Mayor Villaraigosa appoints San Diego school reformer to lead the city’s students out of the depths of failure.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has appointed educator and school reformer Angela Bass to lead his school partnership program, he announced Monday during a press conference at Samuel Gompers middle school. Bass will oversee six of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s lowest performing schools, implementing programs to bring them up to par. She comes from San Diego where she was successful in turning schools around there.
“Coming from one of the largest school districts in California, [Bass created] a turnaround that others are trying to emulate around the country,” Villaraigosa said during the announcement.
She didn’t make those changes “behind a desk,” he said, but by getting out into the schools to closely identify the problems. Here in Los Angeles, she said, her observation showed her a missing link between the “brilliance,” of the district’s students and their perpetually low test scores.
“I had to ask the question, ‘why are they failing,’” she said Monday.
“It’s not about intelligence and we have to understand that. I have sat and talked to [some of the] children and they can talk about anything. They’re excited about learning. [But] one of our schools in the partnership only has 22 out of 1172 sixth and seventh grade students who are proficient in mathematics and that means they’re at grade level. At one school there are no children who are proficient. There’s something wrong with that and that’s what we’re here to work on...”
Bass worked for the San Diego school district starting in 1979 as an elementary school teacher, eventually becoming the vice principal of Jackson Academic Academy in 1993. By 1996 she was named principal of Dailard Elementary School and then of Encanto Elementary In 2000. In 2002, she took over as an assistant superintendent for the district where she also implemented a district wide math program that produced a continuing rise in grade level and above proficiency.
Besides higher test scores, Bass said she and the Partnership team are aiming for increased family member involvement, better attendance, significantly lower dropout rates, less instructor turnover and better learning tools and school facilities. Before the press conference began Villaraigosa illustrated that point by counting the computer supply in Gompers’ library and declaring that they needed more.
The group is already preparing for next school year by working on the transition to community run schools, gathering and organizing data on student test performance and attendance rates. The information will help them to pinpoint strategies needed for improvement. So far the partnership schools have been gifted $100,000 in tech equipment including computers, TVs and MP3 players from a non profit that gets the supplies from local business donation.
“Angela could have gone anywhere,” Villaraigosa said.
“She could have run an entire school district but instead she chose the partnership. She picked this challenge because like me she believes that success at the partnership means reaching well beyond the six schools and 16,000 students. We’ve always said that this partnership is going to be an incubator for good ideas, for creativity.’’