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

by Robert D. Skeels Tuesday, Apr. 19, 2011 at 8:13 PM
rdsathene@sbcglobal.net 90026

When LAUSD V.P. Flores awarded CRES #14 to Camino Nuevo Charter Academy (CNCA) against the wishes and explicit votes of the Echo Parque community, and against the express recommendation of the Superintendent, she promised she would address the grievously problematic issues with CNCA's proposal regarding their exclusive and inflexible language program. Instead, nothing has been done to resolve this major point of contention between the corporate charter school operator and the community they will soon occupy.

It is a model that is antithesis and anathema to Camino Nuevo. When democratically elected community members, parents, and teachers comprise the board of directors for a school, then we can begin to speak of social justice. — Robert D. Skeels (LAUSD District 2 Board Candidate)

April 18, 2011

Board of Education
333 S. Beaudry Ave., 24th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90017

LAUSD Board President Garcia and Members of the Board:

I'm writing to express my grave concerns with Camino Nuevo Charter Academy's (CNCA) charter for CRES #14. I am a seventeen year resident of District 2, and CRES #14 serves my neighborhood attendance boundary.

When Vice President Flores awarded CRES #14 to CNCA against the wishes and explicit votes of my community, and against the express recommendation of the Superintendent, she promised she would address the grievously problematic issues with CNCA's proposal regarding their exclusive and inflexible language program.

Indeed, several Board members expressed concerns over CNCA's "one size fits all" so-called bilingual program — which is nothing more than an English Language Learner (ELL) transition program. If I recall, Mr. Zimmer and other members had questions that Ms. Flores unilaterally dismissed by saying that she'd insure CNCA would comply with state law and my community's needs.

I, like many others, waited patiently to see if CNCA's revised charter would reflect Ms. Flores' promise and provide a Mainstream English program option for CRES #14. We even waited for meetings between local parents and the well heeled executives of CNCA to resolve this. Other than a lot of empty promises and marketing phrases, the issue has not been resolved! CNCA's charter for CRES #14 does not contain a Mainstream English program option. This is an outrage!

Let's be clear, I've been a lifelong advocate of bilingual education. I champion dual language immersion and other models. This is not what CNCA offers. Theirs is a transitional program intended to transition Spanish speaking ELLs to all English. Certainly a transitional program like CNCA's may be desirable for a portion of the students that will attend CRES #14. However, when non-educators like CNCA's Hoa Truong insist that their program needs no modification and that it is considered "best practice," I shudder to think that business executives are allowed to discuss pedagogy. Best practice? Perhaps for for monolingual parents of ELL that don't want their children to be biliterate. Is CNCA's program best practice if the child's first language is Mandarin or Tagalog? Is CNCA's program best practice for parents that want their English only child to study in English only? Is CNCA's program best practice for parents who want their Spanish or English speaking child to be biliterate? The obvious answer to all these questions is no.

This begs the question why hasn't CNCA or Ms. Flores addressed our community's needs. I understand that offering another language program might cause CNCA to incur some work, and even might cost them money that they would prefer to channel into their executive salaries, but they should be obligated to serve our community and educate every child! Their take-it or-leave-it language program is unacceptable. As one prominent Echo Parque parent recently said: "You can't tear down our houses, use our money, and build a school that doesn't serve the community!" Those are my sentiments precisely.

I'm appalled at Ms. Flores' mendaciousness in this matter. Ms. Flores hasn't addressed this with her close friends at CNCA. Instead of spending time writing apologetics for awarding CRES #14 to a private operator using outdated and therefore inaccurate census data to justify her rationale, she should be working to insure that CNCA serves the needs of every family in the attendance boundary. Until CNCA offers a Mainstream English program option for English only speakers — which must be in writing in their charter — Ms. Flores remains in contempt of our community.

Ms. Garcia you and the other Board members have the power to correct this transgression. By every account: legal, moral, and ethical, CNCA should be required to serve every child in my community. By allowing them to dodge the requirement as a school in our attendance boundary to provide a Mainstream English program, we allow CNCA to continue their discriminatory practices that smack of exclusivity and elitism. Please take action immediately.

Advocating Public Education and Social Justice

Robert D. Skeels

P.S. After sharing a draft of this letter with parents and activists, they had several suggestions which I feel deserve mention. First was a concern that asking the CNCA simply offer Mainstream English wasn't enough: "might I suggest that you stress a little more of the need for an authentic dual language program - two populations, two languages, all subjects K-8, no transitioning, plus a Tagalog language class should be offered." Many of the more militant parents are shocked that CNCA is intransigent on the language issue altogether. They suggested that the tone of my letter was too passive. One of them wrote me "They are using unfair tactics and should know these parents won't quit until it's been corrected."

LAUSD and CNCA can rest assured that these parents will continue struggling for justice, and I will keep publishing about CNCA's contemptuous treatment of my community.

Dist: Paper copy mailed to LAUSD Board, emailed to individual board members, Superintendent, CNCA executives, print media representatives, CRES14ParaCommunidad list, and select online media outlets.

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