Parents, teachers and students held a press conference outside of Crenshaw High School on Monday to push back against a plan to magnet convert and reconstitute the South Los Angeles high school.
Community members are upset at LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy’s proposal to convert Crenshaw High School, including Orville Wright Middle School and Central Region Elementary School #20 (CRES 20), into a magnet school, and reconstitute Crenshaw High, which means all teachers and staff must re-apply for their jobs, according to parent Loutrisha Swafford.
Swafford questioned the necessity of having existing staff and teachers re-apply for positions they were already hired for.
“It doesn’t necessarily stabilize what we’re trying to build here. It destabilizes it,” said Averie Blackwell, student at Crenshaw High School. “It kills everything that we worked for. It doesn’t allow us to be students, to be free, to learn from the same teachers every single day. You know how hard it is to learn in a classroom that has a different teacher every single day?”
Supporters held signs with slogans like “Stop Educational Racism, Keep Community Control” and “Keep Our Schools Public,” while several students sang songs in protest as their peers played the drums.
“We have students here who are high-achievers because they’re coming through the streets filled with crime,” said Swafford.
Anita Parker, a senior at Crenshaw High School, said reconstitution would not help a school with already low resources. She said many lunch tables are broken and some classrooms are so full “you have to sit on the floor.”
Those at the press conference expressed outrage at LAUSD for not consulting with parents, teachers, students and staff. According to Swafford, there was no prior knowledge or mention to the community by LAUSD of their intention to convert Crenshaw into a magnet school.
Swafford said the community is demanding that LAUSD reverse reconstitution and postpone any vote until further discussions are made with the community. They are also demanding support and resources for a recently implemented Extended Cultural Learning model from LAUSD.
The Extended Cultural Learning model offers a more well-rounded approach to curriculum, according to a statement by members of the school. The model focuses on cultural relevance, behavioral support and services, and outside activities like internships. Based on that model, the school was awarded a grant of $225,000 from the Ford Foundation.
By using the Extended Learning Cultural model, Swafford outlined a list of achievements made by students and staff. In 2011 – 2012, the school was able to improve its API by 15 points, including higher API levels among African-American students that were above six of the seven major South LA high schools.
Haewon Asfar, an organizer with the Community Rights Campaign, said the Extended Cultural Learning model showed improvements in more than just measurable ways. Many of her students in the after-school program she runs at Crenshaw feel more empowered and excited about coming to school.
“It has to be put within the context of their everyday lives…more than half are below the poverty line,” said Asfar, who also mentioned that many students come from single parent households. “It’s not the same conditions as other communities.”