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School Restructuring Has Winners and Losers : Education: Marshall High can link students' grades to attendance. But Allesandro Elementary's request to remain on a year-round trimester program is denied.

November 01, 1990|LORI GRANGE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A proposal by one northeast Los Angeles school for more autonomy was granted last week, while another school's proposal was rejected in the latest stage of a districtwide restructuring plan aimed at giving teachers and parents more control over their schools.

Marshall High School was given the go-ahead by Los Angeles Unified School District officials to implement a new policy linking students' grades to their attendance, even though the policy violates district code.

But Allesandro Elementary School was informed that neither of two requests it had made under the district's restructuring plan had been granted.

Allesandro officials wanted to remain on the trimester year-round schedule they had begun in 1988, even though the Board of Education has decided to put all district schools on a semester year-round schedule.

They also wanted to be allowed to save any unused district-supplied funds for materials from year to year, instead of returning the money, so they could buy equipment they otherwise could not afford.

Notification to the schools was the latest stage in a districtwide restructuring plan known as "school-based management," designed to give parents and teachers more say in running their schools and, ultimately, to raise student achievement.

School restructuring was set in motion in May, 1989, during contract negotiations with teachers. The Board of Education in August approved restructuring proposals by 27 schools, including Marshall, between Los Feliz and Silver Lake; and Allesandro, in Elysian Valley.

Most schools immediately began using the greater freedom to act independently. But some proposed changes--such as Marshall's attendance policy--violated district policy, requiring Supt. William Anton to decide whether to waive the policy, said Andy Cazares, assistant superintendent of school-based management.

Anton rejected Allesandro's request to continue its trimester year-round schedule because he believed it would conflict with the semester schedule adopted by the board, Cazares said.

The second proposal, to carry over certain funds from year to year, was turned down because the district cannot afford to allow schools to hold on to money they do not spend, he said.

"We're trying to stay optimistic about this process," Allesandro Principal Lynn Andrews said. "We knew there was a risk of being one of the first schools applying for school-based management, because it was a brand-new ballgame. But we were willing to try to see what could be done."

Two weeks ago, Anton was ready to reject Marshall's request for a district waiver for its attendance policy, which would withhold credit if a student missed more than 20 days of class, Cazares said.

The superintendent did not know the school would be providing students with tutoring and opportunities to make up the time and work, and thought the measure would be too punitive, Cazares said.

Marshall officials protested by sending Anton a telegram and distributing a petition among teachers. A week later, Anton met with Marshall representatives to clarify the proposal. He then agreed to waive the district's policy that prohibits schools from linking attendance to grades, said Barbara Knight, a counselor at Marshall and one of the authors of its proposal.

The school still is waiting for waivers from the State Board of Education for two proposals that violate state laws. The first would allow officials to shorten the school day so that teachers could have more time to plan and confer, Knight said.

The other would give teachers, parents and students control of $200,000 allocated by the state for school improvements, Knight said.

State officials are expected to decide in December whether to grant waivers for the requests, Cazares said.

Knight said far more significant changes are expected next year at Marshall, as administrators, teachers and parents draw up a second set of proposals for change.

They hope to establish schools within the school by grouping 300 students with the same teachers and counselors for three years. They also hope to improve relations with Silver Lake and Los Feliz residents by keeping the campus lighted from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and inviting groups to use the school as a community center, Knight said.

"What we've done so far is kind of superficial stuff," she said. "When we really get into restructuring, changing the curriculum and the way the school is perceived, that will be the greater challenge. We're going to have to redefine what school means."

Three other northeast-area schools--Irving Junior High, Franklin High and Arroyo Seco Alternative Magnet--are among a second wave of 23 schools that last week turned in their proposals for more autonomy.

Those proposals will undergo the same process as the first batch, and the schools should be notified by the end of the year whether their proposals have been approved by the Board of Education, Cazares said.

Officials at Irving, in Glassell Park, have proposed organizing the campus by grades. Franklin, like Marshall, wants to link attendance to grades and give control of some budgets to administrators, teachers and parents at the Highland Park school.

The proposal by Arroyo Seco, also in Highland Park, made no significant requests for change because decision-making control already is shared among administrators, teachers and parents, said Brian Metzger, an English teacher who helped write the proposal.

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