LAUSD superintendent’s South LA legacy

John Deasy speaks at a City Year event in 2013. | City Year

John Deasy speaks at a City Year event in 2013. | City Year

High school seniors in the Los Angeles Unified School District graduating in 2015 have attended school under five different superintendents since they began kindergarten in 2001. That statistic punctuates the departure of Superintendent John Deasy, who resigned last month following a three-and-a-half-year term that included both peak performances and steep pitfalls in the district.

As the door closes on Deasy’s high-profile leadership as LAUSD superintendent, Intersections explored how Deasy’s work influenced the experience of students in South L.A.—home to some of the district’s lowest performing schools.

[Read more…]

Students at South LA’s Manual Arts High react to superintendent’s resignation

John Deasy speaks at a City Year event in 2013. | City Year

John Deasy speaks at a City Year event in 2013. | City Year

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy resigned on Thursday, ending a controversial, much-discussed tenure. The word about his resignation spread quickly through South L.A., which is home to some of the lowest performing schools in California with some of the nation’s lowest graduation rates.

Students at South L.A.’s Manual Arts High School, which in 2012 had a graduation rate of about 65 percent and a dropout rate of about 26 percent, are hopeful that a future superintendent can be a model leader, and bring resources to their school.  [Read more…]

LA School District endorses Proposition 47 to reduce punishment for common crimes

A student pushes for Proposition 47 with a sign reading "Smart Jusice." | Kate Guarino

A student pushes for Proposition 47 with a sign reading “Smart Jusice.” | Kate Guarino

More than 100 youth and community leaders gathered Tuesday in Downtown L.A. to rally in support of Proposition 47. Those who marched were hoping that the Los Angeles Unified School district would pass a resolution voicing support for the measure, which would reduce the penalty for some of the most common crimes in California including drug possession, petty theft, possession of stolen goods, shoplifting, forgery and writing bad checks.

LAUSD voted 5 to 1 to support and endorse the proposition Tuesday evening.

Under the referendum— which will be voted on in November—these crimes would be downgraded from felonies to misdemeanors and sentences would drop from a potential of three years to a maximum of one.

The Brothers, Sons, Selves coalition, which hosted the rally, said LAUSD’s support is an important step to gain momentum for the referendum. [Read more…]

Community Rights Campaign confronts over-policing in schools

Ratio of citations per black student to citations per white student for the most recent three school years

Ratio of citations per black student to citations per white student for the most recent three school years

Students, parents and teachers rallied at Martin Luther King Blvd. and Vermont Ave. near Manual Arts High School last week to discuss over-policing in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Today, the newly-formed LAUSD Progressive Discipline and Safety Committee will hold a public meeting from 4 to 6 p.m. to continue the conversation.

[Read more…]

Gates Millennium Scholars Make Manual Arts Proud!

By Kyle Holland, LA’s Promise

imageManual Arts High School seniors, John Mendoza and Adedamola Tombrown have been awarded the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship. Both are the very first students from Manual Arts High School to ever receive this honor.

Mendoza, the youngest of seven children and an all city Colonel for Manual Arts’ Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) will attend the University of Southern California. He plans to major in engineering with a minor in business administration and pursue a career in construction management.

“I can now transform the college going culture within my own family and continue to serve as a role model for my 26 nieces and nephews,” says John.

Tombrown will go to the University of California, Irvine. He and his family relocated to the United States from Nigeria on a visa lottery just so he could pursue robotics. His family’s first stop in the U.S. was on the East Coast. They relocated to South Los Angeles in order for Adedamola to attend Manual Arts High School.

“With the support of my family and mentor, Mr. John Santos, I can achieve my goals,” says Tombrown, who is the lead programmer for the Manual Arts Robotics team that recently placed top ten in the worldwide robotics competition. He plans to study computer science and complete his PhD studies in AIDS research.

These incredible seniors are part of 1,000 students selected nationally each year for this highly competitive scholarship that requires strong academics combined with school and community involvement.

