Hundreds turn out for Echo Park school vote

A large crowd of adults and children turned out Thursday night to hear the presentations of two groups seeking to operate a new Echo Park elementary school.  Presentations by charter school operator El Camino Nuevo and a group headed by L.A. Unified administrators (which won the backing of the school district teachers union) were followed by an advisory vote. Residents will get another chance to cast ballots on Saturday at Rosemont Elementary.  The school district will take the voting results under consideration when it decides which group will run the $68.7 million school, which is scheduled to be completed later this year.

Echo Park resident Jonathan Williams, who snapped the above photo, estimates that about 400 people attended Thursday night’s meeting in the cafeteria of Union Elementary.  Williams, who voted in favor of the group headed by school district administrators, said the organizers strictly enforced rules against electioneering, preventing one woman with an El Camino emblem on her shirt from entering the voting area.  The sound system could have been better, however. “The microphones weren’t loud enough to break through the din of all those people (and many children) talking.”

Related links:

Photo by Jonathan Williams


  1. Go Vote on Saturday!!!! This is a chance to have a more progressive educational model in a LAUSD school!

  2. It’s clear Camino Nuevo is a well-oiled political machine. They actually bussed in a huge crowd of people. This crowd had no interest in hearing the views of the competing educators, and rudely chatted during their presentation.

    This, coupled with the professional shillsters leaving pro-CN comments on the Eastsider, makes me very suspicious of Camino Nuevo. Besides their lack of inclusiveness, they’re just too slick.

  3. As a local parent, I planning on voting on Saturday for the Local District 4/ Echo Park Community Partners Proposal. It is based on other successful charter schools, will provide a strong arts education to prepare kids to go on to the new arts high school on Grand, and is well equipped to serve the diverse needs of local students. Voting is 9am-3pm at Rosemont Elementary on Temple a couple blocks west of Alvarado. It is open to everyone in the community, so please vote!


  5. I want to stress that Saturday is the last opportunity for community members, parents and LAUSD employees to have a say, by this advisory vote, in what kind of school will take over the new campus south of Sunset off Alvarado. Hundreds of Echo Park residents were forced out of their homes to make way for this LAUSD building project. The least our community can do in exchange is to assure that children from the community who attend the school have the chance to learn under a more thoughtful pedagogy than the “drill and kill” orthodoxy practiced nationwide. It is admittedly very hard to discern the fine points of difference between two teaching styles as advocated last night. However, I am certain that I have more confidence in the approach laid out by the group of educators and administrators who back “Local District 4 and Echo Park Community Partners Design Team” than that proposed by Camino Nuevo, a chain-education organization, who seemed to dissemble when asked hard questions about their track record. And I intuitively mistrust an entity that has such an organized cheerleading section! I believe that Echo Park is a unique community who’s stakeholders are capable of determining our standards and education needs better than a professional charter organization. If we are ever to improve public education, we need to take opportunities like this to create a model WITHIN the LAUSD system which could demonstrate efficacy and success, given community support. Another charter–outside the public education system–seems like just the type of selective education which erodes the important value of truly public and widely accessible quality education.

  6. Sadly, due to the very specific enrollment guidelines dictated in the Eminent Domain proceedings that wiped out a section of Echo Park, The attendance area for the school MUST be to the south. It will only serve children who live south of sunset, west of Alvarado as far west as Commonwealth. The schools it is built to “relive” enrollment, are Lake Street, Lafayette Park Place, Rosemont, and Commonwealth. So if you live north of Sunset, east of Alvarado, don’t waste your time.

    May LAUSD and their henchman who destroyed our community to now say they don’t need a school for its expressed purpose, well. Hells too good for them.

    But they already know that, i assume. For the families who were run out of Echo Park, to build this monstrosity, there is no satisfaction in saying I told you so. The homes they worked so hard for are gone. The lives they built in this community taken away. Just so LAUSD could pad the pockets of contractors who stoke their campaign coffers while wasting hard working, homeowners tax dollars, for ill directed bond monies.



  7. Yes, because it the Local 4 proposal is planned as a LAUSD school, there is an attendance boundary that will expand for the middle school.Even though we are committed to Elysian Heights, I would still like to see LAUSD accept Local 4’s proposal as I see that it will benefit the entire surrounding community. Cal Arts and LAPhil are committed partners in this proposal and the Echo Center will be a part of their parenting center.

