Monday, March 16, 2009

CENTRAL REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #14 IN ECHO PARK: The adults push and shove …and the children + the voters + the taxpayers + the school (and $16 million) are potentially left behind.

Central Region ES #14, 56.40002

1018 Mohawk St., Los Angeles, CA 90026

Map and Directions


by smf for 4LAKids

Much has been made about Central Region Elementary School #14 — which was conceived and designed to relieve overcrowding and gets kids off the bus, out of multitrack year 'round calendars and into schools in their neighborhood.

The process at CRES#14 was not all that different than any other school construction project. A need was established, there were community meetings, alternative sites were identified and discussed, a site was proposed, the Board of Ed agreed, land was purchased - and where the purchase price couldn't be agreed upon eminent domain was exercised. Fifty families were bought out and relocated. A school was designed; approvals were secured along the way.

At the same time a very vocal and legally connected group of folks - some from the area and apparently some not - organized opposition and filed suit, challenging LAUSD at every step of the way and ultimately prevailing in court on a technicality that the environmental study had been inadequate.

The law is technical, LAUSD was adjudged wrong, they won.

A second court-ordered study was done, one that satisfied the court. The opponents continued to agitate - threatening to continue legal action - and ultimately LAUSD settled with them.

  • Some might say LAUSD paid them to go away.
  • The more politic characterization would be that a settlement was reached.

The project was cleared to proceed and ground to be broken - but Councilman Garcetti continued to object. Additional design modifications ensued. Still the councilman continues to object - and kids are no closer to getting their new school - or getting their old schools less crowded - than they were before the tempest first stirred. Now deadlines loom and the project may indeed be forced to cancel, postpone, go on "turn-around" at a cost of $16 million - money L.A. taxpayers will have to pay back to Sacramento. And no school.

Following are the two most recent salvos in the war of words, a public exchange between Superintendent Cortines and Board President Garcetti.

  • The FIRST ENTRY is a letter to Garcetti from Cortines. Note that the greeting "Dear Eric" has been changed in Cortines hand to "Dear sir", symptomatic of whatever symbolism one cares to attach.
  • THE SECOND ENTRY is a statement by Garcetti read to a well attended community meeting last week - a meeting which neither Cortines, Garcetti, nor Local District Superintendent Alonzo attended. The meeting featured angst and accusation, outrage from people whose silence was supposed to have been bought-and-paid-for, a translation headset was thrown and some people called other people names. Whether Cortines, Garcetti or Alonzo avoided attending is a conclusion you, gentle reader, must reach for yourself.

There is nothing but white space between these lines.



From Council President Garcetti, read to the CRES#14 Meeting at Rosemont ES 3/12/98

Dear Friends, Neighbors, and Community Leaders:

I strongly believe that we should be building small schools, and I have made my position known to LAUSD. I have appeared before the school board, met one-on-one with our school board member, and my staff has had numerous meetings with district staff.

As the President of the City Council and the Councilmember for one of the most underresourced districts in the City of Los Angeles, I have seen time and again that our students can too easily fall through the cracks in large, overcrowded schools. And I have seen that the smaller school environments in District 13 provide a more personalized learning environment for our students, where they feel like they matter.

In small schools, teachers and administrators can more easily work together as a unit and enjoy greater flexibility. Evidence demonstrates that small schools help close the achievement gap, make our campuses safer, increase parent and community involvement, and lead to greater teacher satisfaction and retention. I’m very glad that we are represented by a School Board Member who not only shares this belief in small schools, but who has championed it.

The school that will be built at Site 9A will be a part of our community for generations to come. So often in Los Angeles we miss opportunities, and I don’t want parents and students in this neighborhood to miss out on the opportunity to have a successful, small school to serve our needs.

Our community deserves a school, but it also deserves a great school for our kids and for our neighborhood. We deserve a great streetscape on Alvarado, that makes us feel safe and is in conformance with our neighborhood’s recently-updated community plan, written by and with Echo Park residents. We deserve a school that is the right size for our students, and we will continue to fight for building that great school.

Thank you for being engaged on this issue. I look forward to working with all of you moving forward.

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