More then 24,000 students applied earlier this year, the largest and most competitive group of candidates in the program’s history. Having two first time Manual Arts High School recipients in such a competitive climate represents the collective support and resources provided to John and Adedamola by their families, teachers and school community.

The Gates scholarship reduces financial barriers for African American, Hispanic American and other minorities that have high academic and leadership promise and significant financial need.

The scholarship helps increase the representation of these target groups in the disciplines of computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health and the sciences.

The award renews each year as long as students maintain satisfactory academic progress.

Please join LA’s Promise is in congratulating John Mendoza and Adedamola Tombrown! Their hard work and discipline has truly paid off and prepared them for the most exciting and challenging times of their lives.

Manual Arts teachers march against school overhaul plans

imageThere are some big changes coming to South LA’s Manual Arts High School, and not everyone is excited about them.

The school has been awarded a $1.9 million School Improvement Grant (SIG) from the California Department of Education. The grant requires major structural changes to Manual Arts, including replacing half of its teaching staff.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) asked all Manual Arts teachers to reapply for their jobs. Those who aren’t hired back will be shuffled to other schools in the district.

imageSome, like Manual Arts teacher Daniel Beebe, see this effort to turn the troubled school around as misguided.

Beebe teaches history and is chapter chair for United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the union that represents LAUSD staff. He and dozens of other teachers, students and union representatives marched in front of Manual Arts on Thursday to bring attention to the restructuring and its effect on teachers and students alike.

“You have a lot of hardworking teachers and hardworking students, and we should be supporting that progress instead of starting over every year or two with something new,” Beebe said.

The union requests that the Manual Arts’ administration retain teachers who have expressed a desire to stay at the school. But many teachers, Beebe included, chose not to reapply for positions at Manual Arts.

A few dozen Manual Arts students participated in the afterschool demonstration, holding signs or wearing homemade T-shirts voicing support for their teachers.

“There are good teachers here, and students need them,” said Jennifer Cardozo, a Manual Arts junior. “I don’t think they should be throwing that away just for some grant.”

Beebe and the teachers’ union argue that replacing half the school’s staff is not only damaging to the school’s sense of community, but also goes beyond what’s necessary to fulfill the requirements of the new grant.

imageBetween 30 and 40 percent of Manual Arts’ teachers were shifted just last year, according to UTLA. And one-third of the schools’ staff has been reassigned to the new Augustus Hawkins High School when it opens in the fall.

“With those displacements, we’ve already met the requirements of the SIG grant,” Beebe said. “This is just being used as an excuse to push out teachers that they want to get rid of.”

Another requirement of the grant is that the school’s principal be replaced. But that isn’t happening at Manual Arts, another fact that angers the marching teachers.

“Principal go! Teachers stay!,” a group of student demonstrators chanted from the sidewalk, as Principal Robert Whitman stood just feet away on the school’s front steps.

Whitman took up his post as principal at Manual Arts less than a year ago, and will remain through the restructuring.

Beebe sees this as “bending the rules,” and says that same flexibility should be applied to the teachers who will be displaced.

Whitman declined to comment.

Manual Arts is one of three LA schools managed by independent nonprofit LA’s Promise. The teachers’ union is unhappy with the group’s management of the school over the past three years — pointing to shortages of books and classrooms, five bell schedule changes and last year’s staff reduction.

imageTravis Miller, a ninth grade English teacher at Manual Arts attributes the school’s problems to “constant administrative mismanagement.” In his 12 years at the school, he says he’s answered to 10 different principals.

Miller says he doesn’t see how replacing teachers will deliver results.

“It makes no sense to get rid of the teachers and keep the administration,” he said. “At GM, they’d never say, ‘Our cars aren’t selling, so let’s fire everyone on the line and keep everyone that’s running our company.’”

Spokespersons for both LAUSD and LA’s Promise declined to comment on the planned restructuring.

In order to receive the School Improvement Grant funding, Manual Arts will be required to increase student achievement in reading and math.

