by Howard Blume, LA Times/LA Now | http://lat.ms/mRXeou
June 2, 2011 | 11:09 pm - A group of teachers and students at Clinton Middle School held a protest before classes Thursday over plans to replace most of the faculty before next fall.
Clinton Middle School, south of downtown Los Angeles, has suffered from low academic performance since it opened five years ago. About 6% of its students are proficient in English, about 12% in math.
The Los Angeles Unified School District responded this spring by declaring that the school’s entire staff would have to reinterview for their jobs. Unlike some other forced makeovers, the Clinton decision drew little or no outside notice, nor did district officials call attention to it.
Half-a-dozen teachers and about 25 students participated in the demonstration. Organizers said numerous teachers were too intimidated about their future job prospects to take part. Teachers displaced from Clinton are supposed to have jobs elsewhere, but local hiring committees or principals typically have to select them.
The school’s staff had appealed to district officials for the opportunity to lead reforms at the campus, said teacher Frances Copeland, who also is one of the school’s union representatives. At the very least, the faculty wanted the chance to compete with other bidders to run the campus, an option that nearly all other low-performing campuses have had.
District officials did not respond Thursday regarding Clinton, but they have defended aggressive re-staffing measures at low-performing school as necessary to change cultures. The welfare of students must take precedence over hardships caused to faculty, they said.
Originally, 13 of 54 teachers were invited to return. An additional four were added this week, Copeland said, after the faculty became more vocal about making their grievances public.
“We got our butts kicked very quietly under cover,” Copeland said, adding: “I can understand me not coming back. I’ve got a big mouth.”
Copeland raised a number of concerns over the forced re-staffing, including age and racial discrimination. She said that most of the retained teachers were under 40 and disproportionately younger compared with the current staff. Among the non-teaching staff, she said, all four African American teacher aides were not asked back.
Teacher Marcella Smith said the district has largely ignored the school in the past, when less extreme interventions could have made a difference.
Copeland agreed, saying that the school has been used as a dumping ground for some teachers displaced elsewhere, even if they didn’t want to work in South Los Angeles or didn’t want to teach middle school.
“But most of them did their best,” she said.
She added that teachers were supposed to learn of their fate on May 2, but administrators postponed the notification until May 22 so it would fall after the completion of the annual state testing period for students.