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Change in Crenshaw

In the high school and the community, revitalization efforts by city officials are bearing fruit.

December 07, 2007

If only Los Angeles schools had more days like this. The mayor, police chief, city attorney, a councilman and a state senator, brought together by the Los Angeles Urban League, assembled Thursday on the steps of Crenshaw High School and committed to revitalizing the school and its surrounding community.

And it wasn't just a photo-op. The optimistic pledges and promises were already bolstered by results and statistics. Crime in the 70-block area has plunged as LAPD Chief William J. Bratton has devoted resources to the project. Murders are down 71%, and rapes, 65%. And rarely has South L.A. enjoyed such a positive relationship with the Police Department. City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo also has stepped up, locating a prosecutor's office in the school; it has slashed truancies. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa vowed to take the Urban League model to communities across the city, something he is uniquely able to do, and state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) and city Councilman Bernard C. Parks threw their support behind the project as well

Credit Blair Taylor, the Urban League's inspirational leader, with having the vision and skills needed to marshal such resources. (Simply arranging the side-by-side seats for so many current, former and eternal political rivals took exquisite political finesse.) And beyond building the political cohesion so desperately needed by the schools in general and Crenshaw in particular, Taylor has raised $13 million in private money for the program. Toyota has provided not only funds but cars. Two will be raffled to seniors with perfect attendance.

Although it is still struggling, Crenshaw High is moving in the right direction. The school, which lost its accreditation in 2005, earned it back in February of last year. It also exceeded its improvement target for this year's Academic Performance Index. Glaringly absent from the panel of dignitaries, however, was anyone from the Los Angeles Unified School District. Supt. David L. Brewer had a conflicting engagement, and apparently no one from the school board could make it either. This sent a powerful message to the school and the community: The city's leaders can and will transform the Crenshaw High School community -- with or without the school district.

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