Watch a short video of students protesting at Manual Arts:

Fair strives to build “Endless minds for endless futures”

By Betrice Coleman-Sweet

imageA group of magnificent young leaders from the Academy of Finance created an incredible experience for the community last Saturday at Manual Arts High School. They made sure everything ran smoothly at the Finance Community Resource Fair.

Noemi Vasquez, student at Manual Arts High School and an event coordinator of the fair, made sure that things ran smoothly and took the time to thank each community participant.

The event, titled “Endless Minds for Endless Futures,” had many resources such as undergraduate information from colleges and universities, financial planning after school information from Nvision, Planned Parenthood, Girl Scouts of America, Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic and Operation Hope.

imageThe Los Angeles Conservation Corp even provided free trees for people to plant. The fair also had live entertainment from the diverse dance clubs and cheer squad, face painting, jumpers, giveaways and music. It was a full day of enjoyment and community building for the whole family.

Manual Arts Academy of Finance is a four-year program that focuses on business, finance, international relations and economics.

Ann Colburn, a retired teacher who has worked with the Academy for over 12 years said, “ I love working with the kids. They are really responsive to the community needs.”

Manual Arts students write about the riots

This is a collection of writings by ninth graders in Mark Gomez’ geography class at Manual Arts High School about the Los Angeles riots then and now. They wrote their essays using the five themes of geography with help from USC mentor Adriana Chavez-Lopez

No, the LA RIOTS was not cause of the beating of Rodney King. Rodney King was another issue but it was a little about it ’cause the black community got mad ’cause the judge saw the video and still had the guts to say that the four police man were innocent. And they got the black people more mad then what they were already.
Jocelyn Macias

What We Learn About Push Factors And The L.A. Riots
What we learn about the L.A. riots is that in 1965 five days before Watts exploded the Voting Rights Act had been signed into law. In 1992 the concerns are that sight of blacks destroying their own community. That the riots were like black gangs and that they were like destroying there[sic] own society and not thinking of their members.

What Push Factors Drive Emigration Means
Political Push Factors: War is one of many political factors that can create refugees. Well the people refugees may flee a country, because of the fear they had and its leaders.
Environmental Push Factors: In the 1840s, a devastating plant disease struck Ireland. In Ireland a fungus destroyed most of the important crops of potato and the potatoes were the main food in Ireland so they couldn’t have been destroyed.

Economic Push Factors: Most of the early immigrants to the United States were poor farmers or working people. People go to other communities for better jobs.
Raul Gonzalez

One thing I learned about the beating of Rodney King was that in 1992 there was a lot of police brutality. The LA riots were also about how whites were favored over blacks. This was proved when the cops beat Rodney King for 81 seconds on videotape and got away with it. This makes me ask why did the jury say that the cops that beat Rodney King were innocent. I am frustrated with police getting away with things today. For example, even now there are some police officers that will pull you over because of your skin color.
Jessi Rodriguez

Reading the “1992 L.A. in flames after ‘not guilty’ verdict” article, I learned how the L.A. riots began. Also, I learned about the issue of Rodney King refusing to get arrested and supposedly getting aggressive causing Rodney to be beaten by the police. This in fact was not true. The policemen were not found guilty therefore caused the riots to begin. But the beating of Rodney King was not the only reason why the L.A. riots began. Blacks were tired of being mistreated and not being allowed to go to places they would like to go, it was unfair. Whites knew Blacks were desperate for money and they took advantage but the Blacks couldn’t do much.

People wanted to put a stop to it, which led to the L.A. riots. People dragged motorists from their cars and beat them, cars were overturned and set on fire, and some people even took revenge against White and Asians. According to BBC news “at least 5 people were shot dead. About 2,000 were injured with a further 12,000 arrested.” Damages cost $1b to repair. Some people believed that people did this just to have new buildings but [in] reality they just wanted to be heard. A year later the police faced a second trial. Only the jury found two guilty, whose name were Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell. The point of this article was how people in South Central were tired of being unheard and mistreated. Some questions that I have that were not answer are: During the riots, how did Rodney King feel knowing part of why the L.A. riots happened was because of the beating? What could of happened if the police man were still not found guilty? This article reminds me of many issues, for example Martin Luther King. He and his family was also beaten and almost killed.

