School board member explains why she supported charter school to manage new Echo Park campus

Emotions ran high earlier this week when the L.A. Unified school board rejected the advice of its superintendent and a community advisory vote to select Camino Nuevo Charter Academy to manage a new Echo Park school. The decision was a blow to the teacher’s union and a group of passionate Echo Park parents who had supported a group of district administrators also seeking to run Central Region Elementary School #14.  The  Board of Education went with CaminoNuevo after school board member Yolie Flores introduced a motion backing the charter school operator. In a posting today on her blog, Flores, who represent the western edge of Echo Park where the new school is located, explained her vote, saying she thought Camino Nuevo was better suited to teach low-income students who were learning English:

After analyzing all of this information and input, it became clear that Camino Nuevo’s plan was the stronger of the two. For this reason, I decided to offer an amendment to have Camino Nuevo operate CRES #14, which was subsequently approved. I chose Camino Nuevo because we owe our children better – especially our English Learners. They cannot wait another year for us to figure it out when we have a proven model available to them right now.

Flores, who will head a nonprofit once her school board term expires later this year, noted that the new Echo Park school will draw students from campuses where 60% of the pupils are English learns and about 90% come from low-income households.


  1. sounds like a victory for the voice of reason

  2. Yes, as it says in your posting, Yolie is leaving to take a job at a”nonprofit”–one that is financed by Bill and Melinda Gates, who are huge charter supporters. That is why she chose the charter, Camino Nuevo, over the local plan, which parents had picked by a more than 2 to 1 margin over Camino Nuevo. She also overode the expert advice of the superintendent and his review team in pushing aside the community plan.

  3. Flores-Aguilar is not an educator. She has spent her time at LAUSD rousting parents to support her privatization of public schools and trying to get psychiatric social workers in schools where they are not needed. As Elizabeth says, she is going on to serve Gates and in return we got Deasy, a former Gates employee. So we are about to go from bad to worse at LAUSD.
    Vote for Bennett Kayser — an independent candidate without ties to Gates, Eli Broad, the Mayor or any other privatizer. If you think Flores cares about educating English language learners then you haven’t read any of the studies of charters’ lack of success and refusal to serve children with special needs, much less bilingual education. Charter schools do not do a better job — and do not allow everyone in their schools. Yes we need to make our schools better, but I’m afraid the real issue is poverty. Trying googling Dr. Stephen Krashen or Susan Ohanian for some objective studies of how people acquire language.

  4. This was a bad choice for the community by a representative who has never connected with our residents. Why should she start now on her way out. We could have made the best out of a bad situation but she made sure it stayed a bad situation. Camino Nuevo indicates that over 90% of their students are ELS learners. I give them credit for what seems to be a great success in this category. I guess if you speak English you will have to find another school. This school will not serve our diverse community buy only a select category.

  5. I’m not sure I fully understand the disappointment with having Camino Nuevo come in to support our community’s education goals. All the facts I’ve explored seem to support that this decision is the best one for our community. Some charter schools don’t address the needs of the communities where they teach. But Camino Nuevo isn’t one of these. They’ve been very successful at their other four LA campuses at significantly improving their students’ competency and college-readiness. They hire the best teachers and demand the highest standards. They’re student-focused and have been a meaningful and welcome community partner in our other LA neighborhoods. They’re selection process is through random lottery rather than cherry-picking only the best–which would wrongly skew performance. There is no real additional financial costs to the parents or the community in bringing Campino Nuevo in. And the students end up performing well-above nearly every other LAUSD school and have a much more vibrant learning experience. I think the decision is great, and I hope my neighbors join me in welcomin them into our neighborhood. I think all the evidence bears this forth.

  6. when did Bill Gates become the devil?

  7. Justin, the community wanted a plan that would allow for decision-making by parents and teachers. CN is controlled by corporate committee. The community also wanted a plan with an arts emphasis, which CN does not have. The community also wanted a school that educated ALL students in our neighborhood, whether or not they spoke English, Spanish, or Tagalog. CN’s exclusive focus is on Hispanic English learners.

    So I don’t feel Camino Nuevo in any way is supporting “our community’s education goals.”

  8. Chris- so are you speaking for ALL the community? How about the folks in the community who supported CN? I am not saying CN is better then the other plan (both have good points) , but unless you have 100% of the community standing next to you, please refrain from speaking for 100% of the community.

