Echo Park’s newest school will soon be finished but who is going to run it?

Three groups with three different ideas on how students should be taught are competing to operate Echo Park’s newest school, known for now as Central Region Elementary School #14.  Later this month, the three applicants will  make presentations to win the support of parents, students and residents in an advisory vote. The voting results will be taken into account by the  school district before selecting a group to run the $68.7 million campus. Some folks have already decided who they want to win. Writer Becky Koppenhaver takes a look at the groups, their proposals and how a pair of parents have responded.

By Becky Koppenhaver

Central Region Elementary School #14, currently being built near Alvarado Street and Sunset Boulevard, will be accepting new students in the fall. Three separate applicants have submitted proposals to operate the Echo Park school, including a charter school and two teams that are affiliated with L.A. Unified School District but plan to run the school independently.

Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, The United Teachers Los Angeles/ Echo Park Community Partners, and Local District 4/ Echo Park Community Partners have all outlined their individual and unique instructional plans in summary proposals submitted to the Los Angeles Unified School District. The three rival applicants are similar in many regards. All will have authority over curriculum, budget, and schedules. But their plans also differ, especially when it comes the population of students they intend to serve and the enrichment programs that will be offered.  Here is what each group has in mind:

  • Camino Nuevo Charter Academy: Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, which also operates three charter schools in the MacArthur Park area, will emphasize bilingual instruction for its students that will make them literate in both English and Spanish. The goal, according to the school proposal, is to “create“creating bilingual and bi-literate students who value and take pride in their linguistic and cultural heritage and are optimally prepared for the rigors of life in a linguistically diverse world.” Mary Funaoka, Director of Academic Affairs for CNCA says that bilingual instruction is key to the charter’s teaching model. Kindergarten is taught in 80% Spanish. By the fifth grade, students are instructed 50% Spanish, and by sixth grade, instruction is 80% English, and 20% Spanish.
  • Local District 4/ Echo Park Community Partners: Local District 4/ Echo Park Community Partners is comprised of several teachers who plan a different type of instructional model for the school that will include a “real-life studies enrichment program,” according to design team member, Shannon Corbett, who is also the Director of Elementary and Middle Schools for the L.A. Unified School District. She says her team’s proposed curriculum for the pilot school will include a focus on what is called “project-based” and “inquiry learning” in addition to a strong academic program. Corbett says that students will have the opportunity to learn in non-traditional ways by working side by side with professionals and organizations like the L.A. Philharmonic, Grand Avenue Partners, The Harmony Project, The Center Theatre Group, Tree People, and Cal Arts. She says all the organizations have made a commitment to working with the school.
  • United Teachers Los Angeles/ Echo Park Community Partners: The proposal from United Teachers Los Angeles/ Echo Park Community Partners is similar to that of Local District 4/ Echo Park Community Partners.  Both intend to have a substantial arts focus that will include participation from major arts organizations, and both proposals include bilingual education. But unlike the Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, the two other proposals claim to recognize the wider racial diversity of the neighborhood and may include programs in other languages, such as Tagalog. Another difference is that the UTLA team  is comprised of unionized teachers; the Local District 4/ EPCC team plan will be made up of  of non-union teachers.

Image from L.A. Unified

As far as who the community would like to see take charge of the school, it all depends on who you ask. Yolanda F., (she preferred not to use her last name) who lives a few blocks away from the school, says that she would like to see the Camino Nuevo Charter Academy take over the new school because she feels her two children, ages six and seven, will learn better in Spanish than in English. She has also heard that Camino Nuevo has a good reputation.

Another nearby resident and parent, Micky Curtis, who hopes to send her daughter to the school in the fall, sees things differently. Curtis says she and many other parents in the neighborhood appreciate the diversity of the community and respect the bilingual goals of Camino Nuevo. But she feel like the charter is not taking into account the changed demographics of Echo Park and the needs of the whole community. “I want my child to be bilingual, but I don’t want her taught in 80% Spanish in kindergarten,” Curtis said.  “Plus Camino Nuevo says they won’t offer an optional program for non-Spanish speaking families.”She wants the Local District 4 group to take charge because of their progressive model of instruction.

“To have all of the great outside arts organizations involved, plus a dedicated teaching staff, that sounds like a plan for a great school.”

The public will get a chance to learn more about the three proposals and vote for their preference at three upcoming key meetings later this month.

