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L.A. school board OKs plan to revamp Huntington Park High

Despite student protests, at least half of the school's teachers and other employees will be replaced by early July, when the new academic year begins at the underperforming, year-round campus.

May 11, 2011|By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
  • Holly Priebe-Diaz, right, a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District's "crisis team," listens to a Huntington Park High School student who, along with others, had walked out of class and marched about seven miles to the district's headquarters to protest a plan to replace at least half of his school's teachers and staff. About 300 students were part of the rally near downtown Los Angeles.
Holly Priebe-Diaz, right, a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District's… (Michael Robinson Chavez…)

The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday approved a plan under which at least half the teachers and other employees at Huntington Park High School will be replaced by early July, when the new academic year begins at the year-round campus.

The board action, approved unanimously and virtually without comment, came as an emotional demonstration took place on the streets outside the crowded meeting room at the district's headquarters, just west of downtown.

About 300 Huntington Park High students rallied in defense of their teachers after a roughly seven-mile march from the campus that followed a morning walkout.

"We don't want our teachers fired," said 11th-grader Jonathan Rojo. "The school will be messed up and disorganized."

Next to him, students were chanting "Fight for rights" and "Save HP." They also shouted "Let him go!" when a phalanx of school police officers detained a student organizer. Officers said the student might have been inciting others to be too aggressive in their demonstration. The student returned moments later to rejoin the peaceful protest.

Inside the meeting, several speakers, including a teacher, two parents and two students, also decried the board action as wrongheaded or too hasty for the school of about 4,000 students.

"My greatest problem with this is the time limit," said 11th-grader Julian Zatarain, who spoke in Spanish. "What makes the board think that six weeks is enough time?"

But L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy defended the strategy and the pace.

"I understand this nature of pushing things quickly," he said. But to do otherwise would be to deny justice to poorly served students, he said.

Deasy, who became superintendent in mid-April, agreed to move up the plans for the school by a full year at the behest of school board member Yolie Flores, who represents the Huntington Park area.

In a brief presentation, Deasy said that one of every three Huntington Park ninth-graders drops out and that only seven out of 100 will attend a University of California or California State University campus four years later. Just 5% of students tested as "proficient" last year in the math course they took.

The Alliance for a Better Community, which has been closely allied with the school board majority and advocates for the local Latino community, spoke in favor of the board action.

In an interview, senior Veronica Franco said she understood the imperative for change, but added that at least 80% of the teachers deserved to return "because they put 110% to students."

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