Colocation, school reforms and the state of local schools will be some of the main topics of discussion at an education summit that will be presented by the Mar Vista Community Council’s Education, Arts and Culture Committee Thursday, April 14.
The meeting, which will be held at the Mar Vista Recreation Center, will feature a panel discussion by a combination of parent activists and educators as well as a presentation by approximately 20 public and private schools, where their respective programs will be spotlighted.
“Education really matters to thousands of families in our communities, as both a challenge and an opportunity,” said Babak Nahid, one of the co-chairs of the council committee. “By bringing together under one roof everyone who is dedicated to providing quality education to our kids, the summit can help ensure that no parent is left behind.”
The community council has hosted education forums in the past, but this will be its largest and most diversified.
Local neighborhood councils have begun to tackle education topics of importance in recent months. Venice has held similar forums on education and Westchester-Playa’s board met April 5 to address the possibility of Westchester High School becoming a full-time magnet.
The Mar Vista council approved a motion last month opposing a charter colocation at Mar Vista and Grand View Boulevard elementary schools March 8, and later this month, the Del Rey Neighborhood Council also plans to weigh in on the state of education in its community.
Sarah Auerswald, a Mar Vista parent, has been invited to be one of the panelists.
“This is a tough time to be a parent with children in public schools,” Auerswald, who runs an online community blog called Mar Vista Mom, told The Argonaut.
The community meeting will take place against the backdrop of an unprecedented confluence of events that are taking place: colocations between community schools and charter operators within the Los Angeles Unified School District, declining enrollments in public schools and a budget deficit approaching $400 million.
Proposition 39, a ballot initiative passed in 2000, provides for charter operators to have equal access on community school campuses where classrooms are underutilized or vacant. Last year, the California Charter Association sued LAUSD, alleging that the district has been denying the access to campuses under Prop. 39.
Mar Vista has three schools that could have a charter school sharing their campuses with them for the 2011-12 academic year. Two of them, Mar Vista and Walgrove elementary schools, already have charters on site and Grand View Boulevard is hoping to fend off Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF) Public Schools.
Grand View Boulevard Principal Alfredo Ortiz, whose school has a highly regarded Spanish immersion program, cites the advances that his school has made over the last several years as one of the reasons why a colocation plan would not be the best thing for the elementary school.
“If the charter comes here, obviously we would have to accommodate them based on what the law states,” said the principal, who will be attending the education forum. “But I really think that if someone else comes onto our campus, we won’t be able to accomplish what we’re doing.”
ICEF President Corri Tate-Ravare has heard that Grand View’s administration, parent groups and educators have expressed anxiety that her organization’s presence will disrupt its progress by taking away a parent center and intervention rooms.
“We’ve heard from the state charter association that there are concerns and that they want to maintain their current programs, but I personally have not had any contact with the Grand View stakeholders,” Tate-Ravare said. “And we realize that this could have an impact on their school.”
LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer, who represents Mar Vista, cites the academic progress of Grand View as one of the reasons why he thinks a colocation situation would not be in the existing school’s best interest.
“I really feel that Grand View is a great example where in terms of damage to the programs that they have in place, (a colocation) can cause irreparable damage to the progress that they have made,” Zimmer said.
Green Dot Public Schools, a charter organization that sought to establish a middle school at Westminster Avenue Elementary School in Venice, will have a booth at the summit. The organization’s executive director, Marco Petruzzi, recently discussed how colocation with community schools should not be such a controversial matter at an education forum in Venice, where he said that charters want the same things that community schools do: a good education for their children.
“We’re (misdirecting) our anger and we’re putting parents against parents,” Petruzzi, a Venice resident whose daughter attends Coeur d’Alene Elementary School, told the audience. “The charter is us.”
Irene Perez, a second grade teacher at Grand View, is frustrated with LAUSD’s method of determining what rooms at a school are considered to be available or not used to their full capacity.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me that because we have rooms that are not used for traditional teacher-student classrooms, the district is using them as set-asides to give away to charter schools,” the teacher said. “If they take them, we won’t have a computer room, we won’t have a science lab, we won’t have an arts center.
“And the kids need more enrichment than just being in a classroom with a teacher all day long.”
Vicky Waters, communications director for the California Charter Association, said charter schools are also public schools and can legally have space on traditional school sites.
“As with any provision of Prop. 39, charter schools are entitled to public school facilities, are entitled to a proportionate share and reasonable equivalent as classrooms, including specialized classroom space and non-classroom space,” Waters said.
Auerswald, who has one son enrolled at Magnolia Science Charter School in Los Angeles and another at Grand View, has a unique perspective of seeing both sides in the colocation discussion, although her older son’s charter does not share campus space with a traditional school.
“We’re making great use of our parent center, intervention rooms and science laboratories at Grand View,” she said. “The loss of them would bring about a loss of morale.”
Gay Havard, the interim local superintendent for district 3, and Zimmer have also been invited to take part in the education panel discussion.
The recreation center is at 11430 Woodbine Ave., Mar Vista. The summit is slated to begin at 5 p.m.
Given all that is occurring in the nation’s second largest public school system, Auerswald said the confluence of so many complex matters makes this an opportune occasion to have a community summit on education.
“It can’t come at a better time,” she said.