Related links:

Becky Koppenhaver is a freelance writer covering schools. You can send Becky story tips and ideas at becky@theEastsiderLA.com


  1. Does anyone know yet what the school will be run as?

    K-7th, K-8th etc…

  2. I’m an assistant principal at the CNCA Burlington campus, and taught 7th grade prior to that. Unlike the other groups that would be first-time start-ups, Camino Nuevo has a track record of starting and operating high performing schools. All of the Camino Nuevo campuses also offer art, music, dance, and drama programs. Camino has existing partnerships with the L.A. Philharmonic, the Gabriella Axelrad Education Foundation and PS Arts. It also offers an instructional program that is proven to benefit students from English and Spanish speaking homes and from all socioeconomic groups. Bilingual education has been shown to benefit English language learners long-term in their education, and non-Spanish speakers also have the opportunity to learn a second language, which increases cognitive ability while providing student with a valuable skill. Our program serves all students–including English language learners, special education students–at a high level, and is the best option for families in Echo Park.

  3. Really 80% Spanish? You have got to be kidding. What happened to English first? Seriously. What a joke!!!!!!

  4. @ La Native it is actually the most successful type of bilingual education around. Every year it is less Spanish and more English and by the time students transition to middle school the native Spanish speakers are fully functioning not only conversationally but academically in English, and the native English speakers are at grade level in English but fully functioning in Spanish. Check out Thomas and Collier studies, they have a wealth of statistics to show it’s success.

  5. Andrea is correct that the dual language program is the most successful program which is why the LD 4 Echo Park Community Partners Model wants to offer the option of a dual language program strand within the school. Camino Nuevo is offering a developmental program that is appropriate for a community where only Spanish is spoken and the students are all learning English. It does not match the Dual Model where English and Spanish speaking students learn in both languages with the goal that both groups will become bilingual. Camino Nuevo’s program is not appropriate for the Echo Park Community. This is a community school with an attendance area. Camino Nuevo cannot dictate the program and tell parents who don’t like it to find another school. The LD 4 Echo Park Community Partners program is inclusive and reflects and celebrates the diversity that makes Echo Park a dynamic, creative community.

  6. People would be well served reading up on Camino Nuevo’s real record. Mr. Holiday’s dishonest statements above are part of Camino Nuevo’s corporate marketing blitz in order to increase their market share and take our public property into private hands. Here is a comprehensive article looking at Camino Nuevo and why they shouldn’t be able to pilfer CRES 14.


  7. @Robert: Just out of curiosity, which of Mr. Holiday’s statements were dishonest? Tell us the real deal. Please be specific.

  8. bottom line is no one cares for the kids it’s about the MONEY and LAND be honest you BOZO’s. My kid failed kindergarden cause he didn’t speak spanish, and as much as I love the country of my mother’s origin (Mexico) we are in the USA. English first! Since Japan will be the concouring nation with all our jobs disappearing we should be teaching kids Japanese. Please excuse my misspelled words I went to L.A.U.S.D schools during my life time. Can’t find my dictionary.

  9. @Patrick, the 2,400 word article on Camino Nuevo I linked to above should have addressed each of your questions specifically. Did you read it? My original piece on the private charter company is here:


    If you read my carefully documented essay, you would have realized several points of dishonesty exhibited by Mr. Holiday. Here are some of Mr. Holiday’s quotes that are thoroughly disproved in the article I linked to:

    A) “Camino Nuevo has a track record of starting and operating high performing schools” — I show that the private charter company’s claims on performance are specious. Their performance is actually dismal by some measures.

    B) “instructional program that is proven to benefit students from English and Spanish speaking homes and from all socioeconomic groups. Bilingual education has been shown to benefit English language learners long-term in their education” — I document CNCA’s bilingual program is not the way he describes it.

    C) “special education students–at a high level” I link to the data tables from the Pilot Study of Charter Schools’ Compliance with the Modified Consent Decree on special education enrollments (which show CNCA’s dismal special education enrollments) and include testimony from a local Special Education activist who interviewed a CNCA principal who admitted that their school has no “special day” classes. These combined show a CNCA’s shameful under-enrollment of SWD and Special Education children.

