Silver Lake school prepares to lose another teacher as enrollment drops

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By Becky Koppenhaver

Mayberry Elementary School in Silver Lake will say goodbye to another teacher this week  if the school cannot enroll six more students by Wednesday.

The much loved, sixth-grade teacher, Art Avina, who has taught at the school for 10 years, will be given the pink slip even though his class is  already in full swing. His departure will immediately force another class to combine grades and students to move to other classes.

Mayberry Principal Rosa Eshaq says that it is unusual to have to lay off a teacher once school has already started. “It’s a matter of numbers, and this year the district’s projections for student attendance were off,” Eshaq said. “The projection is what determines how many teachers the school will employ. The district projected a certain amount of kids and they didn’t show up this fall.”

“It’s hard,” Eshaq said. “Mr. Avina is loved by students and the staff, but he has the least seniority.”

Mayberry was notified last June that they would be losing two teachers due to continued declining student enrollment. Avina will be the third.

Many Mayberry parents, like Paula Barragan Ortega, blame the opening of the new Sandra Cisneros Elementary charter school, less than a mile away in Echo Park, for the drop in enrollment. She says the new school has actively recruited students from Mayberry and other neighborhood schools by canvassing residents with flyers and calling parents of Clifford Street, Logan and Elysian Heights elementary students, urging them to enroll their children at the new campus that opened this year.

Ortega says the loss of Avina will cause a major disruption and lower moral among staff and students. In addition, many parents, including herself, said they feel betrayed and misled by the district, which assured them at several meetings last year that Sandra Cisneros Elementary, which is run by the Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, would not take away students from Mayberry. The school has lost over 60 students in the last three years and is down to a student population of 336.

“We attended many community town hall meetings where LAUSD reps were always available.  We raised our concerns and time and time again we were told, promised, and re-assured that our schools would not be impacted and our enrollment would not be affected,” said Ortega.  “As of June 2011, before the school year came to an end, we were told that the projection indicated that we would lose two of our beloved teachers.  Of course the projections took into account the new school.”

Ortega is part of a group of parents and staff that early on advocated for a middle school at the Echo Park location instead of an elementary school, which would siphon off students  from schools already suffering from declining enrollments.

Eshaq says that the loss of enrollment is not only because of the nearby new school. “We’ve had declining enrollment for various reasons. Kids sometimes move or they transfer to charters or magnets our of the area,” Eshaq said.

Ortega and other parents have written letters to L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy asking him to make an exception for Mayberry. She says she received a sympathetic but uncompromising email from Principal Director  Lourder Ortiz stating that times were too tough to allow any exceptions.

Meanwhile, Eshaq’s job at Mayberry is to reorganize her classrooms and try to cause as little disruption as possible. In this case, she will be forced to create three mixed grade classrooms and reassign a third/fourth grade teacher to Avina’s class.

“It’s traumatic to have Mr. Avina leave, he loves teaching here and we love him, but there are schools out there that are hiring and need good teachers. He will be okay.”

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No comments

  1. First, you story needs to make it clear, Avina is NOT getting a pink slip, as you wrote. He is NOT being fired. He is merely being transferred to another school that needs a teacher rather than the district hire a new teacher for that, spending more money.

    I don’t see any big deal here — other than the timing. Mayberry isn’t being punished, will only have to have class sizes similar to all the other schools in the district.

    The only issue here is that this should have been taken care of a month ago before classes started. They certainly should have known their enrollment by the time classes started, should not have to wait a month to find out!

    I don’t even have a problem if this is due to students choosing instead to attend the new Camino Nuevo charter school. They choose that because they think it is better.

    I sounds to me like Mayberry is seriously hyping what the situation is.

  2. How many “instructional coaches” does the school have? If they need to ax a teacher’s position, a coach should be the first to go.

  3. seems to be a little scapegoating going on here. that bit about Camino Nuevo stealing all of Mayberry’s kids is just the opinion of 1 angry parent. as a parent I know we are capable of saying all kinds of crazy stuff when our kids are involved. it says that Mayberry needs to enroll 6 kids and that they have lost 60 kids over the last 3 years. Camino Nuevo hasn’t been open that long, so they couldn’t possibly have stolen all those kids.

    even the teacher getting laid off seems to dispute that argument. I would think that it has more to do with shifting demographics and socioeconomics in Silverlake. if people can afford to send their kid somewhere besides an LAUSD neighborhood school, they will do just that. I can definitely understand the frustration of the parents though.

