Op-Ed in the LA Wave by Angela Bass, Superintendent of Instruction. Partnership for Los Angeles Schools
17 July, 2009 - The Bottom Line column “At this summer session in Watts, Black students need not apply” (July 9) was highly inaccurate and grossly misrepresented the Spanish language arts summer program taking place at John Ritter Elementary School.
Ritter, one of the 10 schools in the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, is not and would never, as the article suggests, discriminate against non-Spanish speaking students. This is far from true. All of the students (K-3) who participated in the Dual Language Program in the 2007-08 school year are welcome to participate in the summer program, which included Latino and African-American students.
The school is fulfilling a commitment it made to students and parents last year to provide Spanish-language instruction to students whose parents wanted to continue to provide Spanish language arts. This commitment was made after Ritter’s Dual Language Immersion Program was suspended. Parents of some of the dual language students were upset at the suspension of the program and asked that some compromise be reached. In accordance with this, the partnership agreed to offer a four-week dual language program for these students.
As was accurately stated in the story, this program was in place before the Los Angeles Unified School District canceled summer school. What was highly inaccurate and misleading were Ms. Pleasant’s insinuations that the partnership is in any way acting in a racist manner by providing this Spanish language program. This could not be further from the truth. Additionally, this summer program is being paid for by the partnership with philanthropic dollars and not with public dollars.
As superintendent of instruction for the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, it is my responsibility that all students are provided with a high-quality education at Ritter. Along with the outstanding team of educators at Ritter under the leadership of Principal Charlene Green, the partnership team has worked diligently to provide support, interventions and enrichment during the instructional day and after school. We have also provided professional development for teachers and support staff. Our goal is to move Ritter Elementary School from formerly the lowest performing elementary school in the entire district (2007-08) into a school of excellence.
I would like to extend an invitation to Ms. Pleasant to walk through the halls of Ritter, visit classrooms and speak with teachers and staff. I am confident that she will find that the achievement and the morale are both much improved. If early data points are an indication, it looks like the mayor’s goal to improve schools for the children of Los Angeles is making the grade.
We all must remember that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has long been a champion of civil rights. He clearly understands that education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century. That is why he has held strong to his vision for the partnership to improve the education for all children and turn these schools into schools of academic excellence. This will certainly not happen overnight and will require the tenacious efforts of students, parents, teachers and community — and it will be done.