By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Daily News
08/18/2010 08:12:07 PM PDT -- One of the first campuses to operate under Los Angeles Unified's new school choice plan opened its doors Wednesday, helping launch what is expected to be a closely watched experiment in education reform.
Camino Nuevo Academy, a charter elementary school in downtown Los Angeles, started its school year with more than 350 students sporting light yellow-and-dark-green uniforms, absent any of the commotion that marked the debate over the school choice plan.
As approved by the district school board, Public School Choice allows groups inside and outside the district to compete to run new and existing low-performing campuses.
The reform effort was initially resisted by labor leaders, who termed it a "giveaway" of public schools.
Among the successful bidders in the first round was Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, which runs three schools and a preschool in the central Los Angeles area, including the new campus downtown.
"Camino Nuevo is thankful for the opportunity to educate and serve students and families at this campus," said Ana Ponce, president of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy.
"The intent of Public School Choice was to give public school parents choices ... we look forward to this work."
Among the civic leaders and district officials who attended the school's opening was Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who called for more charters to be selected as the district launches the second round of Public School Choice.
"This is why I am so passionate about Public School Choice ... because we need more schools like these," Villaraigosa said referring to Camino Nuevo's recently announced high test scores and 95 percent graduation rate.
"I intend to be very aggressive with suggesting changes in the process ... we need to get more of these (charters) approved."
Villaraigosa publicly scolded LAUSD officials and Superintendent Ramon Cortines a month ago for their failure to approve more high-performing charters during the first round of Public School Choice.
Charter school operators won control of three out of 36 schools that were up for grabs last year under the first round of the reform plan.
The mayor also submitted a series of recommendations to district officials to improve the application and selection process for round two.
LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia said the board is reviewing Villaraigosa's suggestions and taking all of them into serious consideration.
"We have received a lot of feedback and we are tweaking some things ... we acknowledge that we may never get 100 percent agreement but everyone wants to see the process be successful," Garcia said.