Nearly 600 parents and teachers from 40 schools across Los Angeles congregated Monday afternoon at North Hollywood High School to hear School Superintendent John Deasy talk about magnet schools.
The latest Los Angeles Unified School District budget shows that $100 million is being diverted away from school programs.
“We think that they should look at the overall program and see what is working and preserve those successes,” said North Hollywood dad and music booster Steve Page. “The whole thing needs to be looked at again.”
When new school superintendent Deasy took the stage, he was asked questions (that were emailed in and written by the audience) by activist Lynn Alvarez, who has three children in three different schools.
At one point, a parent in the audience interrupted Deasy and shouted. He turned to the woman and said, “Don’t yell at me. I don’t yell at you.”
Also in the audience were three elected school board members, new member Bennett Kayser, District 4 representative and local District 2 representative Tamar Galatzan.
Galatzan first joked about the school not having enough parking for the big crowd, and said, “We have to park in the neighborhood.” She explained her recent vote against a magnet school and said, “We should make sure we have the money to maintain the programs before we start new ones.”
She also said the number of students at a magnet school should not be the reason why a school gets magnet funding. It should be a lot of various reasons, including Title 1 status, if the school has lower-income families.
Deasy said he was disappointed about Gov. Jerry Brown recently vetoing the latest budget proposal, saying there are “grave concerns” about the “negative signaling” that his decision gives.
Deasy said he would try to maintain programs for pre-schoolers, as well as try to keep transportation to schools.
“If you can’t get students to the magnet schools, what is the point of having them,” said the superintendent.
Page pointed out that North Hollywood High has students from Gardenia, Sylmar and West Los Angeles. “People come from all over the city for our school,” Page said.
Deasy received some applause when he said the present system of cutting back teachers with the RIF notices was silly. “That makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever and to not take into account the ability of the teacher and how the are doing on the job,” he said.
Some of the questions written out by the audience included money spent on special needs rather than highly gifted students, charter schools and unnecessary textbooks.
“We spend millions of dollars on books that the teachers don’t want to use, we should stop that,” he said.
Deasy talked about his own three children all in their early 20s who all went to public school. He said he would like the public to ask elected officials to support schools, but also said there needs to be a shift in priorities.
“We spend $58,000 to support a prisoner for a year and $4,700 for a Kindergartner,” Deasy said. “I have a problem with that kind of math.”
On a personal commitment, he said, “I will make sure magnet schools don’t cease to exist.”