Silver Lake elementary not ready to share campus with charter school

In the five years since she arrived at Micheltorena Street School, Principal Susanna C. Furfari has seen all sorts of improvements, from a new school garden and library to growing numbers of volunteers and parents willing to support the Silver Lake elementary.  But earlier this month, Furfari learned that the school district had offered eight of her classrooms to Citizens of the World, a charter school seeking to expand in the area. Furfari said she has nothing against Citizens of the World but said sharing the campus with a charter would leave little room for a planned dual-language program, campus amphitheater and other initiatives.

“We have worked very hard to improve our campus,” Furfari said. “We have a lot to offer. But the goal was not to make it more attractive for a charter.”

The district offered Citizens of the World space to operate on the Micheltorena campus as part of an annual process under Prop. 39, which requires public schools to identify vacant classrooms and facilities  and make them available to charter school operators (Furfari notes that some of the classrooms that L.A. Unified considers empty are used by visiting speech therapists and for other educational uses).  Amy Dresser Held, executive director of Citizens of the World Charter, said the school did apply for space under Prop. 39 but declined to comment further. Citizens of the World, which operates a school on the La Conte Middle School campus in Hollywood, last year applied to open a new K-12 school in the Echo Park-Silver Lake area by the fall of this year.

But Citizens of the World is not only looking at Micheltorena for classroom space.  The school and its supporters are apparently looking at a variety of locations to operate a new campus, according to an email update from a parent involved in establishing a new Echo  Park-Silver Lake campus.  The email – sent out last week – said:

In short, it is too early to know where the school will be located. At this time, there is a team of parents all with varied and deep professional expertise in real estate working on this. They are compiling a list of potential locations – places with the proper zoning and size for this school. There are also political avenues being explored, such as Prop39 and discussions with institutions already zoned to be schools. ([Churches] are often locations for charter schools because they come with the proper zoning)

Back at Micheltorena, Principal Furfari is not sure she can get the district to rescind its offer. But she has asked parents and supporter to contact the school district and school board to voice their opposition.

Rebecca Feldman, whose daughter will be attending Micheltorena in 2013, said her major concern about sharing classrooms with a charter school is that there will not be  enough room for planned dual language program, which would require additional classrooms and could help boost enrollment at the school, which currently has about 300 students.

“If the greater Los Feliz, Silverlake, Echo Park community would like to see a charter move in, I can accept that, and I’m sure Citizens of the World would make a nice addition to the area – just not at the expense of a local school that deserves a real chance to spread its wings,” Feldman said.   “With the Dual Language Program, Micheltorena can fill a real need in the community and one that would truly help to make it’s students citizens of the world.”

Related Story:

  • Parents Organize to Block Charter at Micheltorena Elementary. Patch


  1. Here’s a link to a piece about this issue that ran Thursday on Echo Park Patch:
    According to a source over at LAUSD early Friday, there has been a huge outpouring of email about Global Citizens in the last day or so.

  2. Citizens should back away. It’s the right thing to do.

  3. Dual language programs?

  4. Sounds like Micholtorena is running on a lot of pipe dreams. A “campus amphitheater” ? really? not sure why they reported all that empty space if they have such big plans. and if the plans are legitimate, why didn’t they show the budgets, agreements with contractors, permits and other such things to the school board to prove that they have concrete plans for the empty space (plans with an actual timeline, that are more than just talk at a community meeting)?

    Micholtorena doesn’t get great scores from the state: 3 out of 5 (not that scores mean everything), and frankly Citizens of the World sounds like a great addition to the neighborhood. They are a very well respected charter school. I understand that there are some devoted parents at Micholtorena, but a vocal minority does not represent the interests of the community at large. I say bring in the Citizens of the World.

    • MIcheltorena has TONS of space — and they are under enrolled. The school has a capacity for many hundreds more – in fact, Franklin Elementary has 475 students in half the space.

  5. Charters were developed in response to failing schools. Micheltorena is thriving, and the local parents and community are devoted to keeping it that way. My issue is that there are already a lot of charter schools in the area. The new school set to go up on Alvarado will also be a charter school, and there’s another one at the Logan street school. Enough is enough. Bringing in yet ANOTHER charter seems redundant and changes the identity of what should be a school for the community.

    And regarding scores, Micheltorena’s scores reflect both the special ed AND regular programs. According to the principal, the regular program (when split from the special ed classes) actually has a score of 840-something (can’t remember correctly).

