Friday, January 28, 2011

NORTHEAST L.A. HIGH SCHOOL BRINGS EXCITEMENT, UNCERTAINTY: Last chance advisory vote for ‘Taylor Yard’ high school is this weekend

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer | Eastside Sun / Northeast Sun / Mexican American Sun / Bell Gardens Sun / City Terrace Comet / Commerce Comet / Montebello Comet / Monterey Park Comet / ELA Brooklyn Belvedere Comet / Wyvernwood Chronicle / Vernon Sun |

Jan 28,  2011 - Excitement and high expectations were an underlying current as parents, students and stakeholders on Monday listened to presentations from groups hoping to run a new high school that will open in the Glassell Park area of Northeast Los Angeles in August as a Public School Choice (PSC) campus.

They were also there to vote for the groups—there will be five academies in all—whose plans seem to best fit their vision for what Central Region High School #13, often referred to as Taylor Yard High, should be like.

About 300 people attended Los Angeles Unified School District’s meeting held at Irving Middle School in Glassell Park. The new high school will draw students from the attendance areas for Benjamin Franklin, Marshall and Eagle Rock high schools, and is expected to relieve overcrowding at the three Northeast L.A. area schools.

Rendering of Central High #13

Parents of students at local charter schools, feeder schools and the three high schools were among the stakeholders at Monday’s meeting.

Concepción Castillo and Veronica Aparicio arrived early and bypassed the presentations: They already knew how they would vote.

Accompanied by their children, both women voted for the charter school applicants.

Castillo’s daughter, Angie Lopez, a 10th grader at the “Environmental Science and Technology High School” on Fletcher Drive, a charter school operated by Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools. Aparicio’s daughter currently attends Milagro Elementary School, a Partnership for Uplift Communities (PUC) school in Lincoln Heights.

“I think everyone came to vote for their school,” Castillo said.

Both Alliance and PUC submitted applications to run one of the five schools at Central High.

“We both have girls at charter schools, but ours is better,” said Aparicio jokingly.

Aparicio hopes PUC will be one of the five schools selected for the campus; “That’s her future right here,” she said.

An orientation on the public school choice process was held on Jan. 20. It included brief presentations by the six applicants. It was not well attended.

Monday night’s meeting focused on providing more information and more time for questions-and-answers from stakeholders to help them make a choice.

Advisory voting began at the same time as the presentations, however, and attendees entering the premises encountered the voting center before the auditorium where the presentations were being made. Many attendees lined up to vote and left; others voted then went to hear the applicant presentations.

Glassell Park resident Marciel Moran has a son at Irving Middle School and a daughter at Eagle Rock High. His daughter will be a senior next year and will not be affected by the opening of the new high school, which will not have a senior class during its first year.

“It’s very close to my home, it’s going to be a very good school,” he told EGP after voting, and just before heading into listen to the presentations.

His son, Ruben Moran, 14, asked his father to vote for two pilot schools, The Los Angeles River School and the ArtLab School.

“I don’t want a charter because I don’t want to wear a uniform, and because they are stricter,” Ruben told EGP.

Other parents were also willing to vote for the schools their children selected. Isabel Ochoa, a mother of three, was standing outside the voting room hoping someone would inform her about the voting options. Her 13-year-old son Norbert Pineda wanted her to vote for Eagle Rock High School because he wants to play football, but Ochoa knew the high school would not appear on the list. “I keep asking him what [other] schools I should vote for,” she said, frustrated that her son had not selected any of the applicants on the ballot.

Her daughters, Raquel and Karina Pineda, both students at Eagle Rock High, listened to their mother’s frustration but had their own problems to worry about; “It’s going to be kinda weird to go to another school,” said Raquel, 15. Ochoa and her daughters decided to go to the school fair held in the auditorium lobby before voting.

Scott Folsom, Mt. Washington resident and a long time LAUSD parent leader, was pleased with the turnout.

Folsom has been attending meetings on the public school choice reform and recalled the long line of advisory voters at Burbank Middle School in the middle of a rain storm, during the first round of school choice last year.

“It’s a good turn out, however the district has not done its best to outreach,” he told EGP while the presentations were being held. “I’m cynical enough to believe that the district is not interested in a huge turnout.”

Folsom said he believes the charters were more organized and had more resources to send mailers to homes, but he noted that the pilot schools had the backing of the teachers’ union. Folsom noted the process was not free from politics, but said he was happy with the reform at the schools that underwent the process last year. “It’s about time, the kids deserve it,” he said.

Advisory voting rules changed this year, limiting minors eligible to vote to high school students at directly relieved campuses. The change didn’t fit well with Miguel Trujillo who called EGP to complain that PUC’s CALS Early High School students, like his grandson and many others who reside in the Northeast area, were not being allowed to vote.

Veronica Alonzo, CALS teacher, told EGP that students felt it was unfair because their neighbors were allowed to vote but they could not.

PUC has complained to the district and is awaiting a response, according to Celia Ramirez, office assistant for the charter school based in downtown Los Angeles. The charter operator says it was told, since the PSC2 process started 8 months ago, that their students would be allowed to vote and they have documentation as proof, she said.

LAUSD does not consider CALS to be an impacted school.

Questions at the end of Monday’s presentations focused on extracurricular activities, the admission process—there are no entrance requirements for any of the schools—and whether uniforms would be required.

According to Alliance President and CEO Judy Burton, Alliance will require students to wear uniforms for their proposed Technology, Math and Science High School and will provide one uniform free of charge; parents can decide if they want to buy additional uniforms.

The four proposed pilot schools—The Los Angeles River School, The School of Technology, Business & Education, The School of History and Dramatic Arts and The ArtLab School (Arts & Community Empowerment)—have formed a collaboration to share some costs and electives. However, all the applicants for Central High School #13 have expressed some degree of interest in working together to share operational expenses, such as campus security, if selected.

While each school selected will have its own identity and program, the campus as a whole will have one name, one set of school colors, one mascot and shared athletic programs, according to interim principal Philip Naimo. Meetings in February will address these topics as well as attendance boundaries, he said.

Under the LAUSD reform, any schools selected, including charter applicants, will be required to admit students from the attendance area, with local students being given priority. In addition, all of the schools will be required to offer A-G college preparatory requirements, accept and support English Learners and students with special needs and Individual Educational Plans (IEPs).

The new school will draw students from Atwater Village, Cypress Park, Elysian Valley, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Eagle Rock and Mount Washington.

The League of Women Voters is overseeing the advisory vote, and will present the results to Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who will review it and two advisory committee reports to form his school choice recommendation to the School Board on Feb. 22; the board will make their selection at the same meeting.

Final advisory voting will take place this Saturday, Jan. 29 from 9 am to 3 pm in the Irving Middle School cafeteria: 3010 Estara Avenue, Los Angeles, Ca 90065.

For more information, call (213) 241-2547 or visit

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