    In addition, Mr. Holiday claims that the “other groups” would be first time startups. First of all, the other group, which is comprised of actual Echo Park community members and many long time teachers, have a great deal of experience starting schools. Several of the teachers have started pilot schools in the neighborhood and are more qualified than Mr. Holiday. First time start ups indeed. Furthermore, unlike Mr. Holiday’s corporate charter school, with an unelected board of directors comprised almost exclusively of investment management executives, high powered lawyers, and other wealthy business types that hold their meeting in private, the public school plan (LD4 Echo Park Community Partners) is a pilot school which allows parents and community members on their Governing Board. That’s right, unlike CNCA’s plan, the public school plan allows for decision making by the community.

    Of course Mr. Holiday doesn’t want anyone to know that, since the truth would effect their bottom line. Camino Nuevo is a private corporation (that’s what the “C” in 501C3 stands for), none of their wealthy board lives in our community, and I find it highly offensive that Mr. Holiday would suggest that they are “the best option for families in Echo Park.”

    I don’t know if I’ve told you the “real deal,” but my article reveals the truth. Specific enough?

  10. You seem to be overly simplistic — thinking that nonprofit charitable corporations cannot run good public schools. The Camino schools are actually much more integrated with the community than the LAUSD schools. The school’s annual parent satisfaction surveys are proof of that. Also, the Camino board meetings are open to the public and always well attended by teachers, parents, and staff. Finally, any fair analysis of student performance (see the California Department of Education website) shows that the Camino schools are serving children much, much better than the LAUSD schools which is why the Camino schools have long waiting lists and extremely loyal parents. Public schools that are operated by government bureacracies (LAUSD schools) are failing our communities. We need more community-based nonprofits like Camino Nuevo.

  11. @Raul name one member of CNCA’s board that actually lives in our community. How is a 501C3 “non-profit,” beholden to the interests of its plutocratic benefactors, including the Walton, Gates, Broad, Eisner Foundations, a community-based organization? Want to see a rogues gallery of funders? Check CNCA’s Donors page.

    How much decision making power do the teachers, parents, and staff and staff have at CNCA? Yes, that was a rhetorical question, since CNCA, like all CMOs leave all decisions up to their unelected boards of what can only be described as wealthy individuals with no backgrounds in education or pedagogy. Even a cursory view of CNCA’s board of directors biographies reveal that.

    If you said we need more community based organizations, I might have agreed with you. For an example of a community based organization check out Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ). However, you said “We need more community-based nonprofits.” 501C3’s are rarely community based, and are in fact corporate entities. We need far less corporations taking our public commonwealth.

  12. CRES 14 Para La Comunidad volunteers were out this weekend and this morning encouraging parents to participate in the PSC 2.0 advisory vote, and of course to vote for the public school plan (Local District 4 and Echo Park Community Partners Design Team Plan) as opposed to the privatization plan proffered by the outside corporate charter-voucher company CNCA.

    Several parents have asked us important questions about eligibility to vote, whether they needed ID, and more.

    Fortunately UTLA’s website has the answers to these questions and more


    Voting Categories and other League of Women Voters “Bill of Rights” (in English)

    Voting Categories and other League of Women Voters “Declaracion de Derechos” (en Español)

    Electioneering Guidelines and Other FAQs (League of Women Voters)

    If you are defending a new or PI school from Flores-Aguilar’s corporate charter-voucher takeover resolution, familiarizing yourself with the content of the above mentioned documents is paramount. If you are a CEJ, UTLA, or other public school supporter wanting to volunteer in these last few weeks to defend public schools from outside takeovers, let me know and I’ll try to direct you to the most appropriate organizer.

    Also on http://utla.net/psc2 is the voting calendar, public schools on the corporate chopping block, and much, much more. Please avail yourselves with this valuable information.

    Advocating Public Education

    Robert D. Skeels, Coalition for Educational Justice

  13. I was a founding teacher at a CNCA school. I was in a faculty meeting late in the year at which we were told not to inform parents of their rights under the Cal. Educ. Code. By then I wasn’t even surprised. That place was a Potemkin’s Village from day one.

    I stood up and said they were not going to tell me to lie or lie by omission to parents. Later, the principal (who was “let go” along with me and other experienced teachers) said she respected my stance. Big deal. Stances change nothing when the public believes any propaganda the right-wing charter schools put out.

    Sickening. Good luck, Echo Park parents!

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