  6. This is not the first time Micheltorena has had to deal with charter school coming in. in 2005 or 6, the district offered some of the empty classrooms (which some were being used as a full time parent center, an office for visiting therapist and psychologist, and the temp. buildings that were over 30 years old and had such bad roofs that they were unusable). When the charter school came to take their new classrooms they found the school to be so unattractive (no parking, black top playground, old library) they turned it down.
    Now that the parents (Friends of Micheltorena, PTA and local leadership) raised the money for a new library, new playground and other improvements and community members came forward to build the AMAZING garden, and the district removed the busted up temp classrooms, I fear the charter school will be impressed. The school will be punished for its success .

  7. Charter schools are the way of the future!

    Push for a voucher system so your tax money can be given to a charter school not the union-driven poor-performing LAUSD.

    Thank you.

    • You’re supplying misinformation. LAUSD schools are generally performing better than charters. Even Fox News admits as much.

      I have reservations about LAUSD, and I recognize positive aspects of charters, but we need to have our facts straight first.

      • In general charter schools are not performing as well as public schools: correct (usually due to budgeting problems caused by well meaning parents who don’t know how to run a business or keep a budget).But there a handful that outperform LAUSD, and Citizens is one of them. This is why people jump through hoops to try to get into them. But yes, overall there is no jump in quality of education if you just send your kid to any random charter school.

        here are the rankings for Micholtorena:

        • The data on that website is from 2006. That’s not to say our test scores are that of Ivanhoe or Larchmont for the 2010-11 school year, but they’re moving up, especially in the lower grades. Micheltorena’s test scores come with a story too. Students with special needs are welcomed to Micheltorena, and this affects our test scores, since (I believe) 25% of our students are designated special needs. But let’s step back from the test scores for a second… our neighbors’ kid who has been at Micheltorena for three years now scored a perfect score on the math section of the CSTs and advanced in the ELA section. You will find high quality instruction and qualified, inspired teachers here. There’s so much more to this school than five-year-old data. All that said, I do sincerely wish you well in finding a school that fits you and your child’s needs. That’s all any of us wants, just have different philosophies on how to get there.

  8. @well– Sure, it starts with “pipe” dreams, but the beautiful thing is, the Micheltorena community is making it a reality. The pipe dreams of yesteryear have become the reality of today. All this at your local school, where parents and their children are guaranteed admittance. They don’t need to jump through any hoops, bite their nails in hope of a lottery berth, accrue points in some incoherent system. They just get to walk to school and sign up. That’s what our community needs, children and parents both: a vibrant public school for everyone. And, by the way, I’ve seen the architect’s design for the ampitheatre, viewed its future site on campus, and tallied the numbers on how we’re going to pay for it. You’re right, no permits yet, but it will be another success story at Micheltorena, and I cannot wait to watch my daughters (and all the neighbors’ kids) use that space to let their imaginations run wild.

    • You’re missing my point. local residents can still walk up at their leisure and enroll in Micholtorena school. AND since there is a surplus of space, there is also room for a charter school that has a good track record; that means local people have 2 options instead of 1 (a win win situation in my book).

      • If your point was only that there is a surplus of space at the school, then I’m not sure why you mentioned the ampitheatre as a pipe dream. The surplus of space to which you refer, we do not consider a surplus, rather room for growth. Currently, we are actively working toward increasing enrollment. The school’s new arts focus offers creativity and problem-solving as an essential tool for learning. People in this neighborhood like that. Many in the neighborhood chose to go to a private or magnet school because they wanted their children to be bilingual, so the school is offering a Spanish-language dual immersion program next year. People in the neighborhood like that too. In 2010, the re-calibrated API score (without the scores of students with special needs) was 844. In 2011, the overall API score increased 30-40 points, and we’re waiting to hear the new re-calibrated numbers. With all its successes, the school is only becoming more and more attractive to the neighborhood, and it needs room to grow. COTW will also want this room to grow, especially given that you’ve said they have a good track record. Both can’t grow in the same limited space. If they choose another space in Silverlake, then parents will still have COTW as an option, but not to the detriment of Micheltorena. This seems like a better win-win.

        • I only mentioned the amphitheatre as a pipe dream, because it doesn’t exist at the moment: unused space is unused space (also why I mentioned “concrete” plans). I would like for my child to have the option to attend Citizens as the elementary school in my neighborhood is not doing great (even after years of parental involvement). I understand your allegiance to your school, but my tax dollars also pay for that space and I don’t feel it’s unrealistic to have access to space that is available.

