The Alain Leroy Locke High Alumni Foundation has endeavored to convince the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to remove Locke High from Green Dot Public Charter Schools and return it to the full authority of LAUSD. Green Dot has systematically dismantled a proven system of education for Locke’s students and the campus community.
Locke’s parents, students, educators and alumni agree, that in order to succeed, any plan for Locke (or any school) must start with a mindset for all students to achieve in an educational environment that ensures they are prepared for success. Over five years ago, a group of teachers at Locke High School set out to reaffirm a similar mantra: they sought to return the climate and prestige of the school to the level of its roots—high standards in academics, arts and athletics. Named after Rhodes Scholar and philosopher, Alain Leroy Locke, the school maintained faculty and students and nurtured a history of pride and challenge.
Previously, (pre- Green Dot) a child from elementary school and middle school, as well as his/her parents knew the standard of excellence expected at the senior high school in their neighborhood. Moreover, Locke served as a beacon of hope and excellence. Currently, there are no clearly established pathways of experimental learning or applied opportunities and the school’s legacy and community connection are at risk.
On February 12th, the Board of Education is scheduled to vote on Green Dot’s request for a five-year renewal of its operation at Locke. We strongly urge that the Board not approve Green Dot’s request because under its operation, Locke’s treasured legacy and community connection are at risk. We trust that even with its paid staff, and lobbying efforts, Green Dot has not been assured of the necessary votes to continue operating at Locke. Its misleading spin- touts success despite the District’s own Charter Division having given certain Green Dot Locke schools an unfavorable evaluation within the past year. Renewing its operation would mean the Green Dot ERA would become a permanent ERROR for the Watts community and, more directly, the students and families in Locke’s immediate neighborhood.
In 2007, after much soul searching and debate, parents and faculty urged LAUSD to accept Green Dot Charter as overseer of operations. Watts community stakeholders subsequently embraced what parents and faculty supporters believed would be a “help.” What actually happened, however, was the principal was removed by a vindictive management environment and never returned. Also, after five years, the school was to revert to the full authority of LAUSD. To the contrary, the plan separated the community from its local school and Green Dot is now seeking to extend its operation at Locke an additional five years.
The unprecedented scenario of LAUSD allowing schools to be managed by charter and non-charter operators, publicly and privately financed, also resulted in a siphoning off young people from elementary and middle schools who would have attended the new Locke venues. The plan dwindled to less than 20%, veteran faculty representing the remaining original teachers who signed on to become part of Locke’s transformation. For the record, the most committed and outspoken educators from Locke have not been involved in the day-to-day operations at Locke for over four years.
Essentially, the plan shifted focus from a comprehensive model for educating youth to a segmented concept. Implementation of Green Dot’s plan: (1) undermined the heart and soul of the school; (2) detached Locke from its community e.g., prison-like gates and armed public safety officers; (3) provoked media spin and operator-condoned missives that vilified many years of the school’s success and exaggerated certain of its longstanding challenges; (4) decreased the number of advanced placement courses; (5) reduced opportunities for students to pursue performing arts courses– (only one instrumental music class remains), and (6) fostered a diluted high school experience and legacy. In other words, the promise of help was not kept and we believe Alain Leroy Locke High School should be completely returned to its district.
While there have been some success for students, a constant erosion of local school/community relations has taken place over the past five years, concurrent with a corporate connected, non-traditional branding leading to a decline of traditional school spirit. Early on, attempts were made by alumni and parent stakeholders to get Green Dot to understand the nature and spirit in which the school was created and the educational accountability system established to support young people locally and substantively—career, technical education and college enrollment preparation. Green Dot position was, “….You will not agree with our approach but you will agree with the results…” It systematically dismantled a tried and true system of operation for the campus community; linkages to post-secondary institutions were severed and student athletes are at risk of not being accepted to NCAA university play status.
Now, none of the educational pathways that would expose young people to myriad career opportunities and higher educational linkages exist—nor do computer repair and networking, music arts profession, fashion apparel arts and athletic skills development during the regular school day.
Locke High School was established to meet the needs of community learners- basic to advanced- and faculty with varied educational qualities and business expertise were recruited. And it was successful. Students came, filling the Saint’s halls from nearby middle schools, as well as high schools from South Central, Watts, Compton and unincorporated parts of Los Angeles
Returning Locke to LAUSD’s full authority would ensure: (a) no more social experimenting with a successful educational structure; (b) ending the pseudo-competitiveness between the campus faculty and other school segments; (c) a closer relationship between the general community and the school; (d) unadulterated use of best practices- proven prior to the leadership change; (e) a sense of “Saints pride” among students that links the present with a legacy of excellence; (f) an unmitigated awareness and appreciation of the relevance of secondary and post-secondary assets of the surrounding community; (g) an even stronger pursuit of higher education and career-oriented options for young people from the Locke neighborhood.
We believe it is time for the Board of Education to embrace a comprehensive plan for Locke, fully under its jurisdiction, that incorporates campus and community linkages to renew Alain Leroy Locke High School as a beacon of hope for children and the community through preparation in academic and applied learning paths that develop every student’s full potential.
Education Sub-Committee, Alain Leroy Locke Alumni Foundation.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org