COMPTON — A group of parents called Save Our Children plans to address the school board Tuesday night to demand sweeping reforms at Compton High School in everything from teacher performance to campus security and maintenance.
"We've got to get all those parents at all the schools involved," said Hildretta (Ann) Lowe, a founding member of Save Our Children.
The group was organized in January by six Compton High parents. "Now we're up to about 23 to 25," Lowe said.
If the Compton Unified School District--plagued for years by labor problems, deteriorating facilities and continually low test scores--does not begin reforming itself, the parents said, they will take their complaints to the state Department of Education. The schools are so riddled with neglect and incompetence that youngsters are learning to be failures, they said.
"We're going to be stuck with a bunch of teen-agers who cannot succeed," said Jacqueline Carter, a high school parent and another organizer of the group.
"We're paying taxes and I can't get what I want from a public school system," parent Joy Turner said.
In a summary they will present to the school board, the parents said that grading systems at the high school are "arbitrary and inconsistent," that substitutes are conducting classes because permanent teachers have not been hired, that the schools need more "knowledgeable and committed teachers," that counselors do not help students plot beneficial academic careers, and that the district needs to pay teachers more so good ones will not leave.
For the past month, teachers in the district have been calling one-day sickouts, staying home at different schools each day to protest the lack of a contract all year. The teachers union, the Compton Education Assn., said that low salaries are driving teachers out of the district.
The parent statement also addresses physical conditions at the school. It is filthy, the parents say. Restrooms go uncleaned, floors are not mopped, windows are broken, and the high school's auditorium and stadium have been closed for years for repairs.
"You teach your kids good hygiene and they have to live in filth when they get here," said Lowe, adding that until recently there has been no hot water anywhere in the school--most notably in the gym showers and student and teacher restrooms.
Debris litters the campus, lawns need to be replaced and fire extinguishers are not operable, according to the parents' statement. Emergency exit doors are blocked and supplies and educational equipment such as computers are in short supply.
Security is a major concern of the parents. They complain that non-students are allowed to come and go on campus and that students often wander around unsupervised when they should be in class.
A student was seriously wounded recently by a gunman who fired from a car parked alongside the campus. The wounded student, according to police, was hit accidentally when the gunman aimed at someone else.
Mary Ingram, another member of Save Our Children, took her son out of Compton High School and sent him to live with relatives in another state after he was twice beaten up on campus. "Because my son is not here," Ingram said, "that does not (lessen) my concern for the other kids."
The parents want identity badges issued to all students and teachers, and they want to form a cadre of parents who will help patrol the school grounds.
Three of the Save Our Children founders said they were shocked to learn that their children had been cutting classes and that the school did not notify them.
Doris Parker said that last fall she visited every one of her son's teachers, gave them her telephone number and told them to call her if her son was ever absent. Weeks later she visited the school to make sure her son was attending all his classes and found him absent from math, Parker said.
"The teacher put him out of class on the first day and told him not to come back," Parker said, but the teacher did not "bother to tell anybody--not the counselor, not the principal, not me."
In recent weeks, Save Our Children members have been outside the high school early in the mornings picketing and trying to recruit other parents who are dropping their children off for the day.
Last Monday, some Save Our Children members showed up to talk to a state accreditation team that was conducting an inspection of the campus. The parents told the team that the cleaned-up restrooms, the newly painted classrooms, the new asphalt in the school yard and the spiffed-up cafeteria were done in the last two weeks in anticipation of the inspection.
Many of the parents have taken off work to spend time at the school gathering material for the statement they will make to the board Tuesday night.
Acting Supt. Elisa L. Sanchez said she had not seen a copy of the parents' demands, but she is pleased that more parents are becoming involved in the schools.