          • Well,
            Have you thought about trying to get your child into Micheltorena, instead of hoping for a charter lottery, which may not even choose your child? You can see that Micheltorena has a lot of parental support, and has improved significantly, even in test scores – all this despite the behemoth that is the LAUSD. This way, everyone can focus their energies behind one entity, rather than pitting 2 entities against each other. I think the children would also benefit more from seeing a united community rather than one filled with friction.

          • With all due respect, if you want to use the space enroll your child there. This school is doing great, contrary to your assumptions based on Mrs. Dubbya’s evaluation plan. Moreover, Charter schools are not public and are funded by corporations with “interests” in the long term undermining of public education. Think about this, pretty soon we can phase out the teaching of evolution theories and get back to creationism, because Wal-Marts’ running our schools (yikes). Extreme, I know, but eerily plausible.

        • If every school left out their Special Ed and EL students they’d all go up tremendously! That BS is easily dismissed; just go to Great Schools.org – Micheltorena has less kids and does poorly – especially in 4, 5, and 6 grade.
          My son’s friends go to Micheltorena and the school still sucks – even with increased parental input and tons and tons of money that it receives. Why? Mostly two reasons; the administration and the teaching staff. There’s only two good teachers there whose kids consistently get higher grades – just look it up on greatschools.org – you’ll see. The dual language program is a great idea but Micheltorena’s biggest problem is that it is unsafe – bullying is a HUGE problem there and they do nothing about it.

          Bullying, bad grades, tons of money with little results – I saw bring this better school in. It’ll make the whole school better.

          • School Mom- I actually have a child enrolled at the school, not a friend of my child’s friend, and the issues you bring up are simply untrue, or highly inaccurate at best. Micheltorena happens to have a higher population of special needs children, and many of them are thriving under the direction of those “terrible” teachers you mentioned. Have you ever spoken with any of their parents? Also, I find it hard to believe that you’ve got reliable intel on every teacher at ANY school, but I can tell you from my own personal experience that Micheltorena has a large number of very talented teachers. As for the school being unsafe, I don’t even know where to begin. Simply ridiculous. Your post sounds more like a personal vendetta than anything else.

          • I have a girl in 5th grade there. We are new, and there is no bullying problem that I can see or that has been reported. It is easy to avoid all of that in the early elementary years; kids do change as they grow and though I agree it would be nice if there were less of those antics in general, it is up to all of us to teach our kids good values. Running to the “safe haven” a charter school is not really helping all the other children who may need examples, etc.

  9. What’s up with Bellevue elementary at Micheltorena and Bellevue(about 6 blocks south of the other Micheltorena school)? It was closed last year right? Why don’t they just put the charter classes there if Micheltorena St school parents don’t want the charter? It seems dumb to impose some top-down charter idea on a school that already has a bunch of grassroots activist parents, especially if those parents don’t want it. I’m sure the charter company would love to parachute in to the school that parents and teachers have already worked so hard to improve on their own, but they would just be taking credit for improvements that others made before, not creating new advances. A good business model, I guess, if you don’t actually care about making net improvements for lausd kids. As for Bellevue, it’s not being used now, and will become a tagging magnet if they don’t use it for something, so why not put the charter $$ where it would be helpful? Win-win,right?
    Or has the Eastsider heard of other planned uses for the Bellevue school? We live right by there and are totally in the dark.

  10. I work for the CA Charter Schools Association and just wanted to share this piece we wrote up in response to questions around co-locations in LAUSD (might be helpful reference for folks):

    Opinion: The Truth About Co-Locations in LAUSD: http://echopark.patch.com/articles/opinion-the-truth-about-co-location#youtube_video-8952187

  11. well look who got himself a thesaurus.
    go to micheltorena and you won’t be able to spell that word

  12. I teach at Micheltorena. Today I heard that IF the “Citizens” charter does move in,
    our custodial staff would have to clean up after the charter school’s kids without any compensation and use our Xerox and Duplo copiers machines too. Why do we have to pay for a private school invading our campus?
    I guess what I’m asking is if anybody knows what the public school gets out of this whole thing?? What’s in it for Micheltorena??
    Jorge Moreno
    4th Grade Teacher
    That’s a little overboard, don’t you think? Will they use our copy paper next?

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