by smf for 4LAids
August 10th -- Democracy is not a pretty thing. It's her cousin, Liberty, who stands all statuesque with the aquiline nose in New York Harbor.
Nobody bothered to tart Democracy up for the debut engagement of her cross-city tour at Griffith Middle School Monday night. Some people didn't get the word that the venue for gala premiere event: "Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines Invites You To Attend a Community Meeting to Discuss How The District Opens New Schools and Improves Low-Performing Schools' had changed from Roosevelt High School to Griffith Middle School …and it didn't help that the school police at Roosevelt weren't sure where Griffith was. (It's about twenty blocks east.)
Once at Griffith it just Democracy, warts and all. And the audience was hungry for something besides what was being served. Newly Minted Interim Local District Superintendent Robert A. Martinez started off right on time with Slide One of his PowerPoint …and made the mistake of asking for questions or comments right then and there.
There were a couple of hundred folks in the audience and a couple of hundred questions and comments - most generally centered on variants of the same three themes:
- The plan presented in the PowerPoint had the appearance of a done deal - based on models in New York, Chicago and Denver. Were the folks present, teachers, parents and community, being asked …or were they being told? And what exactly do New York, Chicago and Denver have to do with LA?
- Is this a plan to implement the Flores Aguilar "School Choice/School Giveaway" resolution before it is even voted on by the Board of Ed?
- There were few in the audience that support bringing in partners or charters or outside operators to run "their" schools. One charter operator spoke up - and one representative from the Parent Revolution spoke out - but for the most part the audience was not supportive of charters and/or the mayor's partnership or any outside operator operating their schools - and were pointed in their derision of Mayor Villaraigosa and Monica Garcia.
If it had been a dress rehearsal it wouldn't have been half bad - as a show it pretty entertaining. It was, however, nothing like the script. Much is said by the superintendent about transparency -- there's a joke in here somewhere about amateur night at the burlesque - let's just say we saw more than we were supposed to see.
Was the crowd, probably about 300+, representative of the community? Who knows, it was the crowd that turned out on short notice.
Were there a lot of UTLA members? Yes. Was it packed with UTLA members. No.
Was it an ugly crowd? No. Was it boisterous and assertive and sometimes angry? Yes. It listened - though not always politely - to things it didn't want to hear. It cheered and booed.
Duffy from UTLA made it clear that the union was not 'involved' in process, only 'aware' of it.
Superintendent Cortines mad it clear he was there to listen.
Some teachers made their grievances, as did some parents. Anyone who would say that the folks in attendance arere accepting of the status quo has had a little too much sweetener in their own Kool Aid.
These are folks who give a damn about public education in their community …and they're not going to take very much more of the same-old/same old or the new miracle cure for very much longer.
Which leads me to beat my drum about Relational Trust.
One down, six more to go …and why does the valley, with the two largest-in-size local districts, get only one meeting?
Check here or the latest schedule - times and venues - and one suspects, the message - are subject to change!
And here's the feedback form.