OPINION: I smell…synergy

By Melissa Hebert
Editor of 2UrbanGirls.com

Synergy, the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc. For many years, synergy ceased to exist between cities and their respective school boards.

To say that the synergy in Inglewood and Compton were lacking is an understatement; it is the equivalent of church vs. state. However, it appears that synergy is brewing in both of these great cities.

image Melissa Hebert

Back in 1993, the state took over Compton Unified School District (CUSD) for a couple of reasons: academic and fiscal insolvency. CUSD was $20 million in the hole and test scores reached rock bottom. Scores at 20 of its 34 schools ranked in the bottom 10 percent of the state in 1992, and Compton residents had little recourse to get its schools back on track.

Ward Connerly, the state administer, who also happened to help author Proposition 208 (you know, removing affirmative action from education) was brought in to bring order to chaos. It was also the first time the state took over a school due to low test scores; normally the fiscal solvency is the most pressing issue.

Recently, Inglewood Unified School District (IUSD) was also taken over by the state for the exact same reasons – low performing schools and a $17 million deficit. IUSD found itself asking for additional funds to keep the district operating and the state’s response was a takeover, earlier than expected.

IUSD currently has 12,000 students enrolled and we lose approximately 1,000 kids a year due to the lack of programs and creativity in the way the students are taught. IUSD has yet to come up with a plan to get kids back in school. They have actually done the opposite by removing discriminatory boundaries such as opening advanced placement classes to all students, regardless of whether they earned the right to be there or not.

While Compton Unified School District (CUSD), made a simple move that yielded huge gains.

CUSD recently made headlines when the state recognized the board’s efforts, as they increased student enrollment, which ultimately brought CUSD an additional $1.2 million in funding for the students.

“We tell districts when they are starting out to make attendance a priority that a good goal is a 1 percent improvement in ADA,” said David Kopperud, a consultant with the California Department of Education who helps oversee student attendance programs.

“If they can do that – that’s a real achievement,” he explained. “Anytime a district increases ADA above 1 percent – that’s exceptional.”

Utilizing a new web-based attendance management system, Compton’s one-year improvement resulted in a total gain of 57,326 learning days over the prior year. While it may be too early to draw conclusions, the district’s performance on the state’s Academic Performance Index increased 11 points in 2011 – 2012 to 697 – a recent high point.

So basically, by turning to a web-based attendance management system this single action allowed for decreased attendance error calculations, which most likely resulted in fewer delays in transmitting the data to the attendance clerks in the district.

The district has become much more vigilant in notifying parents when unexcused absences occur and more consistent in meeting with family members when patterns start to emerge.

It’s too bad that Inglewood Unified School District is still taking attendance by pen and paper and then counting on staff to either drive the forms to the district office or expect welfare and attendance clerks to visit the school sites and enter in the attendance forms manually.

For once, IUSD can actually learn from the progress of the Compton school board. If they followed Compton into the 21st century of technology, our children wouldn’t continue to suffer in their lack of educational funding.

Inglewood’s solution to the lower attendance is to have the children attend school on Saturday for four hours a day with enrichment studies in order to capture the missing funding.

Wouldn’t it be easier to increase technology in both the classroom and attendance office? Oh that’s right, all of the funding received from the Microsoft grant went to LaTijera, who I might add is in the bottom five of all schools in the district.

We see that the City of Inglewood has begun their share of promoting the value of IUSD schools when the annual Martin Luther King Day parade was changed from a parade to a festival at Crozier Middle School. Coincidence? Nope, not with the city preparing to sell the bonds the residents approved when Inglewood residents passed Measure GG.

The good news for Compton residents is the recent declaration of two current Compton USD Board Trustees, Satra Zurita and Skyy Fisher, have both filed to leave the school board and enter the City Council elections.

If they are able to make strides in increasing enrollment and funding for the city’s children, imagine what they can do to turn around the city’s fiscal issues? Perhaps, the money earmarked for Compton USD will actually make its way over there.

We’ll see when City of Compton holds their municipal elections on April 16. Take note Inglewood USD Advisory Board – I know we’ll be watching.

By the way, Inglewood should also take a look at Compton USD’s website because IUSD’s website looks like a 5-year-old made it.