  9. Lastly, I would want my children to have a broad and holistic eduction that helps them prepare for the futures that they want and need. Like you, I value arts education. It helps bring definition and meaning to a community. But we also know that we need to prepare our posterity to be talented, thoughtful, and engaged in order to address the critical issues that our complicated world will throw at them. And arts education is not enough to equip them. Additionally, Echo Park already has a charter school with a focus on Dance (see the next article). We need a school that can address the broad range of potential, talents and capabilities of our neighborhood’s k-8 kids. And Echo Park does not currently have these kinds of high-performing, broad-based and publicly-available schools. Head Start is a start. But I think Camino Nuevo is the next step for our neighborhood. I’m actually really happy about this.

  10. Flores was always in the MAYOR’S POCKET,. She was elected on his dime. It’s all about the $$$$$ and the land the schools sit on. If they become full charter they also become full owners of tax payer financed property. Why do you all think the Mayor and his HUGE DEVELOPER FRIENDS THE BOARDS, GATES,etc. are so interested in education, they need the next crop of cheap labor mostly minority American born Latinos, due to poor quality education. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE $$$$ to be made in the future to garantee their own prodigy a great life on your kids back, not no kids education.

  11. Thanks for the perspective, Chris. I can understand the fear that having a charter school in the neighborhood might seem like a loss of parent and teacher involvement in decision-making regarding their student’s education. However, I think this is a misinformed decision when it comes to Camino Nuevo. In the communities where they corrently have schools here in LA, parents are actively sought out to participate in the school and their children’s education. Teachers are also given a high degree of flexibility, and all the decisions are driven by the performance achievements of the students. I think it also goes without saying that, in addition to teachers and parents, having a rigorous, academically-adept group of guides would be essential to a school’s leadership.

    Additionally, it’s false to say that Camino Nuevo’s exclusive focuse is on “Hispanic English Learners.” The majority of the students that they serve do, in fact, live in neighborhoods with homes that that use primarily Spanish. At their newest school, nearly all the instruction is done in English. It’s to Camino’s credit that they can still significantly improve their student’s academic achievement–even with such languange differences. I think this only goes to show that Camino is perfectly adept at serving our neighborhood’s students regardless of language background.

  12. @EchoParkLady
    I love my neighborhood. I love it’s people. I love it’s resources. I love its culture and diversity. And I love its progressive stances. I want the best for it. Maybe you can agree that having educated and informed people coming from Echo Park who are capable of making independent and thoughtful choices for their lives and their communities is important.

    I think that if you chose to dig into the facts a little bit, you’ll see that Camino has been able to provide its students with these kinds of skills in addition to a high degree of academic achievement. If I’m reading your post correctly, then what you’re implying is that our neighborhood’s kids should not get a much more rigorous, successful, and liberal education than any other option available can provide because you think that Bill Gates might want to hire them some day. The truth is, your broad and conspiratorial remarks don’t really contribute to an understanding of what this decision means for our neighborhood.

  13. @ Justin “In the communities where they corrently have schools here in LA, parents are actively sought out to participate in the school and their children’s education.” Camino Nuevo serves a student population that is marginalized and underrepresented. It is also a “school of choice,” which means that the current parents at CNCA choose to send their kids to the school and they are committed to volunteerism and participation because it is also required by the school. Castellanos, another CNCA, is facing a lot of challenges, according to one school board member because it is a “school of choice” that is within a neighborhood boundary. THis means that the students within that zone are assigned to the school whether they want the specialized curriculum or not and the parents may not be so committed as they would if they had chosen it. Given that Echo Park has gone through so much change in the last 10 years, which has expanded expanded the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity that has always existed in Echo Park, we cannot ignore that many people have been marginalized and displaced due to the ongoing gentrification of the neighborhood. Some have lost their businesses and many have lost their homes, which has led to a great deal of resentment and division among residents of Echo Park. I want to see a school that would integrate the community. A school that would serve the children who have special needs and who may not be able to contribute to high testing scores. A school that served Spanish speaking English learners as well as those whose primary language is English and Tagalog and that would have them continue to be proficient in both languages, not just English. A school whose visionary curriculum I see as a model of the future of public education – one that does not yet exist in any Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood. Camino Nuevo may be good but I think the Echo Park Community Partners plan was better.

