Parents, Teachers Taking Over Westchester High
By Paul Clinton
Parents and teachers at Westchester High School have voted to put themselves in charge of academic reforms in an effort to take the low-performing school where Los Angeles Unified couldn't.
Working with Loyola Marymount University under the banner of the district's new Innovation Division, they will try to turn around a school that ranks in the bottom fifth of the state academically.
With the votes, the school is signing up for a five-year partnership with the Catholic university - known as the Family of Schools - to improve achievement and draw local students back to LAUSD classrooms.
"I am very optimistic about what is going to happen here," Superintendent David Brewer told an audience at the school Friday. "I expect a lot of students to go all the way through and become graduates of college, especially LMU."
The division, which was created in mid-2007, now reviews proposals from schools hoping to hook up with universities, governments or other community partners looking to guide schools toward reform.
Crenshaw High also voted to join the Innovation Division this week.
Like many LAUSD high schools, Westchester High graduates a lower percentage of students than schools in many other Southern California districts.
Three out of four students attending the school score below proficiency in basic subjects such as algebra, geometry, English and science.
Discipline and truancy issues also have plagued the school for years. On a typical school day, as many as 10 percent of the students arrive late to class.
Many of the details of the reform plan for the school must still be worked out, but the university will begin placing student tutors in spring mathematics classes. Also, an exploratory committee of parents, teachers, administrators and others will begin formulating goals for improvement.
During voting on Wednesday and Thursday at Westchester High, parents and teachers voted overwhelmingly (89 percent and 75 percent, respectively) to seek greater control to set budgets, hire staff and change curriculum.
The work won't be easy, said board member Marlene Canter, who represents the area.
Read entire story here: http://www.redorbit.com/news/education/1230951/parents_teachers_taking_over_westchester_high/
2 high schools join LAUSD reform effort
By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer January 25, 2008
Westchester and Crenshaw parents and teachers vote to take the low-performing schools in a new direction.
Parents and teachers at two venerable but struggling high schools voted this week to put themselves in charge of crucial academic reforms.
Crenshaw High, south of Leimert Park, and Westchester High, on the Westside, will join the Innovation Division, a new reform initiative of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The results of school elections were obtained early Thursday evening by The Times, minutes after the counting was completed. Under the rules, parents had to approve the move in a simple majority. That election was conducted Wednesday.
Teachers also had to approve in separate balloting that took place over two days.
Parents voted in low numbers, but overwhelmingly in favor of the reform plan. At Crenshaw the count was 95 to 6, a turnout of about 5%. At Westchester, the tally was 100-12, a turnout of about 6%. The parent results surprised no one -- most observers assumed that only the motivated parents would vote and they were far more likely to vote yes.
Read entire story here: http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-innovation25jan25,1,6271160.story
Westchester High School to Join iDivision
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 25, 2008 — Westchester High School voted yesterday to join the Los Angeles Unified School District’s newly formed Innovation Division, in partnership with Loyola Marymount University Family of Schools. The high school joins Orville Wright Middle School’s community and magnet programs and Kentwood Elementary School, which both joined the LMU iDivision Partnership last December.
With LMU as the Westchester schools’ external network partner, this partnership moves budget authority and decision-making over instructional and staffing choices to each school locally. The LMU Partnership will support teachers, staff, parents and community in decision-making roles.
The Westchester High School community showed their commitment to reform and improve student achievement through overwhelming support from teachers, school staff, parents, community members and local community organizations.
Read entire story here: http://www.lmu.edu/pagefactory.aspx?PageID=41981
Other area musings...
Westchester High School moves into the iDivision
Posted on January 24th, 2008 by westchester dad
I’ve received word that Westchester High Schools parents and teachers voted to remove themselves from the authority of LAUSD District 3 and into the LAUSD’s Innovation (iDivision) Division. The unconfirmed vote were that teachers voted 68-30 to approve and parents voted 106-7 for approval. (Note: L.A.Times reports this morning that the teacher vote was 72-24.)
I’m sort of surprised by the extremely low parent turnout but that may be because there are so few neighborhood families with students attending there and parents in the lower grades who might have a stake in the school in the future weren’t allowed to vote. A news conference is planned for tomorrow.
Joining the iDivision is good news.. however the devil is in the details since everyone was really voting for a concept. The details of the relationship and governance between the neighborhood, LMU and the LAUSD have yet to be hammered out.
Community support will depend on how much control or oversight the community is given in the Loyola Marymont/Westchester Family of Schools (LMU/Westchester FoS) operations. So far the iDivision is a very abstract concept.
The only given is that the schools will:
- Retain 80% of their average daily attendance money compared to the 50% they get now. Not nearly as good as charters, but better that regular LAUSD schools which are on the poverty scale because of district overhead.
- Teachers are still represented by the UTLA and the district will continue to negotiate their contracts.
- Schools may contract out for facility services if they choose and/or they may choose from a menu of district services. (This is a good development)
- The availability of school resources including enrollment and facilities are still available to those outside of the local enrollment area and managed by the district. (this could very well be a deal breaker if the schools has to continue to allow high levels of open enrollment, opportunity transfers and program improvement transfers).
- There is some kind of undefined partnership between the schools and LMU. Not even LMU knows what it is.
On the discouraging side, Superintendent Brewer’s comments at WHS a month ago downplayed how much influence the neighborhood would have. He said that the community would have only 1 vote among many which could be something like 1:4 or 1:8 or 1:10. It all depends on how many stakeholders they want to see at the table.
Drew Furedi noted that the LMU/Westchester FoS will still have to conform to LAUSD enrollment policies.
What this all boils down to is that the district will continue to have a pretty firm grip on many critical aspects of the LMU/Westchester FoS operations. Will it follow previous unsuccessful attempts at reform such a School Based Management (SBM) and LEARN?
On the flip side will the LMU/Westchester FoS mean more electives for our kids? Will there be more academic and sports opportunities for Westchester’s families and their kids? Will it result in higher academic performance? Will the school once again have a band?
We’ll just have to see. The devil is in the details and so is its success.