    As one of the commenters stated earlier, drawing from the Local 4 proposal, “* A community resource. The LD4 & Echo Park Community Partners Design Team plan was written with the idea that CRES 14 can become a school that provides resources to the entire community. Some first considerations are to secure recreation and computer lab facilities once the school is running and grants are secured. Since it is a community plan, there will be ongoing dialog as to how the school can serve the region.”

    In speaking with members of those who put the Local 4 proposal together, they like many of us, strongly opposed how CRES#14 came into being but because many of them live in the community then saw an opportunity to design a school that addressed the needs of our community.

    So whether or not your family lives within the attendance boundary, know that a school like Local 4 is planning will have a impact the entire community, that our neighborhood of Echo Park will benefit greatly and shame on people like cp007 and the EPIA who are discouraging people to vote just because they didn’t get exactly what they wanted.

  8. Even if the school site were no where near my neighborhood, I would still support the school proposed by Local 4 because this is the kind of change that I want to see throughout LAUSD and nationwide.

  9. jonathan says it best- organized cheerleading section. Thursday night, Camino Nuevo BUSSED a cheerleading section to the meeting. They cheered for their team and talked throughout the Community Plan. The army then voted. The vote will grossly misrepresent what our community really wants. If only people who this school will actually affect had the information too- this would be a more fair race. CN have a well-oiled, corporate-funded publicity team.
    I was at the Echo Park Farmer’s Market yesterday, when I first heard about what is going on. I live 2 blocks away from the site with a two year old son and am pregnant with a girl. I am so glad this was brought to my attention as I have watched the school go up but had no idea what was going on. I did not know about the choice or that we had a vote. I have done much research since yesterday, and plan on voting for LD4 Echo Park Community Partners Plan. You know, the one with Echo Park in the name. I want to have a say in how the school is run- not have corporate suits making decisions for my children.

  10. does anyone know about today’s voting: can you just stop by and vote or is it a long meeting, followed by a group vote?

  11. Hi Tyrone, today is voting only. no id is necessary. Unless you are a parent at one of the 4 elem schools listed, or a union member, you will vote as a community member. Rosemont Elem. 9-3. thanks for getting out there to vote! k

  12. @Kim,

    good luck. But when it all falls apart, rather than say “shame on you”, i”ll just kindly pass you something to wipe the egg of your face. Doing business with LAUSD is doing business with the devil. Plain and simple,


  13. cp — I go in with my eyes wide open. I’ve been up in front of the school board fighting to save people’s jobs. That doesn’t mean I won’t stop pushing for what I believe would benefit my community.

  14. @ cp: yeah, LAUSD is a monolith! I don’t have any illusion about our ability to make change and I don’t think Kim does. However, I’m sure that nothing will change without our participation and voices. Your cynicism is exactly equal in effect to ignorant complacency and even support for the status quo. Still, believe me, I understand the reasons for your cynicism.

  15. I too agree that LAUSD is pretty much a nightmare all around. And most agree the process by which the school was built was a total debacle. But the school is there now, and we have to TRY to make it the best it can be.

    PLEASE, neighbors, vote today for Echo Park Community Partners!

  16. @cp007
    I can’t see how anyone who makes a stand for something in their community winds up with egg on their face, regardless of outcome.

  17. Today we were able to get photos of CNCA’s buses. We also saw paid staffers from the CCSA front group FTC assisting Camino Nuevo.


  18. I missed the voting day. What can I do to show my support to the progressive school proposal?

  19. @liza there are physical petitions being circulated in the neighborhood and an online petition you can sign here:


  20. @liza If you have any extra time and would like to do more, please contact us. Or you can sign the on-line petition and get everyone you know in the community to sign. Posting it on your Facebook page and spreading the word as much as possible in the next week would be most helpful.

  21. I’m a 7th grade teacher at Camino Nuevo and a resident of Echo Park. I would like to address the statements about our “cheerleading” section, which some commenters seemed to imply was manufactured or disingenuous. To clarify, CNCA provided buses to transport PARENTS, STUDENTS, and STAFF from our schools nearby. Many of our stakeholders do not have access to their own cars, and providing transportation was a way to keep them from being left out of this crucial conversation. What you saw was not a “well-oiled, corporate-funded publicity team.” What you saw was a group of parents, students and staff who can testify to the tremendous impact that CNCA has had on their community and who believe in the potential of CNCA to have the same impact on Echo Park. Camino has an amazing track record in the communities we serve, outperforming nearly every school in LA with similar demographics. The extent to which politics and vicious, ill-informed mudslinging has taken over this debate is truly disconcerting. This conversation needs to be about what’s best for the kids in our community, and CNCA is the only group that has a proven record of success– and phenomenal success at that. I say this as an Echo Park resident first and an educator second: the kids in our neighborhood deserve excellence, and they would be lucky to have an education like the one my own students have been afforded at Camino Nuevo.