  14. TO KIM: THANK YOU for your most EDUCATED WORDS. saved me the time to post a reply to Justin.
    TO JUSTIN: EDUCATE yourself about the community you live in. ALL IS NOT WHAT IT APPEARS TO BE.
    As a 30 plus yrs. resident of E.P, involved in all sorts of E.P community groups/ events/neighborhood council. I’ve paid my community DUES for the betterment of my COMMUNITY. Plus unfortunately I know where the bones are in the closet. Let’s keep them there. Been living here to long, and I know too much about what goes on behind the scenes. You want to talk, meet me Sunday LA MARATHON Mile 5 DOUGLAS / BELLEVUE (26 yr.volunteer).

  15. Doreet, I don’t pretend to speak for all the neighborhood. But the Community Plan beat CN’s in the advisory election by a large margin, despite CN bussing in voters. Additionally, over 650 signatures were collected in support of the LD4 proposal, so I think it’s safe to say that the majority of citizens preferred it.

    Justin, how can you say the focus is not on Hispanic English learners when 80% of the early grades is taught in Spanish? My family was told that was the policy, and if we didn’t like it, we could go somewhere else.
    Additionally, any parent input at CN is strictly on an ADVISORY level.
    No disrespect, but you sound like you work for Camino. Your praise is pretty gushing!

  16. @EchoParkLady: I’m certain we’ll meet if we haven’t already. What’s great about our neighborhood is how engaged people are. I’m very much appreciative of this lively exchange. Though I might call you out, I’m not looking to get into a fist fight with a community elder.

    You have some fair concerns. I wouldn’t discount them. We do need a school that addresses Echo Park’s diversity and changing neighborhood makeup and supports students with a variety of abilities and achievement levels.

    Whereas Castellanos differs from the rest of the Camino schools in that it’s required to accept a maximum number of students within its boundary before entering into a general lottery for students outside of that boundary, this is due to it necessarily being affiliated with LAUSD—unlike the other Camino schools. This “school of choice” restriction is not unlike most school districts where students within a school’s boundary go to that school, sans the general lottery afforded by the charter. It’s true that the new school here will have a similar model.

    Yes, this means that parents within the schools boundaries will send their kids to the new school. And yes, this means that parents will need to commit to engaging in their children’s education and participating with the school. This parent participation, however, is a part of what has made Camino work so well. And they’ve been doing it successfully for years!

    Another thing that has made Camino work is that it consists of students at all academic attainment levels—not just the best picks from the community. It gives kids with all kinds of abilities throughout the neighborhood an equal chance at getting a great education.

    I agree that it would be great to have a school that integrates the community and that Northeast LA currently doesn’t have a school that does this. Given the diversity of Echo Park, that same diversity will undoubtedly be reflected in the new school’s student body. So that diversity needs to be addressed. While some parents have voiced concerns that some children will not be served by a bilingual curriculum, Camino has a provision to allow parents to opt their children out of this if they choose. While I personally think a bilingual—or even multilingual—curriculum would greatly serve any student regardless of what language they speak at home, parents are given a prerogative. The fact is Camino has a proven track record in bilingual and monolingual education. Given their educational transparency and their encouragement of community participation, I’m not sure it’s fair to say that they would not accommodate Tagalog speakers and other potentially underserved people here.

    Lastly, I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “specialized curriculum.” Surely an arts-focused school would be much more highly specialized.

  17. BTW, I don’t work for Camino.

  18. I just think they’re getting a bad rap. Things could always be better. But this is a good thing for students. I just don’t understand why we have to knock a good thing. Before college, I had a pretty crappy education. I’m lucky I went! I went all the way through primary and secondary school in the LAUSD system. And I give LAUSD no credit for my achievements up to now. Here we have a charter school that really does work, and it’s a proven chance for kids to get a much better education than a lot of other kids in LAUSD get. So I’m in their corner.

  19. OK, Justin…I’m calling you out. If you don’t work for Camino Nuevo, you work for a professional charter organization lobbying for the movement to privatize public education. You’re pretending that you are simply a concerned Echo Park citizen who sees the reasonableness of Camino Nuevo. You are earning a living as a professional spokesperson. All of the facile arguments regarding this issue sidestep the value that we, as a society, are unthinkingly giving up on the fundamental principle of equally excellent public education for all children in our community, including immigrants. Each time we give away a school’s real estate and pedagogy to a private entity, we cut a huge hole in our social fabric. All children deserve equal excellent service!

