Can a rival school district do a better job running Garfield High than LA Unified? *

Los Angeles Unified has begun sifting through the many applications from outside groups seeking to takeover some of the district’s most troubled schools as well as its newest campuses. The applicants included charter school operators, the Los Angeles teachers union and even a neighboring school district: Montebello Unified, which submitted a bid to takeover Garfield High in East Los Angeles. Why would the much smaller Montebello district want to reach beyond its borders and take charge of one of LA Unified’s most legendary but poorly performing schools?

Back in the fall, Montebello schools provided some details about what they had in mind in a letter of intent filed in response to LA Unified’s School Choice program:

“We see a tremendous amount of potential in supporting
and assisting Garfield High School in the area of student achievement, and feel we can support their on-going efforts in making this a high performing school. MUSD has a very specific and targeted focus on training and developing programs that meet the needs of ALL students, particularly EL students and those living in low socio-economic regions. Our mission and purpose is driven by a very simple and foundational philosophy: Rigor, Relevancy, and Relationships.”

Montebello Associate Supt. Arthur P. Revueltas said today that his district, which surrounds the area served by Garfield High, plans to apply its skills in raising the performance of Latino and Spanish-speaking students at the East Los Angeles school. He notes that the graduation rate at his district’s Schurr High is about 96% compared to about 80% at Garfield even though both draw students from the same community.

“When we heard that Los Angeles Unified was basically giving up on Garfield … we thought we got to do it. We got to at least throw our hat in the ring,” said Revueltas, who grew up in East Los Angeles. “We are not trying to take the school away from LA Unified. We have particular skills to help Latino kids graduate from high school and go to college.”

Garfield would remain part of LA Unified but its policies and methods will be shaped by Montebello Unified staff, he said.

Montebello Unified is not the only group that wants to run Garfield, however. Members of the United Teachers of Los Angeles also filed an application for Garfield as well as two other Eastside schools, Lincoln High in Lincoln Heights ** and the soon to be open Esteban Torres High in East Los Angeles. A proposal was also submitted by the Green Architectural Design Academy.

A tentative meeting has been scheduled for January 22 for officials from Montebello Unified and other applicants to make their pitch to Garfield High parents in the school cafeteria.

* Update: This story has been updated with new information from Montebello Unified.
** Correction: A previous version of this story said that Lincoln High is located in Highland Park. It’s not. It’s located in Lincoln Heights.

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