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Officials plan to split low-performing Jordan High into 3 campuses

Outgoing Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, who said the school was one of the worst in the district, says the campuses will be run by outside groups.

January 13, 2011|By Jason Song and Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
  • Just 2% of Jordan students were at grade level in math.
Just 2% of Jordan students were at grade level in math. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles school district leaders announced Wednesday that they will split low-performing Jordan High School into three small schools that will be run by outside groups. All current employees will have to reapply for their jobs or work elsewhere.

It marks the second time the Los Angeles Unified School District has targeted a campus for such a forced makeover. Fremont High School, located in Florence south of downtown, was also "restructured" last year, a move that drew fierce criticism from the teachers union and resulted in the departure of most teachers. That time, however, outside groups were not involved.


FOR THE RECORD:
Jordan High School: An article in the Jan. 13 LATExtra section about L.A. school district leaders' decision to split Jordan High School into three campuses to be run by outside groups said that parents and teachers in 2008 rejected a takeover of the school by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's nonprofit education group, the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. About 150 parents cast ballots, and 83% of those favored the partnership. The school remained under L.A. Unified's control because a majority of teachers opposed the change. —

In a recent interview, outgoing Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said Jordan was among the worst campuses in the district. Jordan did not qualify for a key state academic rating last year because too few of the students took standardized tests. Cortines said that misstep, in particular, drew his attention to Jordan.

Jordan's poor performance — just 2% of the students were considered at grade level in math last year — also put it at risk of losing state funding.

"This school makes some of the others I've dealt with look better," Cortines said in a November interview. "The problem in that school is the lack of instruction in the classroom.... Fifteen minutes before the end of the period teachers are finished for the day. And this is not just one or two classrooms."

Cortines did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Jordan's faculty submitted a turnaround plan to Cortines in December. But Cortines said that it was inadequate and that it blamed students at times for their poor performance.

"I am extremely disappointed ... you begin to set up the straw man of blame and excuses," he wrote in a letter to Jordan's staff.

Cortines will appoint a trustee to oversee the nearly 1,600-student campus next month.

The superintendent said that several partners will run the new campuses, but he did not specify who they are. Jordan Principal Evelyn Mahmud told her staff that the campus would be split into thirds and run by two charter groups: Green Dot Public Schools and Alliance For College Ready Public Schools and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's nonprofit, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.

Representatives for those groups could not be reached or said there was no agreement.

In a later interview, Mahmud said the school would pursue as much of its own improvement plans as possible.

"The bottom line is we're going to go on teaching, and taking it each day at a time, one student at a time," she said.

Jordan teachers seemed unhappy with their choices. Charters are independently run, publicly funded and mostly non-union.

"The only fully union school is 'the villain:' Villaraigosa's partnership," said Aureliano Nava, the school's union representative, suggesting that the mayor's team may deserve consideration.

The mayor's group had attempted to take over Jordan High School in 2008, but teachers and parents rejected the idea.

Teacher union leaders said they had not been told of the impending move and were disappointed.

Restructuring "has not been proven to work anywhere they've done it," said Gregg Solkovits, a union vice president .

District officials had a difficult time placing some of the instructors who did not return to Fremont. Some nearby schools were exempted from taking the instructors, and administrators at other campuses seemed reluctant to hire them. Additionally, Fremont was unable to fill all its positions with permanent teachers for the opening of the school year.

jason.song@latimes.com

howard.blume@latimes.com

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