Charter school that struggled to find a permanent home will shut down in June

By Gary Walker

Westchester Secondary supporters rallied last year to ask LAUSD
for space
Photo by Geoff Maleman

Westchester Secondary Charter School’s first graduating class will be its last.

Four years after launching at what was the First Baptist Church of Westchester, the middle and high school will permanently close its doors in June.

On April 4, the Los Angeles County Board of Education denied the grade 6 to 12 school’s renewal petition, citing “an unsound educational program,” a high rate of teacher attrition (31.8%), governance and open meetings law violations, and parent allegations of bullying and sexual assault, among other things. The denial document did not specify details of those allegations.

Founded by former Orville Wright Middle School teacher Janet Landon and Westchester parent Ann Wexler as a local alternative to Orville Wright and Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnets, the charter ultimately could not find a stable location close to the families it intended to serve.

First Baptist Church, now slated for condo development, closed after Westchester Secondary’s inaugural year. The charter school the moved to another location in Westchester before resettling in South Los Angeles last year.

Landon, who serves as Westchester Secondary’s principal, said that not having a permanent home attributed to the high rate of teacher attrition and blamed LAUSD Board President Steve Zimmer for failing to help the school secure a permanent space in Westchester.

“The people with the property enforce the law, and they always protect the status quo. That is not a recipe for equity. That is a recipe for corruption,” Landon asserted.

The charter school twice sued LAUSD for classroom space in Westchester but lost both times.

Through LAUSD’s Proposition 39 process, charter schools can petition for space on traditional school campuses where there are “empty or underutilized” classrooms. After losing its second location at another Westchester church, Westchester Secondary accepted LAUSD’s offer to co-locate its campus at Horace Mann Middle School.

Westchester resident Lisa Rowley, whose two sons attended Westchester Secondary, also feels that Zimmer let the school down.

“He absolutely refused to meet with any parents of Westchester Secondary Charter. We never got a straight answer about why he wouldn’t help us,” Rowley said.

Zimmer did not return calls for comment.

Landon says she has no regrets about launching Westchester Secondary — she just feels its end came too soon.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to fulfill the mission, but all of our actions were honorable,” she said. “The relationships with the parents and students, I’ll cherish for a lifetime. I’m really proud of all the work that we did.”

Westchester Secondary’s first and only senior class will graduate on June 8 at the CenterPointe Club in Playa Vista.

gary@argonautnews.com