  22. When is the board making their decision?

  23. @Liz Koenig
    Thank you for your comment. I don’t demonize Camino Nuevo. I’m certain that both of these models are an improvement on the status quo for LAUSD and nationwide. My main interest in this issue is advocacy for widely accessible high quality public education. The Local District 4 and Echo Park Community Partners Design Team represent a model proposal WITHIN the LAUSD system. And Camino Nuevo, whatever its qualities, is not entirely within the public system. It is therefore an example, and a symptom, of the reprehensible trend toward privatizing (and monetizing) public education for our children.

  24. Jonathan, your suggestion that schools like CNCA are ‘privatizing’ and ‘monetizing’ public education is misleading at best. Camino Nuevo is the EPITOME of a high-quality public school– we are a non-profit organization running a public school with public funds. We exist to serve the kids and families in our communities, not to turn a profit. I think if you could see the blood, sweat and tears (not to mention the absurd number of hours) that every member of this organization pours into our kids and our community, you would be hard-pressed to call our work anything less than an act of service. The work we do is extremely difficult and, at least materially speaking, the opposite of lucrative. The rhetoric suggesting otherwise is both misleading and wrong, and I have a hard time seeing how this hysteria puts kids where they belong in this debate, which is at the center.

    On a separate note, I’m curious about your desire to see a model “within the LAUSD system” when you yourself (along with the rest of the commenters here) acknowledge what a mess LAUSD is. LAUSD has been systematically failing our kids for decades, and that’s the reason why Public School Choice exists. As a product of LAUSD and a former LAUSD teacher myself, I feel strongly that this school district has run out of chances– the need is too urgent and the stakes are too high for us to keep waiting around for them to get it right. If we know there is a better, proven option out there, I think it’s our ethical duty to make it available to our kids.

    Have you had a chance to visit one of our campuses yet? I understand your “intuitive mistrust” of an organization you’re not familiar with, but I would invite you and anyone else who has doubts about Camino Nuevo to get to know the organization yourself before forming such strong opinions about its ability to serve kids. You’re welcome to take a tour of any of our campuses anytime, and I know of 60 brilliant 12 year-olds in Room 203 who would be happy to tell you what we’re all about.

  25. @ Liz Koenig

    Thank you for giving me an opportunity to once again emphasize the difference between your position and mine. I favor high quality public education available to all children. I am advocating for LAUSD to become better educators and the model presented by District 4 and Community Partners represents a step in this direction. I am aware of the history of Camino Nuevo and appreciate that many students have received better education than they would have otherwise. In a sense, this bolsters my argument. Active citizen/parents, hard working teachers and a fresh look at curriculum and pedagogy do improve students’ outlooks!

    This is what the District 4 and Echo Park Community Partners plan provides as a model for the rest of LAUSD. Camino Nuevo, whatever it’s merits may be, is not a public school. It is organized and operated outside the public realm and yet it uses public resources. These resources are supplemented by private grants and tax deductible donations. This is what I mean by privatization. And where private interests influence public policy then there is money to be made. This is what I mean by “monetizing” our children’s education. This is the direction I see ahead where a multitude of different charter models compete for public and private resources. This leaves the public realm depleted.

    Here’s an interesting quote from Charter Schools Business Management, one company of many which have grown to support the Charter School Industry:

    “Sadly, since 1992, nearly 600 charter schools have been closed – shut down entirely or denied federal funds due to financial mismanagement. It is a common occurrence, as many fail to realize that charter schools are not just educational institutions, but also rapidly expanding multi-million dollar businesses.”

    I realize that I may be fighting a battle which has already been lost as I note the Los Angeles Times article (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/01/la-unified-gets-praise-for-authorizing-and-overseeing-charter-schools.html) which describes LAUSD being praised by the Chicago-based National Association of Charter School Authorizers for authorizing more charter schools than any other school district!

    Still, I’m pleased to stand for the principle that high quality equally accessible public education is a civil right and working for it is a civic duty.

  26. Assistant Principal at the Camino Nuevo High School.

    Jonathan- I appreciate many things you say and, in particular, your focus high-quality education for kids. That we have in common.

