I am a former LAUSD student and a current LAUSD parent. I have a daughter in the 4th grade at Fenton Avenue Charter in Lake View Terrace, Board District 6.
During my elementary school days, I attended Toluca Lake Elementary School in North Hollywood. My family lived in a fairly nice neighborhood with other hardworking families. However, our school had so little money that we used to collect cans to raise enough money to go on field trips, which were few and far between. And I never felt completely safe going to school because of the level of crime in the area. I remember there were actually flashers exposing themselves to children on their way to school, while children were playing on the playground, and on their way home from school. Today, I think we have bigger safety issues, like the ones being discussed in the news with shootings.
I also remember being bullied a lot and feeling like there was nothing that anybody would do about it. There was a culture that allowed and accepted this type of behavior at my school. Due to the fact that we the lacked quality schools in my community, my parents decided to move us out of the Valley to a safer community with better schools.
After the 6th grade, we moved to Camarillo in Ventura County. This was a very difficult transition for me. I felt misplaced during an already tricky transition to middle school. I went from living in a culturally diverse sub-city of Los Angeles to middle class suburbia. I didn’t fit in because I looked different and dressed different. I remember kids saying that I was from Hollywood and in a tone where they were making fun of me. Little did they know that Hollywood and North Hollywood were very different cities. I always wonder how my childhood might have been, had we stayed in the valley, and I attended Walter Reed Middle School and North Hollywood High with all of my friends. Eventually, I did make new friends, friends that I am still very close to. I know my parents had good intentions when they made this decision to move us to a small town. We were in a town where people didn’t lock their doors and where teenagers could walk around with their friends and still come home safely at the end of the day.
But the point of my story is that no one should have to move out of their community to find safe, quality public schools for their kids. Every child in every neighborhood deserves safe quality schools. Yet, twenty-five years later, we still don’t have that.
Unfortunately, years later, I faced the same difficult decision when looking at our neighborhood LAUSD school for my daughter, Gridley St. Elementary in San Fernando.
Only 24 percent of the students at Gridley are meeting state standards in math, and only 23 percent in English, both well below the state average. We still have so many schools throughout LAUSD that have been failing families in our communities for generations, especially in low-income communities.
Thankfully, I do have choices my own parents did not have, and I did not have to move away to find a safe school for my daughter. Now parents are fortunate to have the freedom to choose, whether it’s a charter, magnet, or pilot school. However, I truly believe that we need to improve all of our schools for all students. There are so many ways we improve, but first we need to clearly identify the schools that need the most help. Start with the basics by assessing teachers, something that is not currently done even though we know that there are many that are struggling. At the same time, you have teachers that are striving. Why not bring these two together? STEM programs everywhere are teaching kids new innovative ways to learn about technology and engineering. And most importantly, parents need a seat at the table. Parent input should be happening every step of the way. We know our kids best, and we want our input to be valued. I know by working together we can do better.
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