New Echo Park school to bend on bilingual instruction

By Becky Koppenhaver

A new Echo Park charter school that had originally planned to teach K-3rd grade students primarily in Spanish now says it is developing a separate English-language curriculum for incoming English-speaking students.

Hoa Truong, Chief Operating Officer of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, says the school has revised their instructional model  in response to the needs of the community. “Camino Nuevo now plans to offer English-only instruction to those students who desire or require it,” he said.

The original petition submitted to the Los Angeles Unified School District by Camino Nuevo outlined an instructional program that was taught primarily in Spanish beginning in kindergarten but  included progressively more English – and less Spanish instruction – each year until the 5th grade. Camino Nuevo claims the program has been a proven success at two other of its campuses  in the MacArthur Park area.  The school’s initial plans were based on the assumption that the student population of the Echo Park Camino Nuevo Charter Academy mirrored that of the MacArthur park area.

But many parents in the community, including some from the group Echo Park Moms and Dads for Education, felt that, among other criticisms, Camino Nuevo was not taking into account the diversity of the Echo Park community, where many Latino, Filipino, and Anglo children speak primarily English.

The charter elementary and middle school is meant to relieve overcrowding by drawing students from Rosemont, Union Avenue, Lake Street Primary, and Virgil and King middle schools. It will also serve as a resident school for the 454 children who live in the charter’s boundaries. A random lottery will take place this summer to fill any of the 184 seats not filled by resident students.

Ana Ponce, director of the school, says that based on community interest so far there will not be a problem filling primarily English instruction classes. She says the school is also looking forward to recruiting new students from the area and hopes parents in and out of the boundaries will consider what Camino Nuevo has to offer.

“Camino Nuevo is very excited to roll out our community engagement and recruitment plans. We look forward to meeting with incoming students and families over the next few months.”

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


  1. The lavishly paid Truong and Ponce are being evasive here. CNCA’s official charter submitted to LAUSD still does not contain language specifically outlining a Mainstream English option. This is cover in length here:

    Open Letter to LAUSD Board Regarding Grave Issues with CNCA’s Charter for CRES #14

    Given that CNCA’s single minded executives have been, to put it kindly, less than honest on many occasions, community members should demand that the LAUSD force CNCA to put this so-called “revised instructional model” in writing into their charter. Otherwise, there is no way of holding them accountable. In short, CNCA’s charter must specify a Mainstream English option. While social justice activists would have liked to see them offer more, akin to that of the public school plan submitted, we’d be satisfied with seeing these market share minded charter charlatans follow the law and listen to the community at the very least.

    I have called for a meeting with LAUSD Board President Garcia to try and pressure CNCA into writing this into their charter.

  2. All of our groups and associated Echo Parque/Historic Filipinotown community members need to press this issue with the District and CNCA now, before it’s too late. Without this being in writing, CNCA corporation is under no obligation to offer a Mainstream English program. Furthermore, they could offer something that appears to be Mainstream English, or offer some like it at first to appease the community and then drop it latter.

    At this point, there are no provisions in their charter for CRES #14 addressing what the community is demanding. CNCA is not used to having to listen to the community, so they’re scrambling to figure out how to make their one-size-fits-all corporate model appear to accommodate our neighborhood’s diverse population and needs. We need to demand that they serve every child, and that verbal assurances are not sufficient.

    While charters are technically legal documents between the school district and the private operators of the charter schools, they offer little in way of accountability. Most courts [1] have found that charter schools are not “public entities.” This always works in their favor. What this means is that even if we get CNCA to commit to what the community wants in writing, we have little recourse to hold CNCA accountable. So much more so if we don’t get them to commit to it to writing. After all, CNCA’s CEO Ana Ponce and her executive staff are tasked with increasing market share and keeping their costs down, so they are naturally far less concerned with what the community wants.

    Community members in District 2 and District 5 should be calling their Board Members every day demanding CNCA revise their charter to fit the needs of our community!

    District 2 Mónica García

    District 5 Yolie Flores

    [1] Two examples are the California Court of Appeals (2007-01-10) and the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals (2010-01-04).

  3. let’s be honest about what is happening here… one of the best things to happen in echo park education in a long time (a school with an impressive track record is being asked to take over a failing school) is being opposed by a small minority of gentrifiers. they want to move into a neighborhood and then control the neighborhood, ignoring the fact that 95% of the neighborhood kids are going to benefit from this new school. they can always move back to glendale or wherever, why do they have to oppose this?

  4. I’m sorry Mario, can you explain how a brand new school that was just finished being built is a failing school? Is there a point when you privatizers even make sense?

    The community voted over two to one in favor of the public school plan and then you have the mendacity to say a “small minority ” Is that honesty? You have serious credibility issues.

    Gentrifier? This is my eighteenth year in 90026, I hardly consider that gentrification. Where did you get your special 95% figure, or for that matter how does CNCA Corporation have an “impressive track record” when their high school graduates have single digit proficiency?

    I understand a lot of you right wing libertarians love the fact that the well heeled executives from these charter corporations are making money hand over fist, but that has nothing to do with helping the community. I suppose that’s why I oppose it, and I will continue to expose their greed and dishonesty at every opportunity.

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