  20. I have no desire to denigrate or demonize Camino Nuevo. What I am distressed by is the board’s decision to authorize a charter school to operate a new campus over public school, a pilot school whose plan was repeatedly and enthusiastically lauded by almost every single board member. I am a future LAUSD parent who is committed to public education. How can I sustain my commitment if our local school board doesn’t have the same kind of confidence and instead, continues to give away our schools?

  21. Truth to Power, I think you nailed it.

    And Kim, I agree with you. I respect CN’s success and am not against charters in all cases. But charters should only rescue failing schools, and new schools paid for by taxpayers not be given away to private entities from the outset.

  22. @truth to power
    Sure :). Your spirited imagination is enviable. Reality, I’m afraid, is much more mundane than that in this case. I’m not a paid anything for anyone related to any of this. Though if they offered me the job, I’d probably take it. I love constructive debate, and this one is important to me. I only wish I had entered it earlier.

    Though I would contend whether that framing represents what happened here, I’d say your concern is totally valid. While it’s not what some people wanted, it was clearly a hard fight and a hard win. I used to live blocks from Camino’s Harvard campus in K-town. Even now, I don’t live far from their high school campus. They’ve been a part of my neighborhood for a while now, and I’ve seen what they can do. So I have faith in them. Of course, Camino’s going to have to work super hard to prove itself to the neighborhood. And I hope that they’re just given a chance to show what they’re all about.

  23. @ Justin I made this comment in the other article but this one is more recent so I add it here:
    Just to make it clear, since CRES #14 is under PSC, no matter who won the school, it has an attendance boundary. You are correct that most charters use the lottery system. That means who ever attends the charter has chosen it, applied, and won through the lottery. But this process allows charters to take over public schools and if you reside in the attendance area and do not choose the curriculum you have to find another school. That is why it does not really make sense for a charter, with a specific curriculum to take over a public school.
    Camino Nuevo has a mandatory bi-lingual program at all of their charters schools whose goal is aimed at Spanish Speakers to learn English. As their other schools are located in an area with 97% upwards English Learners, this makes sense. This type of curriculum does not serve English or Tagalog speakers. Although it has been stated that 60% of the students who will attend this site will be EL and this is still the majority, it does not consider the other 40%. So this is what is meant by not serving the whole community. The LD4 plan has a dual-language program with a choice in language and participation. It focuses on the arts, project-based learning, environmental science, and multi-age classes.
    Since Camino Nuevo won this publicly funded school with an attendance boundary, they need to serve all the students who will attend. People had to move out of their houses for LAUSD to gain the property by eminent domain.
    Look at what LAUSD is doing. This whole process has caused a divide in our community. If the adults are arguing, we are setting a terrible example for our kids. It is about time we unite and work together so we can all get along and gain from our different views and backgrounds. We have a brand new, state of the art school, with new text books, fresh teachers, fresh students and parents. Let’s look at this as an opportunity to grow and learn together and from one another. Do it for ourselves, do it for the children.

  24. I am an echo park resident and really glad that Camino won the competition because i have friends and neighborhors who send their kids to camino schools and my boyfriend works there. Several points of clarification: the independent review commission gave mixed reviews to the LAUSD plan and 100% approval rating to the Camino Nuevo plan. Furthermore, while 60% of the students to be served at CRES 14 are English Language Learners, it is expected that more than 92% of the entering Kindergarteners will be English Language Learners. CRES 14 was not built for Echo Park students but for the students who attend Union and Rosemont, south of the 101 Freeway. Thirdly, Camino has a strong arts program. Finally, not all of Camino’s schools are mandatory bilingual. They have a school in the mid-Wilshire area that is English language immersion.

