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Changes in School for Pregnant Teens Asked

November 17, 1985|VIRGINIA ESCALANTE | Times Staff Writer

MONTEBELLO — School district officials dissatisfied with a Los Angeles County program for pregnant teen-agers here have recommended that the Montebello Unified School District take over the program. And on Tuesday, the school board will discuss the program's future.

Meanwhile, the principal at Montebello High School, where the program is located, said he wants the classes removed from his campus.

No formal action is scheduled for the Tuesday study session when the board plans to consider the program's needs. But Dr. Julian Lopez, assistant supertintendent of instructional services, said he has recommended that the district take charge of the program so that it can offer one that is "more comprehensive."

Saying the county provides "minimal" services, Lopez said that if the district runs the program it would be able to offer a "richer and broader program," including childbirth and child-rearing courses and more of the academic classes already offered in the regular curriculum. In addition, he said he is recommending that the district establish a child-care center for the students' children.

Studied Since Last Year

Lopez said that he and other district officials have been studying the program since last year, when he discovered no transportation was provided for the pregnant students. The district now offers that service.

Richard Phelan, director of secondary education, said he has also recommended a district takeover to the superintendent because "we know what the curriculum needs of our students are, the classes that they need to graduate and where they are in the sequence of study. And, it would be more appropriate for us to resume responsibility for the program."

Acknowledging that the program may have some shortcomings, Bob Grossman, public information officer for the Los Angeles County Office of Education, said that the county would not oppose a district takeover.

"We know that there are probably things that could be improved, but on the whole we believe our program is sound and helpful to those young people," Grossman said.

Montebello Supt. John Cook, who said the program "needed to be beefed up a bit," noted a number of areas of dissatisfaction.

He said that although the county is responsible for the program, it has asked the district for materials and supplies. He also complained that the county is operating the program with two substitute teachers, creating uncertainty about their positions.

"The latest information is that they (the county) plan to make improvements," Cook said. "If that's the case, I'd like to know why they were not made last year."

Grossman said that funding cuts in 1981 had limited the services the county could offer, did not allow it to provide bigger buildings and forced it to eliminate transportation for the students.

Statewide Teacher Shortage

He said long-term substitutes were hired for the program because previous teachers took other jobs and that the county is in the process of hiring full-time teachers but is having difficulty because of the statewide teacher shortage.

Meantime, Cook said he has asked for a report from the county detailing how it has spent the money allocated for the program and that the county promised the report will be available by Tuesday.

Although Lopez's and Phelan's recommendations have been presented to the superintendent, Cook said he will withhold his final suggestions "until I see what the county has done and can do with their money as opposed to what we can do with our money."

Montebello is one of only two school districts that allow the Los Angeles County Office of Education to run its program for pregnant teens. They cost about $125,000 each, Grossman said. The second program is run for the Centinela Valley Union High School District in Lawndale, he said.

If the district takes the program, its annual operating costs would be $58,555, Lopez said. He said the district would receive $72,755 in state funds for textbooks and average daily attendance, but that the district favors a larger facility for the program and that could cost $50,000 to $70,000.

Higher Administrative Costs

Grossman said the difference in district and county costs could be due to higher administrative and salary costs at the county level and that the county might also be spending more on materials and supplies. In addition, he said, a portion of the budget has not yet been spent and that the county plans to use it to provide more counseling and materials and supplies.

It is not yet known how much an infant-care center would cost, Lopez said.

The child-care center proposal, however, has been blasted by the principal of Montebello High School, where a 20-by-40-foot, double-wide mobile trailer houses the classes known as the "teen-mother program" or the "pregnant minors program."

In a letter dated Oct. 8, Principal Rodney Todd said, "Not only should we not develop the child care center, we feel the pregnant minors program should be moved away from Montebello High School as soon as possible."

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