But he still fought for a change. Now we honor him on January 21. Martin Luther King went through many obstacles but yet he still achieved his goal, which was making change. I believe the L.A. riots were a good thing after all, even if people died.
Lisette Carranza

In my geography class we are talking about the LA Riots. Before reading the article about Rodney King, I didn’t know anything about the riots. I learned that policemen could be cruel and not always nice. The police had power over Rodney King and they abused it, so therefore he and the entire black community didn’t have the power to overcome the police. A question I have after reading about the riots is did one person start the riots or did a group of people start it?

The LA Riots were not only about beating Rodney King but also the whole Black community. If you were Black in 1992 and if you were somewhere at the wrong time or wrong place the same thing would have happened to you. I feel like I can relate to Rodney King because one of my family members passed through a similar situation. My uncle was stopped at a checkpoint and the cop stopped him because he looked dark. They took him to the police station and took his things so once he got deported the police station never gave him his cell phone or money. After reading about the riots knowing how cops beat Black people in 1992 and how my uncle was treated recently, I realized how in over 20 years there still hasn’t been a lot of change in racism.

Miriam Toledo

In my Geography class we have been learning a lot of new things. A few weeks ago we started to talk about the LA Riots. The LA Riots relate to Geography because in they wouldn’t give money to the rioters and that relates to Geography because of the 4 Worlds. What I recently learned was that over 2,000 people were injured in the LA Riots and 12,000 were arrested. Before learning this I didn’t know that Rodney King was NOT the MAIN reason for the LA Riots. He just maid[sic] black people say enough is enough. Some people may favor blacks and some may favor whites but more people favor the LAPD. In the Riots why were blacks beating Asians? When I heard about it, it reminded me of a few things like when people call Immigrants “Aliens” and insult them because they know they won’t fight back because they are scared. It also reminded me of the Civil War because they are treated differently because of their color “Discrimination.” I can relate to this because the LAPD are racist and they give people tickets and arrest them for their race. The problem has changed since the LA Riots but not completely gone away.
Belen Garcia

I learned that Watts exploded because the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, clearing away barriers for blacks to vote. This is related to the Voting Acts Right because it’s all about how blacks should have their own rights of voting. They were really happy because they had their chance of having voting rights. In a country that is about freedom why did blacks have to fight for theirs? This is really a lot like in EL Salvador where people always have to fight the government for their right. Another thing is that the people in El Salvador have too many problems with the government of getting their rights. Here in the United States is almost the same thing because its hard to get your rights especially for Latinos, sometimes Blacks, and other kinds of races. I wish that all those people that don’t have any rights they should get an opportunity of having some rights. Another thing is that about the people that cross that border and want an opportunity of having a job and helping their family and trying to be a citizen of this country. People all over the world think that they should come here because they think this is a country of jobs.

Isaac Castro

What I have learned from the Riots was how Rodney King’s beating was one of the causes for the riots. He wasn’t the main cause but a small portion. I didn’t really know anything about Rodney King and how he was beaten by four cops nor about the riots. This was really all new to me! But after I read the article and talked about it I learned a lot about him and how the LA Riots started. He was like the person who made the people lose control. In the end I think this is favoring the African Americans because those cops were punished for violating Rodney King’s civil rights! This favored the African Americans because they got the justice they fought for through all that violence they had to go through. One of the questions I had that wasn’t really answered was, “What happened to the four police officers that beat Rodney King after they served their punishment?” I would like to know what happened to them after all that happened. Did they live a normal life? Or a harsh one? This issue reminds me of how police authorities always believe the white person over the colored one. How could those four cops not be guilty — they have the beating of Rodney King on video! It was an all-white jury; it wasn’t really fair for Rodney King! One example is if a white person gets into trouble with a colored person, the police would most likely believe the white person! That’s what I learned about the Riots And Rodney King and his beating.
Nerry Amaya