  25. Whether Camino Nuevo is an appropriate school for this community is not the real issue. They absolutely serve a community in Echo Park that is under served and must have their needs met. (Those needs would have been met with both plans.) The issue is that Public School Choice is a sham. It allows charter schools to take over both new and failing LAUSD campuses whether or not the community wants it. Public School Choice strips the democratic power from parents that they would normally hold in a LAUSD public school. If a group of teachers and parents want to turn their school into a charter school — great, because that was the original intention of charter schools. A charter school would be conceived by a school community to meet that communities’ needs, demographically or philosophically. They were meant to serve as models for what public education could be, to be integrated later into the system. Now, it’s a whole different ball game. Now, people like Eli Broad and Bill Gates are running the show. Now, through Public School Choice, the decision to authorize a charter school as an operator of a campus is decided by the school board, (many of whom have strong ties to the professional charter community), NOT by the school community. Your tax money is paying for a school that is privately run and you no longer participate in any decisions that impact your child’s education. Privatization is not reform. LAUSD asking the parents and teachers of the Echo Park schools what they wanted at CRES#14 was purely perfunctory because the deal had already been made (and that was clear when we, EP parents, met with Flores’ staff the week before). There is nothing “public” or democratic about Public School Choice and that’s what everyone needs to hear and understand.

  26. I’m amused watching CCSA and CNCA employees debate community members here. While I have article deadlines preventing me from dismantling the corporate Yolie Flores’ mendacious explanations for handing our public school over to a private operator, I will get around to that some day in the future. We do have a great deal of documented information about CNCS and CNCHS though, all of which casts the pro-CNCA hype and misinformation above in a different light. First, let’s look at their exagerated claims of academics:

    Crafty Camino Nuevo Charter Charlatans

    Camino Nuevo Staff Admonishing Echo Park Community to “Fact Check?”

  27. CCSA and CNCA supporters have also maintained that community members advocating for public school plan over the corporate charter CNCA somehow don’t represent a a majority of the community and have deported themselves in a less than desirable manner.

    First, this ignores the fact that our community choose the public school plan by a more than two to one margin.


    CNCA supporters can’t claim that they didn’t have ample opportunities to vote. Not only did they wage a well financed and lengthy campaign to sway the vote, including bringing in the plutocrate funded CCSA proxy, Families That Can, but they also bussed in busloads of people who were likely not from the attendance boundry. For a photograph of one of those busses, and an account of the events at the advisory votes, please see:

    Banana Republic PSC Elections Camino Nuevo Corporate Charter Style

    More lies, misinformation, and propaganda from wealthy Camino Nuevo Executives

  28. Now that Philip Anschutz’s LAUSD Board Member from District 5 gave CRES #14 to CNCA Corporation, we see the true intransigence and arrogance of a CMO. For over a month we’ve asked CNCA to write into their charter the availability of at least a Mainstream English program in addition to their Transitional Bilingual Program. CNCA Corporation, and Yolie Flores – who promised the rest of the board she would insure it was implemented – have ignored the community. As with all corporate charters, CNCA is concerned with their bottom line alone. The following document our struggle with the unresponsive corporate charter:


    I suppose that’s the best part of being a private corporation with an unelected board, you’re not accountable to anyone. CNCA Corporation employees will insist that their charter gets reviewed by the district every five years. I’ve never seem a school district revoke a charter except in the case of major scandals that get intense media coverage.

  29. And the best part of LAUSD schools is that principals are fulling their packets with students money. They do not have to present proof of their expenses, they just have to do a memorandum, why the principal of my son’s elementary didn’t buy nothing when I signed the budget. I was the president for CEAC and when I reported her the superitendent just said Oh, don’t worry she doesn’t know how to use the money, she will learn” . Three years have passed and she is doing the same. The coordinator of the school told me I’m sorry but we can not do nothing, I bougnt flower to sell them on mother’s day and she was happy with me. But she told me “You have to put the money of the fundraise in the money school, so I gave her the money. When I asked her about the money f0r the graduation party she said “Sorry you can not use this money is property of the LAUSD funds. But, how come, I have donated the money for the flowers and my work. Yeah you are right in LAUSD schools staff are very honest!!. That’s why when she needed the councils commites sign , she says I don’t care if they want to sign. Mr D. Skeels what are you doing about it? And what did you do for my son when he was bullied in LAUSD middle school? Gifted magnet middle school teacher told me “Please move your child to another school because I can not help him” If you tell the principal that I told you this I will negate, because I want to keep my job. finally what are you doing for my little son, because I walked 2 miles daily to take him to a charter middle school no matter the LAUSD middle school is 2 blocks from my house, just for his own safety. Please first look for solutions to solve all the LAUSD problems and then you can talk about charter schools. I can not tell nothing bad about charter schools, my son went there and he was accepted to the university, my daughter was accepted this year to many universities without remedial classes.

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