Sunday, August 19, 2007
Union and District work to get rid of reform-minded principal
A. J. Duffy, President of United Teachers of Los Angeles
Green Dot Hero-Principal Frank Wells has been dismissed from Los Angeles Unified School District.
Steve Barr's Green Dot Public Schools were the subject of a New York Times article by Sam Dillon 07/24/2007:
"...Clint Bolick, a lawyer who has represented many charter schools, said: “If union bosses start patrolling their hallways, that’ll be the death knell of charters, as it has been for public schools. There has to be a genuine perestroika for Green Dot’s approach to work.”
"Tactics aside, the chain has had promising results. An early high school that Green Dot founded, Ànimo Inglewood, has raised the percent of students proficient in math by 40 points since 2003, and 79 percent of its students from the class of 2006 went on to college. Green Dot keeps enrollment in its high schools below 525. Incoming freshmen who need it remedial tutoring get it, and thereafter pursue a college-prep curriculum.
"Three years ago, Mr. Barr negotiated with district officials about overhauling Jefferson High School, a dropout factory in downtown Los Angeles. When the talks bogged down, Mr. Barr concluded he needed clout.
"Green Dot organized a parents union, and its members, buttonholing neighbors in supermarkets and churches, collected 10,000 signatures endorsing Jefferson’s division into several smaller charter schools.
Green Dot founder Steve Barr
"Mr. Barr marched from Jefferson High with nearly 1,000 parents to deliver the petition to district headquarters. The authorities refused to relinquish Jefferson, but the school board approved five new charters, which Green Dot inaugurated last fall, all near Jefferson and drawing students from it.
"Green Dot’s recent organizing suggests that many teachers are as frustrated as parents.
"Locke, designated a failing school for much of a decade, is awaiting its fourth principal in five years. This spring, Mr. Barr drew up a charter plan and began meeting with teachers to explain it. He envisioned using the Locke campus for smaller schools that emphasize college prep and give teachers more decision-making authority.
"He invited Frank Wells, Locke’s principal, to tour a Green Dot charter in May, a day on which Education Secretary Margaret Spellings would be visiting. Before parents, teachers and the secretary, Mr. Wells denounced the district as using Locke as a dumping ground for incompetent teachers.
"“I went to Locke thinking I could turn it around, but I ran into a brick wall,” Mr. Wells said.
"On May 7, teachers began circulating a petition endorsing Green Dot’s plan for Locke, and more than half of Locke’s 73-member tenured staff members signed. Bruce Smith, an English teacher who gathered signatures, said most young teachers were eager to sign; older teachers were reluctant.
"“Among the people who opposed us, nobody said, ‘The district is doing a great job here,’ ” Mr. Smith recalled. “It was mostly, ‘What about our job security?’ ”
"The district authorities accused Mr. Wells of fomenting the revolt, dispatched guards to escort him from the building, and dismissed him, Mr. Wells said. Binti Harvey, a district spokeswoman, declined to discuss Mr. Wells.
"A decision by Locke’s teachers to break with the district would be an embarrassment for the school district and the teachers union. Both began lobbying the teachers. Last month, the district rejected Green Dot’s petition, saying 17 teachers had withdrawn their endorsement, leaving it without the majority necessary to comply with a charter conversion law.
"But a newly elected board of education is to reconsider the petition in August."