    People are going to have their opinions- that’s just life. What has bothered me so much, as an educator living in EP, are the blatant lies and ill-will so many have spoken about Camino, it’s staff, the families and communities its serves. Education is naturally political- always has been. The families that showed up on Thursday and Saturday did so because they believe in what our schools have done for their children, families and community- you can’t fabricate that. And, in regards, to this whole debate about Charter vs. LAUSD…it is so grossly ridiculous and unnecessary. The kids need to be at the center of all we talk about. People love to talk about what is public and who’s on the board, etc. What I love most about Charters is that they must produce results, they must answer to their parents and the community they or they DO NOT exist. That simple. If Camino Nuevo does not educate, does not empower it’s families- it does not exist. The same cannot be said of LAUSD schools. As people have stated before, they’ve been failing communities for more than half a century. Again, I experienced this first-hand as a student and as a teacher. No one has cared to respond this, and, I imagine it’s been they haven’t personally experienced how heart-wrenching many of these schools are.

    I really believe that PSC is the most revolutionary change in public education in L.A. since Brown v. Board of Education. What it provides is an opportunity for different models to compete and be innovative about how they engage community, educate, and serve. You seem convinced that the Echo Park Community Plan is the best choice- based on what track-record, I don’t know. But, it is your call. Your vote. This is democracy and I love it. I voted for Camino, well, because, I KNOW what it can and has done for families going on 10 years now. I know how hard our staff works to serve kids and I would entrust them with my own children. Clearly, if you feel as confidently as I do, I understand why you’d support the EPCP. My greatest hope is that PSC is successful. They promise innovation and autonomy, two things that have hampered school reform efforts in the past. Unlike you, I’m not holding my breath for things to change “from within”. That “within” system you’re talking about has failed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Angeleno children. Children are hurting RIGHT now. That is why I left LAUSD. I would no longer be a part of any machine, school district, union, you name it- that does the kind of hurt in continues to do today.

    My hope is that PSC will lead to many great schools- led by responsible parent or community groups, LAUSD teachers or charter schools. You, see, I’m not waiting for Superman. If a group of LAUSD teachers or a group of community members is granted a school under PSC and they run a successful schools that educates and empowers- I will whole-heartedly support it. Do you see my point? We need to get off this whole charter vs pilot hoopla and instead TALK about what does work and what still needs to be improved. So, while so many people are throwing so much hate and confusion on this blog, I’m not going to go there. I’ve got letters of recommendation to finish, softball games to schedule, ELL data to analyze to support our intervention programs- I have students, families, and a community to serve. Like my colleague said earlier, I invite you or anyone to visit our schools. You’ll see there aren’t any boogie men or supermen or women- just a ton of folk working hard trying to get this this work right.

  27. My biggest problem with Camino Nuevo is its lack of inclusiveness. It is designed for Hispanic children only. Really, how many non-Spanish speaking parents will want to send their children to a school that teaches almost entirely in Spanish?

    Would you send your kid to a school that taught in Chinese? Or German?

    When I walk through Echo Park, I see children of all races and colors. I hear most of them speaking English.

  28. @ Tomas while I was not a supporter of Camino Nuevo, I think you are misinformed. From what I have read they are following the dual-immersion model of bilingual education where beginning in Kindergarten instruction is primarily in Spanish and every year the English instruction increases and the Spanish decreases. This is for speakers of any language. It is the most successful model of bilingual education and numerous long-term studies have been done (See Thomas and Collier studies). What it produces are children not only conversational in English and Spanish but also academically competent. This avoids native Spanish speakers falling behind as what happens often with English only education, and native English speakers (and speakers of other languages for that matter) leave the program fully competent in Spanish. How wonderful would that be instead of providing a largely unsuccessful attempt of teaching foreign language via 2 years in high school.

    I lean towards Local District 4 because I was impressed with their proposed curriculum, and was excited to see dreadfully needed changes within the LAUSD. But I still think should Camino Nuevo get the vote they will still provide a quality education to our youth.

  29. Throughout this “grossly ridiculous and unnecessary debate,” as Mr. Garcia (CNCA Asst Prinicpal) calls it, (though I think most of the parents and educators concerned would disagree with that description), the spokespeople for Camino Nuevo have spoken very passionately about their school, its objectives and accomplishments. I do not doubt that Camino Nuevo has a good product and produces good results. I do not doubt that the CNCA teams genuinely care for their students. My concern is that their arguments and rhetoric have not demonstrated a willingness to listen to the community, which is a strong indication of how they would deal with us in the future.

