Gompers’ protest over district’s latest scheme
By Marsha Sutton, SDNN
June 29, 2009
“HELP US STOP SAN DIEGO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT FROM TAKING AWAY GOMPERS PROPERTY!”
The headline screamed out at me from my computer screen. Gompers Charter, the Little School That Could, needs help once more.
Against all odds, this neighborhood charter school in southeast San Diego - in partnership with the University of California, San Diego - has taken over where the San Diego Unified School District left off. And that fact apparently infuriates some school board members, particularly board president Shelia Jackson, who represents the Gompers sub-district on the board.
Gompers became a charter school in 2005 after years of chronic failure and indifference by San Diego Unified. In a move that garnered national attention, proponents rallied together and managed to persuade a reluctant school board to approve a Gompers charter unanimously.
What made this charter unique is that it transformed itself from a shell of a school battered by neglect and constrained by union-dominated policies and people, to a neighborhood charter school serving neighborhood kids’ needs with the full support and involvement of parents and the community.
Today, under the leadership of charismatic Gompers principal Vince Riveroll and an enthusiastic staff, achievement has improved, detentions and suspensions have declined, and belief in future success has replaced hopelessness and apathy.
A crumbling educational environment has been converted into a middle school that offers promising outcomes at last.
After four years of steady middle school success, Gompers and its board of directors petitioned the school board earlier this year to approve a Gompers charter high school. A unanimous school board once again voted to support the petition, so Gompers will expand this fall and open a high school that will eventually serve students in grades 9-12.
You’d think, given the unanimity of the charter vote, that all five school board members would be supportive of the school, right? Wrong.
Just after approving the high school charter, it became clear that Jackson had plans to construct a bus turn-around in the area where Gompers has its heart set on building athletic fields for its kids.
Obliterating athletic fields so integral to high school success is a back-door entry to derailed dreams and is yet another blow in a long series of attacks against the school. Even after she heard how strongly the school and community opposed the turn-around, Jackson persisted.
The desperate message from Riveroll lays out the problem:
“The San Diego Unified School District is placing buildings on Gompers sports fields starting in July 2009. We must stop this from happening! The San Diego Unified School District is placing a bus station on Gompers property. We must stop this from happening!”
As Riveroll and his board of directors see it, the destruction of the fields in order to provide a bus turn-around for a nearby magnet school that imports 70 to 80 percent of its students from outside the Gompers area is “unfair treatment” of neighborhood kids - especially when there are other viable options for the magnet school’s buses.
“The district is taking away the Gompers field of dreams and giving it to Millennial Tech Magnet Middle School,” Riveroll says.
Jackson has managed to do this virtually unilaterally, and privately. She has not brought the matter before the full school board, perhaps because not all members support her efforts to thwart Gompers’ progress...
UPDATE FROM VOICE OF SAN DIEGO
by Emily Alpert
June 30, 2009
The charter school is planning a rally Wednesday to protest school district proposals to place classrooms and build a bus turnaround on part of its site...
I finally caught up with school board President Shelia Jackson and bond czar Stuart Markey today to get their thoughts on the plans.
"I'm not sure what all the hullabaloo is about," Jackson said. "The bungalows are a necessary part of the [Millennial Tech] school. They won't interrupt [Gompers'] P.E. program." She argued that contrary to claims made by critics, she had nothing to do with the plans personally. "Whatever has been planned, has been planned by our facilities department."
School board member Katherine Nakamura begged to differ. "This is Ms. Jackson" behind the plan, she said. "And her community is coming to her and telling her in no uncertain terms that this is something they don't want. Does this need to be smack dab in the middle of the athletic fields?"
Stuart Markey, who is overseeing the facilities bond that would help to fund the new classrooms...[said] buildings would be placed no earlier than August if the plans go through. Markey said the issue will go to the school board later in July for a vote.
[Maura Larkins' comment: Usually I give Katherine Nakamura a hard time, but I believe she's on the side of the community here, and I believe she's telling the truth. Shelia, please don't sell out to sweet-talking supporters. Do what's right for the kids. All the kids.]
Read more: http://www.sdnn.com/sandiego/2009-06-29/news/politics-city-county-government/marsha-sutton-gompers-protest-over-district%e2%80%99s-scheme#ixzz0JxFZlhdj&C