I learned that the L.A. Riots started because of the beating of Rodney King, but it wasn’t the only cause. Four police officers were found guilty for beating Rodney King. A crowd of people started to burn shops and cars were turned over and set on fire. The Riot wasn’t only about police beating Rodney King, it was also about police brutality. People didn’t think that police brutality was fair. I think that police brutality isn’t fair and it needs to stop. Police need to start acting in a better way. I wonder why do police act so brutally. Is it because of peoples’ skin color or the way they look? Why did the police beat Rodney King? Why do police think their the shit only because they have a gun. Like what the hell is wrong with them? They should respect others too because they don’t like when people disrespect them. I think that the Rodney King case wasn’t fair because the judge was white and the police officers were too. The judge is racist because Rodney King was black and the four police officers where white so he didn’t think that the officers were guilty, people didn’t think that it was fair.
Ana Hernandez

I recently learned about the Rodney King beating and the not guilty verdict by the police who beat him. The Black people in the community reacted to that verdict because they found the judge’s verdict completely unfair and racist since the cops were White. A question I have is why did this whole Rodney King verdict have to occur. For the Whites and law to see how all of the police brutality and racism was affecting so many people in the community. I’ve seen people resist arrest before and Rodney King did not resist, the police began beating him while he couldn’t do anything and I’ve seen police beat at people like that and sometimes it isn’t fair because it could be five cops against one person, and that’s like what happened to Rodney King. Police can be rude sometimes, I’ve seen them be rude to my uncle once and they almost arrested him in our own house, they wanted him to come out of the house to talk but we all knew if he got out the property the cops would get him, for doing absolutely nothing. And since my uncle looks like a gang member, I believe the cops were discriminating him. The LA Riots did not only happen because of King, he was one of the reasons, but people just got tired of being mistreated and being judged for years and the police “not guilty” verdict finally made them react to the years of racism, beatings and unfairness, which is how the LA Riots occurred.
Carolina Silva

In 1992: LA in flames after ‘not guilty’ verdict article I learned that police officers were discriminating against other races that are not white, especially the blacks. What was significant about this article was that other law enforcements were concerned with what was going on and were disappointed in the LA police force especially on their behavior. This article favors the people with power and control over lesser people. The Rodney King verdict was unfair to many that thought those police officers should go to jail and pay for their hate crime against King. Though afterwards,” the four acquitted police officers had a second trial a year later on the federal charges of violating Rodney King’s civil rights.” Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell were found guilty and each had to serve two years in prison. That verdict seemed fair enough, even though there were more than two officers beating King.
Diana Renoj

The LA Riots
Recently in my Geography class we have been studying the LA Riots. We have been trying to figure out if things have changed since the LA Riots. We read about the Rodney King incident, we read about how Rodney King was beaten and how the police officers that did the beating were found innocent in the first trial. Something that I didn’t know was that in the second [trial] only the officers Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell [were tried]. The other two officers were Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno. I think the jury that had to do with the Rodney King trial was being unfair. They were being unfair because I think that they were being biased because they knew that the police were guilty but since they are the law enforcement they didn’t have to deal the consequences of their actions. Rodney King wasn’t the main reason why the LA Riots happened. I think that it was just one of the few reasons why the LA Riots happened. I think the LA Riots happened because people were tired of being mistreated because of the color of their skin. If everybody would be treated the same then the LA Riots would of never happened. I think the police officers were a big factor to the LA Riots I think this because the people who were being the most unfair were the police. I think that law enforcement today is still unfair. I think that some police officers are racist. For example, one time the police stopped my brother-in-law for no reason. I think they stopped him because he was black and he had west coast tattooed on his arms. The police had no reason to stop him; they were just being racist.
Casandra Gutierrez

