The dispute, she noted, touches on sensitive issues of race and class, which are intertwined with the changing demographics of Watts, once solidly black and now majority Latino. The current enrollment of about 300 is split. For decades, both low- and middle-income black families were educated at Verbum Dei.
School administrators also may be slighting the role of high school athletics in providing opportunities for many young black men, said Mitchell, who is chief operating officer at Crystal Stairs, a local child-care agency. Several have gone on to successful careers in the NBA and NFL and potentially could be tapped for resources. Many alumni were chagrined recently when the school passed over a beloved former football coach for a job opening, and they have complained that trophies and other symbols of past accomplishments were stored away.