The switch has sparked complaints like this, in an email message I received from Manual Arts 11th-grader Destiny Penall: "This is a catastrophe, and what make us students and our teachers more enraged is that fifty teachers will be fired, classroom capacity will be raised to forty-four … and campus security will be reduced."
McGalliard counters that "there's no time to wait.... The students are getting a lot of their rumors and messages from teachers, and I find that upsetting."
"I've seen teachers using kids to create their UTLA protest posters," he said. "When I bring it up, I'm told it's a lesson plan — a lesson on civil disobedience, a lesson on social justice. You're taking class time to walk these kids outside for a protest, and their skills are still way below basic."
Too many teachers, he complained, are about "protecting people, protecting jobs, protecting the old way that's failed."
I understand the students' concerns and the teachers' consternation. Both sides are being painted with a broad brush: incompetent teachers and student failures.
The protesting students tend to be the "leadership kids" — hard-working, with good attitudes, good grades and strong relationships with caring teachers. They are students who judge their school not on its stats, but on its opportunities.
We need to look beyond villain-and-victim, to the reality these students see: unmotivated classmates with failing grades who don't put forth the effort to succeed and teachers who give up or buy in to the low expectations that learned helplessness breeds.
Destiny told me and McGalliard she wishes the powers that be would wait one more year — until after she graduates — to make the change at Manual Arts.
"I explained that even though she's doing well, the vast majority of kids are not," McGalliard said. " What we're doing may impact her, but we're doing it for the benefit of the whole.
"This is not a magic bullet. It's an admission that we've waited too long."