  4. It is not the opinion of 1 angry parent. It is a reality and it is the opinion of the majority of parents and staff. This is the 3rd teacher we lose. 2 were slashed before the school year even began and this is the 3rd. It is not scapegoating to Camino Nuevo. Camino Nuevo is one of the factors as is Gabriella Charter and many others. Obviously the persons making comments about this issue are supporters of Charters taking over our schools. The changing demographics (gentrification) of Silverlake and Echo Park is obviously a factor as well. To the Mayberry family it is a big deal and our school will be greatly impacted. Henry’s comment about it not being a big deal is an insult to our children and staff. Of course you don’t mind losing enrollment to the new Charter, your kids (if you have any) are not being affected!!! Where you one of the recruiters for Camino Nuevo?

  5. “In this case, she will be forced to create THREE MIXED GRADE CLASSROOMS and reassign a third/fourth grade teacher to Avina’s class.”

    YUCK. Be assured we’ll move out of Mayberry’s zone when our toddler is of age…

  6. Well: I note again, the teacher is NOT being laid off. He is merely being reassigned to another school. Nobody is losing their job.

    “In this case, she will be forced to create THREE MIXED GRADE CLASSROOMS and reassign a third/fourth grade teacher to Avina’s class.” This sounds like scare tactics on its face. So, the principal can’t think of any way to do this other than split Avina’s class into three other classes of a different grade?! That principal might be the one who should go. Maybe the principal instead could combine those three other grade classes into two of the same grade, and have the extra teacher take over Avina’s class. Or some other sensible idea rather than scare tactics.

    Again, the only thing wrong about this is the timing, not the staffing level. They are merely being brought to a staffing level comparable to all the other schools in the district.

  7. This should have been addressed at the start of the school year. I can’t imagine how this won’t be a problem for the teachers of the newly split classes.

  8. To Henry – Your comments make you sound very illiterate. If you don’t know the full story then just don’t say anything. I bet you are a Camino Nuevo lover.

  9. Henry you need to re-read the article….Mr. Avina”s class is not being split, this is not a scare tactic, it’s reality. The teacher reassigned to his position has caused her class to be closed causing the ripple effect of 2 split classes in the upper grades and 1 split class in the primary grades since her class was a 3/4.

    “Well”… there is no scapegoating going on here. Unfortuately, the Sandra Cisneros Charter a.k.a Camino Nuevo, have taken several students, not only from Mayberry, but from all of our local Elementary Schools north of Sunset Blvd, which by the way the district said would not happen. This site was to alliviate elementary schools south of Sunset. Fortunately, teachers have found other positions, but when a school, like Mayberry, is short from enrolling only 3 or 4 students and still have to lose a teacher….it is extremely frustrating. I agree that this situation should have been addressed as soon as school started in order to meet our quota.

    I believe the district made a very bad decision in allowing this site to be a K-8 school with all of the elementary schools already in this area. It would have benefited our community if the board would have listened and made this site a middle/ high school especially after having read about the overcrowding Marshall High is facing now that it has become traditional. Our high school students would have benefited from a new school in their own neighborhood.

    The district talks about no child left behind, yet with all of these splits being created in our public schools we are definately leaving our children behind.

    As to Artie…instead of running away, why don’t you try to be involved in your community and attend meetings to help benefit you and your family.

  10. The only problem here is that the teacher is being relocated due to lack of seniority. How about performance? Oh wait, Unions…. that’s right.

  11. Sadly, this happened precisely because the deep pocketed CNCA Charter Corporation was allowed to go outside of its attendance boundaries and poach students from neighborhood public schools including Mayberry. LAUSD promissed that CNCA would not effected our local public schools, but clearly that isn’t the case. Once more, our neighborhood public schools are being sacraficed so that lucrative charter-voucher companies can increase market share and profitability.

    Is CNCA Charter Corporation Poaching Parents and Pillaging Privacy?


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