By Sara Roos
Venice High School (VHS) has been on our beach radar since early spring, when a “pilot” school was discovered slated for co-location on campus. The trouble was that no one in the community – not teachers, not students, not parents — had heard anything about the proposal in advance of a week prior to its sudden scheduled vote into existence by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) school board.
More unfitting than the precipitous and mysterious genesis of this entity, it never was a legitimate construct. A “pilot” school is intended, by agreement between LAUSD and the teacher’s union, UTLA, to permit faculty flexibility on its own campus to address problems located there, at that self-same campus. A pilot school never was to be a vehicle for creating and installing a brand new educational entity on existing LAUSD real estate. No teacher at VHS ever had any input into this misnamed “pilot” school. And so by any other name, the proposal was still nothing more than a startup school. And it was intended to muscle our venerable VHS faculty and facilities into non-existence through “co-location”.
It turns out this land grab was backed by none other than Steve Barr, lately of Green Dot charter schools, more recently of its parent entity, Future Is Now. In the aftermath of blocking his treachery in part through a petition that garnered nearly 1000 signatures in 48 hours, much bad behavior was exhibited by our superintendent, including destruction of private property and public yelling at parents, as well as maneuvers that placed LAUSD in front of a court of law. Ultimately space at VHS was ordered offered to a quasi-public charter concern, independent of LAUSD, that is highly place-specific in its mission. Westchester Secondary Charter School (WSCS) is presently choosing between situating at VHS, far from their Westchester real estate roots, or instead in a church basement among “their” Westchester demographic.
Meanwhile, as it looks increasingly like VHS may not suffer co-location this year, the pilot-school-that-isn’t has ramped up their campaign to insinuate themselves at VHS despite public opprobrium. One online local “hometown” website has hosted the would-be Trojan horse by providing a forum for public grousing about the school. Several aspects of these posts lend suspicion to their validity, though there is little doubt that some complaints contain a kernel of truth. Until more honesty and light is shed publicly on the doings at VHS – both good and bad – our school will remain vulnerable to encroachment by outside groups with their own private agendas.
All this skirmishing is but a scuffle on the national stage of corporate privatization of our public trust, our public schools. For the public to retain input in our public schools, it is critical that every single member of the local Venice-Mar Vista Community pay attention to the tactics of the duplicitously named ‘Education Reform’ movement. It is a neoliberal wolf in sheep’s clothing threatening the demise of our 100-year-old local High School. Beyond VHS this attack on our democracy is well-chronicled on the blog of former Assistant Secretary of Education, Dr. Diane Ravitch. Read more about how the national issue plays out specifically here at VHS on this local blog chronicling educational politics here in Los Angeles: www.redqueeninla.wordpress.com.
By Sara Roos