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SOUTHEAST AREA : School Activists May Seek Split from LAUSD

March 17, 1994

Education activists in the Southeast area, angered by a recommendation to create a "super cluster" of the three local high school complexes when the Los Angeles Unified School District reorganizes, say it may be time to secede.

"There are those in the area that feel we should be our own school district," said Assemblywoman Martha M. Escutia (D-Huntington Park).

The Bell, Huntington Park and South Gate high school complexes, with a combined enrollment of about 55,000, would be the largest of 24 clusters under a plan recommended by a subcommittee of the Cluster Transition Task Force. The next-largest cluster, combining the Manual Arts and Jefferson high school complexes in Los Angeles, would have about 43,000 students.

The community clusters, which would regroup the district's 650 campuses into high schools and their feeder campuses, are the first step of a plan to restructure the district and decentralize decision-making.

Since it is unclear how the district's resources will be distributed to the clusters, some fear that the Southeast area, where at least 94% of high school students are Latino and 55% speak limited English, could be shortchanged.

"We better get more money than any other cluster," Escutia said.

Joyce Peyton, director of the district office of school utilization, said that if resources are distributed on a per-pupil basis, the resources would be the same as they are now.

Secession would not be easy, activists acknowledged. The Southeast area is the district's most overcrowded and would need to raise money for new buildings as well as compete with Los Angeles Unified for state funds.

Escutia supports a plan proposed by the Latino Leadership Coalition for Education that would break Southeast schools into three clusters.

But Huntington Park Principal Tony Garcia said many of his colleagues feel it is best to begin with a united Southeast cluster. "We stand a good chance of working together because we have worked together in the past," he said. If the "super cluster" failed, he said, the three high school complexes could become separate clusters later.

Supt. Sid Thompson is to send his recommendation on clusters to the school board in mid-April. The district hopes to implement the cluster proposal by July.

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