Friday, September 19, 2008

Green Dot's biggest test yet

L.A. Times’ writer Howard Blume gives us part-one of a series on Green Dot’s bold takeover at Locke High School. There’s also an excellent video portrayal that gives teachers some voice that’s been missing in most press accounts. Teachers union leader Duffy, who originally sided with the board against Green Dot, seems to have softened his line:
"The task Green Dot's taking on is monumental," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, the district teachers union. "The school district has shown for 20 years or more they can't do this job."

The most telling quote comes from Former Locke teacher and dean Frank Wiley, who now teaches at my alma mater, Hamilton High.

Wiley says frustration with years of failure and mismanagement led him to join the narrow majority of Locke's tenured teachers who signed a charter petition. That document became the legal basis for Green Dot's takeover. But Wiley didn't remain at Locke; at 45, he worried that the intensity of the Locke project could lead to teacher burn-out.

"At Hamilton, I have regular high school kids," Wiley said. "If you come prepared, they come prepared to learn. At Locke, it's like there's a postwar syndrome. I loved who the students were and what they were about. But there's an edge. These kids have a hard life."

Only 16 of the 38 permanent teachers who signed the Locke petition are staying on. Others could have remained but would have had to sacrifice tenure with L.A. Unified, which could have meant lower pay for veteran teachers, reduced job security and loss of lifetime health benefits. Negotiations with the district to preserve these sweeteners broke down.

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