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VALLEY PERSPECTIVE

Diverging Views on Breaking Up LAUSD

March 19, 2000

At public hearings on a proposal to form two new San Fernando Valley school districts, speakers have agreed on little except their desire for change.

The breakup proposal put forth by the group Finally Restoring Excellence in Education, or FREE, calls for a northern and a southern Valley district with Roscoe Boulevard as the primary boundary line between them.

The Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization, after a series of hearings, will make a recommendation in June to the State Board of Education, which in turn will decide whether to put the breakup proposal to a public vote. The next public hearing will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Walter Reed Middle School, 4525 Irvine Ave., North Hollywood.

VALLEY PERSPECTIVE asked several community members who spoke at a Feb. 24 hearing in Van Nuys about the plan and its potential effects on education.

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GLORIA CLIFFORDS, West Hills

Founding member, LAUSD Parent Community Services Branch and Parent Collaborative. Mother of two sons.

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Speaking out against the breakup plan was one of the most painful things I've ever had to do, because I am and have been a breakup supporter for years. In fact, I worked with [former Assemblywoman] Paula Boland and Stephanie Carter [both leaders of FREE, or Finally Restoring Excellence in Education] on the breakup. I adore them both.

But the plan did not start out this way. Stephanie and I worked together for years with other areas--the Valley, Cudahy, Lomita--all these little cities that are a part of LAUSD and have wanted to break away. When the idea to divide the Valley into two districts started to come into the conversation, I was against that.

I think the Valley could be one district and break into a minimum of 10 charter districts--if they wanted to. Once the breakaway is approved, everybody should have a say in it. Those kinds of things should not be part of what goes on the ballot.

I live north of Roscoe Boulevard. On their map, everything north of Roscoe would be in the north Valley district. My son's school is El Camino Real High School. All the people in my neighborhood bought property so their children could go to El Camino. But the way they have broken it up, they would go to Chatsworth High. Our area would be the only part of West Hills broken off from the south district, and therefore from the other part of West Hills. It's a community, and they cut our community off.

I think the Valley will break off because this new plan that [LAUSD interim Supt. Ramon C.] Cortines came up with is going to eliminate most of the district, and it's not going to be able to function with the cutbacks and layoffs.

The old regime wasn't doing the job. When they changed to clusters, it didn't make the schools better. It won't make them better now, just because they call it mini-districts.

The fact that Cortines is there for only six months really scares me. If he were willing to stay, I'd like to see what he could do, because he's tough. But I don't think any sane person would want the job after the way they treated [former Supt. Ruben] Zacarias.

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