    Mr. Garcia states that it’s our call, our vote but that’s actually not the case. Public School Choice is a misnomer because it is misleading as to who actually has access to choice. In most districts around the country, the public (the parents) has power in the decision making process. Within LAUSD, however, only the board has decision making power, which means that parents and community members don’t really get to choose what they think is best for their children. Thus, the fate of CRES#14 will not be the result of a true democratic process. The votes last week were advisory only. Mr. Cortines will make a recommendation to the board and the board will decide.

    CNCA’s motto “Parents as Partners” is also misleading as it implies that parents are included in the decision making body of the school, which they are not. The fact that Camino Nuevo does not include parents in these processes is very problematic, especially for a community that has so many parents and family members who are committed to their local schools and who are currently active participants in their school’s decision making. If you are funded by our tax dollars, we should have a say!

    Under Public School Choice, Camino Nuevo is mandated to serve the needs of the community. Ours is one that is widely diverse in regards to ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic levels, etc., and yet if a local parent does not agree with the very specialized curriculum, they will be told to go somewhere else, even though they have been assigned to this school by the district.

    As for the LD4/Echo Park Community Partners proposal and its “track record,” much of it is based (ironically) on the very successful Open Charter Magnet School, whose curriculum I see as the future of education. The proposal is very clear in its objectives and gives concrete examples as to how those objectives will be accomplished.

    Camino Nuevo may be an appropriate solution for badly performing schools, however, in this case, we’re talking about a school whose physical structure is not yet completed!! We want a school where we have a real voice. LAUSD didn’t listen when they evicted 200 people to build a school that would relieve elementary schools that are now under enrolled. Hopefully, through the advisory voting process, the petitions, the phone calls and emails, the voice of the community will be heard.

  30. I’m Ms. Suro, the Director of Student and Family Services at Camino Nuevo. A core aspect of my job is not only to involve parents in the school community but also to empower them to participate in the decision making process of our school.

    As Partners in Education, parents play a crucial role in making vital decisions at CNCA’s schools. Each CNCA site has a Site Based Council where teachers, parents and administrators evaluate options, make decisions and create new programs to better serve the school community. CNCA’s Site Based Council meetings occur monthly, have an elected grade level representative for all grade levels, and are open to all CNCA families! This body has formal by-laws and acts as an advisory council to the principal and site administration.

    This advisory body has been crucial in developing policies about our school uniform, school safety, the academic program, and the quality of our school lunch program. Our Site Based Council also develops and runs programs that directly support student achievement. One example of this is a parent run Reading Lab that operates before school on Thursday mornings while teachers are in professional development sessions. With the support of a credentialed classroom teacher, parents support struggling learners while they listen to audio books and engage in discussions to support comprehension and vocabulary development. Our council also developed a mini-grant program to support teachers with funding enrichment activities. The mini-grant program is completely supported and run by parents. The council members coordinate fundraising events and teachers have the opportunity to submit applications to secure funds for special projects. Only parents have a vote to approve or deny grant applications.

    This is just one example of the manner in which CNCA engages parents as genuine partners in the educational lives of their children and school communities. Once again, we would welcome any community member to come and see a council meeting for themselves. If you are interested, please contact Principal Atyani Howard at ahoward@caminonuevo.org. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 16 at 3:30pm (middle school building).

  31. the key word here is “advisory.” I never said that the parents don’t participate. In fact, according to the Exec Summary of the Camino Nuevo proposal, parents are strongly encouraged to participate as volunteers. What I am saying is that they have no real voting power as they would in a public school.

  32. It’s amazing the amount of time that all of these Camino Nuevo employees have to compose lengthly, thoughtfully-written posts extolling the virtues of their school.

    So amazing in fact, that it smells really fishy to me. Are they getting bonuses or something?

  33. No, Chris, we are not getting bonuses. Just like we don’t get bonuses for holding tutoring every day after school or making phone calls and visits to families or coaching our kids’ sports teams. As hard as it might be for you to believe, there are people in this field who are motivated by the kids and families we serve, not by a paycheck.

    Seriously.. of all the nasty things I’ve heard people say about public school teachers, one that I have NEVER heard is that they are just in it for the money.

Post a Comment

Please keep your comments civil and on topic and refrain from personal attacks. The moderator reserves the right to edit or delete any comments. The Eastsider's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy apply to comments submitted by readers. Required fields are marked *