By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | L.A. Daily News
05/24/2010 04:25:10 PM PDT -- Los Angeles Unified officials released a list Monday of 17 new and chronically underperforming campuses that will be up for grabs under a district reform plan that allows teachers, charter operators and nonprofits to apply to operate campuses.
Eight chronically underperforming schools were selected: Woodcrest Elementary; Audubon, Henry Clay, Bret Harte, Horace Mann, and John Muir Middle schools; and Los Angeles and Huntington Park High schools.
This year none are in the San Fernando Valley.
In addition, nine new campuses – which could house up to 29 small schools – are slated to be part of the School Choice program that was approved by the district school board last summer.
Those new sites include long-awaited high schools in Granada Hills and the city of San Fernando.
"We are working to create the conditions for success for all of our schools," said LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines, in a written statement.
"I remain committed to our three guiding principles: educational quality, community involvement and urgency. Our students deserve the best we can offer."
LAUSD's "School Choice" process opens all new and select low-performing public schools up to a competitive process.
Applications are then reviewed by district officials and voted on by parents, educators and community members. Cortines then makes a recommendation to the school board, which makes the final decision.
Last year, more than 200 applications were submitted by groups that hoped to take control of three dozen schools.
In the end, the board voted to allow charter operators, which had bid to operate 18 schools, to have full control of three campuses and partial control of another – the remaining 28 went back to district operators.
District officials said they have made a few changes to the School Choice process to address concerns raised last year.
For example fewer schools are participating and applicants have been given more time to develop proposals and get community members involved.
Still,charter school advocates said fewer operators have expressed an interest to apply for district campuses.
Allison Bajracharya, policy director for the California Charter Schools Association, said many of her members were disappointed by the process that they said limited the access outside applicants got to students, parents and district employees.
"The handful of charter applicants (that apply) in round two, will enter the process with the expectation that it will include level opportunities," Bajracharya said.
"Simultaneously, they will participate with the conviction that the operator with the strongest track record of success will be the selected operator."
Charter operators also took issue with the community vote element of the School Choice process, which they said resulted in foul play and electioneering.
All district employee unions were also completely opposed to the School Choice process last year and United Teachers of Los Angeles - the district's largest union – even filed a lawsuit against the plan, which later failed.
A.J. Duffy, president of UTLA, said his union is still opposed to the School Choice plan which he called a "wholesale give away of our schools by the district."
"The other side of this though, is that we believe firmly that plans developed locally by teachers, administrators and parents have the best chance of being successful over a long period of time," Duffy said.
Duffy said in an effort to keep district educators at the helm of schools, UTLA will team be organizing its teachers and providing them with the help and resources they need to submit high quality proposals.
The union will also be involved in reaching out to the community and parents on behalf of teacher-led proposals.