is like a contagion, and once it takes hold, it is hard to reverse course.  We wonder if the very noticeable behavior differences this year is a result of the layoffs (resulting in new faces on campus) or an increase in more challenging students, since we believe charters do siphon off more motivated families.  It would be great if someone had the data on this.  Until then, we can only wonder.

In our year-round school, we enter our final "mester" with A and B Tracks on, and the final 6 weeks of school upon us.  We are figuring out who our instructors for next year will be, since several of our newly RIF'ed teachers have not had their layoff notices rescinded in spite of the ratification of the tentative agreement, in which LAUSD teachers agreed to a pay cut via furlough days, in an effort to allow students to keep their teachers (and adults keep their jobs.)

On a positive note, all of our new employees have indicated they will return next year.  We will not spin this fact as an example of how awesome our school and community is (although we all love LAAMS), but perhaps it is a sign that in this recession, one can't be too overconfident about job possibilities.  Maybe teachers are staying put to be safe.

A Track teachers wonder if we will be allowed to put anything on our walls this semester.  It seems that we are scheduled for maintenance on our walls and bulletin boards.  In LAUSD this means repair men can arrive at any time, any month, and the walls must be completely bare.  The estimated time of arrival was given as "anytime in the Spring semester."  The bureaucracy strikes again!

Our 8th grade students are receiving their high school acceptances, and our Honors students in particular, have made use of district choice programs such as the Magnet Program and Advanced Studies Program to select schools more suited to their career interests.  One of our talented 8th graders has won a full scholarship to Harvard Westlake school in Bel Air; the competition was stiff this year.  Although 5 students received acceptances from private schools, only one student received a full financial aid package.  Nonetheless, we are proud of all of our upcoming graduates!

We are concerned for students who feed into Fremont HS.  We wonder who will be left to staff the school after Reconstitution.  While many advocate this "accountability measure," educators wonder if the cure will be worse than the condition.  Closing schools which are purportedly failing children and replacing them with...more of the same teachers and administrators from LAUSD, and expecting different results is perplexing.  We feel for the students and staff who are forced to undergo this destructive process that has yet to show positive results in any school around the country.  As Steven Krashen surmises, "fix poverty and you fix schools."  Until then, we continue to hold on tight during this roller coaster ride at Six Flags Privatization Park, and hope the public continues to keep their eyes open.

photo from S.W.



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