24th Street Elementary parents vote for reform

24th Street Elementary parents voting on reform

Parents at 24th Street Elementary voting on a proposal to reform the school under the California Parent Trigger Act.

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

Amabili Villeda says her eight-year-old son goes to an elementary school with unclean facilities, one of the highest rates of suspension, and a difficult principal.

“She didn’t communicate with the parents,”said Villeda. “Even the teachers complained that they couldn’t communicate with her, and parents started take their children out of the school.”

Over the course of a year, the enrollment rate at 24th St. in South LA dropped from 1,000 students to 600. Some parents were discouraged, but Villeda saw this as a reason to get motivated. [Read more…]

Jazz day at 24th Street Elementary

By Lauren Jones

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

imageThe Los Angeles Jazz Society is hosting concerts at three LAUSD elementary schools as part of the Black History Month celebration. These concerts are a part of a larger initiative to bring jazz programs to public schools.

The sounds of Louis Armstrong, Count Bassie, and Ella Fitzgerald filled the 24th Street Elementary School auditorium. Students received a unique crash course on the history of jazz in America.

Delbert Taylor is a piano player and a member of the Los Angeles Jazz Society. He performed this morning with a band that included people from all walks of life.

He emphasized the importance of jazz as a part of American culture, but he made sure to explain that this style of music is a melting pot much like his band members.

“Jazz doesn’t care what country or language you speak,” said Taylor. “It doesn’t care what your ethnicity is, it’s all playing the music from your heart.”

Taylor says artistic expression is an important part of the educational experience for students. Budget cuts have eliminated many public school’s music programs.

“With jazz and not only jazz, but with dance, acting, making paintings and things of that nature, these are all very important or a child to be able to get out there and express themselves,” said Taylor. “This is just one mode of expression that we’re championing at this point.”

Taylor explained the evolution of music and how jazz evolved as a product of African-American people’s struggle in the United States.

“A long time ago, a very bad thing happened here and that thing is slavery,” said Taylor. “Out of that bad thing something good came like songs, music, negro spirituals, then Gospel, then Swing, then Jazz, then Rock n’ Roll, R&B, Hip Hop and Rap.”

By the end of the performance, students were singing along, clapping, laughing and raising their hands to answer trivia questions. As the exited the auditorium many of them stopped to thank their teachers.

Renee Dolberry is the principal at 24th Street Elementary School. She says this program is one of the only times her students are exposed to music in school.

“This year our music teacher was cut, so we do not have a music program at 24th this school year,” said Dolberry. “This is such a great opportunity for our boys and girls to be exposed to the jazz music.”

Exposing kids to jazz is music to the ears of Robert Smith. He is a Jazz Studies professor at the University of Southern California and a recording artist.

“The more we can expose kids at an early age to music and particularly the music of our culture, the more it will become a component of substance in our culture,” said Smith. “It has to be bred, cultivated, and nurtured.”

Smith says college campuses are experiencing a wave of students interested in traditional American Jazz. It is an integral part of American history and is still weaving itself into contemporary culture.

Parents from 24th Street Elementary call for change

By Nick Berman
Annenberg Radio News

Update: The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday voted to approve the use of the parent trigger law at 24th Street Elementary.

imageParents from 24th Street Elementary School in South LA are calling for action to improve the quality of education at their childrens’ school. The parents gathered Tuesday at 2nd Avenue Park to raise awareness about their school’s performance. They are supported by the education advocacy group Parent Revolution.

One parent, Amabilia Villeda, says her daughter’s reading skills were so poor she could not pass out Valentine’s day cards to her classmates because she couldn’t read the names.

“So now my daughter is in 8th grade and reads at a 3rd grade level. What an embarrassment to the administration of 24th Street that they let her go out that way,” Villeda said.

Villeda has been working for three years to change the structure of the school. 24th Street Elementary School ranks in the bottom 2% for academic performance in the LA Unified School District.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was at the event and spoke Tuesday in support of the parents and their efforts. “I want to thank you for coming. Because we should all be here,” Villaraigosa said. “We should acknowledge that too many of our schools are failing our kids. And when parents want to come together like this, what a beautiful thing.”

Parents have filed a petition under California’s Parent Empowerment Act. The law, known as the Parent Trigger, requires that at least 50 percent of the school’s parents sign the petition. It allows parents to demand changes for under-performing schools from the Board of Education.image

“And I expect this board to vote in favor of this petition, because its right. Because it’s time,” Villaraigosa said.

One of the parents’ options is to form a charter school. In the past the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union has opposed restructuring schools into charters. In an earlier statement, UTLA pledged to work with the parents at 24th Street to improve students’ education. But UTLA says the solution should not be to remove every teacher and administrator, which it says would disrupt the education process.

If the petition is approved, 24th Street would become the first LAUSD school to be restructured under the Parent Trigger Act.