By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | Los Angeles Daily News |http://bit.ly/an0KP9
Oct 31, 2010 - About 100 Granada Hills community members and parents gathered Saturday afternoon to hear from two groups competing to operate a new public high school next fall in this suburban neighborhood.
Valley Region High School #4 is one of 12 Los Angeles Unified campuses up for bid this year under the district's second round of "Public School Choice." The reform program lets outside groups like charter operators and nonprofits, as well as district-based teachers and administrators, compete to run new and under-performing schools.
The effort, adopted last year, is touted as LAUSD's signature program to fix failing schools by introducing competition into local public education.
The district school board gets the final say on who runs the schools. But parents and the community also get to vote for their favorite plan, which is why the Granada Hills South Neighborhood Council organized the forum Saturday.
"This is a big issue for our community and I feel that it is crucial that our neighborhood gets a chance to hear from both sides in an impartial venue," said council president David Beauvais.
While eight groups filed initial applications to compete to run the campus, the contest has been whittled down to two candidates - LAUSD's Local District One, including teachers and administrators, representing the West Valley, and Granada Hills Charter High school.
During the three hour meeting, both groups did their best to argue why they would be the ideal choice to run the state-of-the art new facility - which cost nearly $100 million.
Linda del Cueto, LAUSD's Superintendent for Local District 1, said she is inviting parents to submit suggestions for programs and services they want to see at the new school.
One change the district plans is allowing students living in the boundaries of the new campus the choice of attending the new school or any of the other schools the campus is relieving - Cleveland, Kennedy, and Monroe high schools.
"We encourage you to give us a chance, read our plan and then make up your mind," said del Cueto.
"Our schools in the area are some of the best in the entire district...we would love to continue that seamless transition into high school if you would give us the honor of operating this school."
Several parents in the audience, however, peppered del Cueto with concerns about promising services and programs that LAUSD cannot afford as it also is forced to lay off teachers and shorten the school year.
Brian Bauer, executive director of Granada Hills Charter, bragged to the audience about his school increasing staff, services and salaries at a time when LAUSD is scaling back.
"What we've been able to do at Granada is almost antithetical to what's happened at LAUSD," Bauer said.
Bauer also touted the charter's test scores - which currently place the school as the highest performing comprehensive high school in LAUSD.
Final applications under the reform plan are due Dec. 1 and decisions on who runs the schools will be made in February. For information visit publicschoolchoice.lausd.net