Saturday, January 31, 2015


By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News |

North Hollywood High School, Thursday, January 22, 2015. North Hollywood High was one of 11 campuses prioritized by LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines for rehabilitation, as part of the plan to ask the Bond Oversight Committee next month for $4.2 billion. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

North Hollywood High School, Thursday, January 22, 2015. North Hollywood High was one of 11 campuses prioritized by LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines for rehabilitation, as part of the plan to ask the Bond Oversight Committee next month for $4.2 billion. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

01/27/15, 6:23 PM PST  ::  Five San Fernando Valley schools will be fast-tracked under Superintendent Ramon Cortines’ plan to renovate 11 campuses across the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The upgrades will bring additional classroom space, updated technology and the shine of a makeover, with details hammered out later this year in meetings with staff, students and parents. If all goes as planned, the projects should be completed in five years.

North Hollywood High School sits atop Cortines’ list. Built in 1927, the school has grand columns that stretch to wood-framed window panes, neatly tucked below Spanish roof shingles. From Magnolia Boulevard, the campus’ main building appears suited for the campus of an East Coast Ivy League university.

“It’s a really wonderful school,” Assistant Principal Carrie Schwartz said. “I love the architecture.”

But after passing through its grand entrance, there’s a hodgepodge of flooring and ceiling tiles from different eras depending on the room and hallway. Stained and frayed carpets contribute to a musty odor.

Below those unsightly but superficial problems lurk major deficiencies in essential systems.

A ranking of 59 schools conducted last year to prioritize the first round of bond spending put North Hollywood High at No. 1. Inspections of the roof, electrical, plumbing and other essential systems revealed the campus was “critical” with 61.7 percent of its systems deficient.

Board member Tamar Galatzan, who represents parts of the San Fernando Valley and four of the 11 fast-tracked schools, commended the superintendent’s efforts to speed up renovations.

“I just don’t want us to study everything to death,” Galatzan said. “We have students and teachers and staff in schools that need attention, and I’m confident the superintendent has taken all of that into consideration when making the priority list.”

San Fernando Valley schools up for renovations are North Hollywood High School, Grant High School, Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley, Cleveland High School in Reseda and Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies in Tarzana.

Rounding out Cortines’ list of 11 schools across LAUSD’s 933 campuses are: Huntington Park High School, Roosevelt High School, San Pedro High School, John Burroughs Middle School, Venice High School and Jefferson High School.

The 11 schools were chosen based on their earthquake safety, space relative to students, security and the number of so-called “portable” buildings.

“It is important that we act now,” Cortines wrote in a memorandum to the school board this month. “This work is well overdue and our students deserve better. District schools are aging and deteriorating and in need of significant upgrades and modernizations.”

The projects will primarily be paid for with Measure Q bonds. Voters authorized the $7 billion in borrowing more than six years ago, as a means to repair and upgrade aging classrooms, according to LAUSD’s Bond Oversight Committee website. The funding was later tapped to pay for iPads under a plan being investigated by the FBI and a federal grand jury for criminal wrongdoing in the contracting process.

Cortines will present his proposal to a school board advisory committee tapped to oversee bond expenditures, then faces an up-or-down vote in March by his elected bosses on the school board.

Preserving current academic programs and historical integrity will be of consideration in meetings to work out specific renovation plans with staff, students and parents to start later this year, said LAUSD’s facilities asset manager, Krisztina Tokes.

“We want to get feedback from the school sites as to what are the concerns they may see that we’re not aware of,” Tokes said.

North Hollywood High, which opened nearly nine decades ago with 800 pupils, has suffered from piecemeal efforts to accommodate far more students than intended. The roughly 2,800 students currently enrolled learn in a maze of portable buildings and bungalows erected behind the school. The roofs on the older bungalows rise and fall like waves — an indicator they need replacing — while more modern portables have short windows near their ceilings covered over with tinfoil, creating sun glare that makes it difficult to read projector screens. The necessity of these so-called “portables” belies their name, as they’ve become permanent fixtures at campuses with more students than space.

Without them, the cramped conditions North Hollywood High senior Jesse Lopez described would pack classrooms past capacity. But Lopez doesn’t think adding more space is the solution.

“They need smaller classes; there’s too many people,” Lopez said. “I remember last year we always had more than 40 people.”

This semester, Lopez only cited his second-period English class as crammed with more than 40 pupils. Former Superintendent John Deasy began class-size reduction efforts with increased state revenue last year. Cortines, who took over in October, has continued, moving to eliminate classes with more than 45 students starting this semester.

But there are perks to attending a charming old campus that has grown with its population. At North Hollywood High, learning in some of those bungalows means a view of the school’s agriculture program: a donkey, alpaca, pigs, chickens and rabbits. The animals, and lush gardens, are tended by students who earn credit both during and after school.

“All in all, we have a really wonderful, beautiful school with many nice things,” Schwartz said. “I’m sure whatever they do is only going to make it look that much nicer.”


●●smf’s 2¢

  • The plan to renovate campuses all over the District is not confined to these 11 schools;  these schools are just the 10 neediest according to priorities the District has been developing+fine-tuning since Measure Q first passed. We have to start somewhere. Jefferson is the exception, it was fast-tracked based on the added scrutiny it got as being the metaphoric iceberg in the MiSiS Crisis – and even then it only jumped from 12th or 13th in priority.
  • Nobody intends to “study anything to death” …though I would argue that study is a desirable thing in any educational enterprise. And as a BOC member I wish we had all studied the iPads program a little more conclusively.  (I'm not sure what “tapped” means in the story above – but no Measure Q money has been spent to date on iPads!)
  • Nobody has approved anything yet. As the article states, the Superintendent will present his proposal to the Oversight Committee in February and the Board of Ed for final approval in March. This is the flag being run up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes!
  • Board member Galatzan has had no more input into the process than any other of the seven;  indeed every effort has been made to keep the politicians+politics out of the prioritization process. To see how bad this can get you don’t need to read very deeply between-the-lines here: The LAUSD process is needs based.
  • However Ms. Galatzan will be appearing on the ballot in March and one can’t blame her for making noise and taking credit – whether or not it’s due.
  • Ms Galatzan was able promote and deliver six shade structures and a lunch shelter for schools in her district totaling $1,211,521 “to address school needs identified by Board District 3”  in action before the Oversight Committee last week …in time for approval by the board  before the election. In fairness, the other board districts had moved ahead with their similar projects long before now.

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