After reading about the Rodney King matter I learned that police were very cruel and thought that they can do whatever they desired just because they were the authority. I feel like most people are in favor of Rodney King because he was brutally beaten for no reason at all. One of the questions I had was “Why would our country leaders allow such brutality towards people of color?” This issue reminded me of the racist policemen of today, and how they mistreat people, mostly people of color. The Rodney King issue really made me think about how the jury in the Rodney King trial could even think that the four policemen were not guilty after they beat an innocent man. The most ridiculous thing about the Rodney King trial was that the jury was all white, not a single person of color. The reason why the L.A. Riots occurred is that people were tired of all the racism going on towards them, and the Rodney King beating was the straw that broke the camels back. I can relate to this because I’m the type of person that will not tolerate any disrespect towards me or the people I care about
Karla Ayala

A little competition at Manual Arts gets students up and moving

imageManual Arts High School journalism students created audio slideshows that showcased their dancing skills through photography and personal commentary. Select students danced to traditional Latin music, while others documented the activity with their cameras. After choosing the best photos, the class split up into teams to record their thoughts.

Team 1: Ashley Howell, Teresa Valle, Dany Garcia
Team 2: Katherine Zepeta, Wendy Archila
Team 3: Oscar Sandoval, Joanna Harrison

Best Photographer: Ashley Howell
Runner-up Best Photographer: Dixia Aguilar
Winning Audio Slideshow: Ashley Howell, Teresa Valle, Dany Garcia

Watch two of the winning entires below, then click here to view all of the students’ work.

OpEd: Manual Arts teachers, alumni and parents write a new plan for education in their community

By Mark Gomez, Social Studies Teacher at Manual Arts High School

Attendees decorate t-shirts at a community forum held in the summer.

This is a David and Goliath story in which energized teachers, students and parents from Manual Arts High School decided to take matters into their own hands and disrupt the inadequate status quo of public education in South Central LA’s Local District 7.

Through Public School Choice 3.0, LAUSD requested proposals for Augustus Hawkins High School, a new campus that will relieve the overcrowded Manual Arts campus. Local District 7 submitted one generic proposal for multiple new schools to continue business as usual. A group of teachers, students, and parents wanted to create a school that is for the community by the community. Thus, the Schools for Community Action (SCA) were born.

Committed to bring fresh air to a historically stale educational environment, SCA has been tirelessly working to ensure the new Augustus Hawkins campus will be an innovative and effective public school for the families of South Central. Throughout the Spring and Summer, they organized numerous community meetings that brought students, local police officers, parents, business owners, social service workers, university affiliates and educators together to create the vision for this school.

A woman speaks at a community forum held in the summer.

Based on the community input, it became clear that parents and students desire options and concrete college and career paths in their public schools. SCA has submitted four small school proposals for the overall site. Each of SCA’s four small schools plans have a focus – Community Health Advocates School (social work/therapy), Critical Design and Gaming School (game design, tech and media), Responsible Indigenous Social Entrepreneurship (local business/responsible consumerism) and School of Urban Sustainability and Environmental Science (urban planning, environmental engineering). In addition to campus wide community partners, each school has reached out to specific university programs to further support their instructional programs. USC School of Social Work, Loyola Marymount University, as well as UCLA School of Public Policy, are just a few of the programs committed to support SCA’s academic programs.

Attendees talk at a community forum held in the summer

Each small school is linked by SCA’s core values, which are: student centered, community collaboration, innovation and excellence, social justice and sustainability. SCA will also have an advisory program in all four schools that is designed to establish a true home base to support student attendance and address the individual needs that students bring to school every day. The SCA school plans are designed to support the whole student and welcomes parent and community support in all of the school programs.

If the Local District 7 plans are approved, students will continue to be limited to blocks of remedial math and English, with only the hope of possibly having the opportunity in their senior year to take courses that relate to a career. The SCA plans are designed to interest and support every student from 9th grade through 12th grade.

Supt. John Deasy is expected to give his decision next week regarding the future of Augustus Hawkins High School.

For more information, please see the SCA website or contact Mark Gomez at 310-699-6342; [email protected]