Tue, May

Dr. Julian Nava College Prep Academy … You Feel the Learning Going On


LA SCHOOLS AND OTHER MUSINGS-Friday morning I was invited to make a few remarks at the ribbon cutting of the Nava College Preparatory Academy – a small new pilot high school on the campus at Jefferson High School. (Photo) 

Jefferson’s campus in Southeast LA is rambling, spilling over the boundaries of a city block – with its iconic streamline moderne administration building, sweeping curves and cut-out blocks – the image reinforced and repeated by photos in newspaper stories: Jefferson High School – ground zero in the MiSiS Crisis – where inadequate, untried+untested technology and unprepared clueless administration (at every level) collided head-on , first on the campus, then in the courts in Oakland – and ultimately in the schoolboard meeting room at Beaudry.

If John Deasy’s first triumph was the elimination of chocolate milk from school menus – proclaimed from a couch on the set of Jimmy Kimmel Live; Jefferson was his last stand. If there was a last straw in his failed superintendency - marked by iPads, MiSiS, child abuse, Vergara, votes of no-confidence and plummeting employee morale – that straw - and his Waterloo - was Jefferson.

Deasy was junketing in Korea – practicing LAUSD’s foreign policy – when it all finally unraveled. But the only casualty wasn’t Dr. John and his program of disruptive reform. The proud school’s reputation was damaged further and the education of its students suffered greatly. All the collateral damage of adults behaving badly.

UP THE STREET FROM JEFF is the Dr. Julian Nava Learning Academy – all shiny, new and bond funded; a wholly-district/not-a-charter pilot middle school, organized by faculty and parents and community under public school choice the way PSC was intended to be. Not a give-away but a success story, happening for 6th, 7th and 8th graders.

“By recognizing the importance of the middle school within the “pipeline” of schools, JNLA School of Arts and Culture School and JNLA School of Business and Technology have an overarching vision to connect the elements of multicultural studies, fine arts, music, dance, and theater – and business and technology – operating at the local elementary and high school within the community, to further our students’ education, and to increase the retention rates of the neighborhood students in our local schools.”

The Nava Learning Academy middle school is an unqualified success – you don’t need the data to prove it – it’s obvious for all the world to see! And the parents and ultimately the faculty and JNLA community wanted, wished and demanded to continue that vision and mission into high school – and ultimately campaigned, cajoled and politicked to continue the Nava experience onto the campus at Jefferson.

The new Dr. Julian Nava College Prep Academy is an unassuming cluster of small buildings and bungalows carved out of the Jefferson campus – not at sizable expense – but certainly of substantial value.

Cleaned and painted, brought up to – and far beyond – snuff.

You can feel the learning happening. The students – all ninth graders because the school had to start somewhere – are all turned out in prep school uniforms. Not Hollywood versions of East Coast preppies, all J. Crew and bespoke blazers and neatly tied striped neckties, but honest teenage the-best-we-can and the worst-we-can-get-away-with versions thereof. The uniforms say “We are NCPA and proud of it…” and the individuality says that each one is part-of-and-singular-within NCPA.

It’s Dead Poets Society meets Born in East L.A. …and the mash-up works! Carpe diem meets Si se puede.

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Present at the ribbon cutting were three former LA school superintendents (and no current ones) and Dr. Nava – the first Chicano/Xicano LAUSD school board member and the first Mexican-American U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Julian Nava is 88 years old and I wish to be spry and active as he if I reach that age. (I wish I was that spry+active at the age I have reached!)

Nava is a Ph.D. and a former Ambassador and schoolboard president – he was a friend of Cesar Chavez and his doctorate is from Harvard - and I know that Harvard grads only call medical doctors “doctor”. Ambassador is fine title – and he’s also a professor and a film producer and a writer and a father …but he asks the students at his two namesake academies to call him ‘Uncle Julian.’ And they do.

In his remarks Nava looked about him at the freshly spruced up and painted bungalows – the temporary structures that house the high school – and remembered that they were first put on that campus as military housing for trainees before and during WWII.

The old buildings have served and continue to serve nobly and well, but I will be campaigning that they be retired and newer and more modern buildings be built to house the students at Nava and all the students in our schools. Bungalows and ‘relocatables’ are adequate; but adequacy is far too low a standard for our children today and for the children of the future.


LATER ON FRIDAY I went to Orchard Academies Middle School in Bell – to help present 8th grade poet David Berecca with the recognition from the Schoolboard and Mayor Garcetti for being named a Student Ambassador in the Do the Write Thing Challenge that he was unable to receive at the schoolboard meeting last week. (see ‘DO THE WRITE THING’ STUDENT AMBASSADORS TELL TALES OF BULLETS AND BULLIES | http://bit.ly/1w8ndhd) I got to meet David and his classmates and teachers and counselors and was way impressed with students, faculty and campus!

I was at the groundbreaking and the ribbon cutting of the school when it was South Region Middle School #2 …but nothing compares to the wonderfulness of seeing the school in action!

David attends the Orchard Global Studies Academy, there is also an Orchard Arts+Media Academy and a Magnolia Science+Tech charter school on the campus. In my visit my faith in small learning communities – especially at middle schools -where every teacher and every student in the school knows everyone else - was renewed. I was disappointed to learn that there is no passporting between programs – so consequently there is no opportunity for the arts students to participate in the global studies program and vice versa. 

And I got the feeling there is no interaction whatsoever between the charter and the LAUSD programs. As time goes by I hope we will come closer to the university model where learning communities and programs interact+interreact. We are not creating silos or Jets+Sharks. After all, even the Gryffindor and Slytherin students intermingle at Hogwarts!


QUOTE O’ TH’ WEEK: “One of the more curious tendencies of Times letter writers is to react viscerally to any news about Villaraigosa. Simply put, many don't think much of the former LA mayor, and many of our letter writers would rather not read articles about him. This was just as true during the final years of Villaraigosa's tenure in City Hall, before Eric Garcetti took over in 2013, as it is now.”
by LA Times Letters Editor Paul Thornton

THE THEATER THAT IS THE UTLA/LAUSD CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS played out in a “sea of red t-shirts” rally at Grand Park on Thursday. Eventually both sides need to stop putting their toes on the tape mark and looking into the camera and sit down in earnest and negotiate. The teachers haven’t had a raise in seven or eight years. Class size has escalated out of control. On the other hand the District isn’t made out of money; the Prop 30 funding increases are exaggerated +temporary. Other LAUSD unions have “Me Too!” clauses in their contracts, so whatever the teachers get in wage increases they get too.

And though 4LAKids doesn’t agree with it in its entirety, but this Op-Ed [“California's public unions have too much clout and compensation is worth reading.

A strike by UTLA would be complicated and could get ugly. We have many campuses shared by union and non-union (charter) schools (I wrote of one above) and many other district-owned campuses are run by non-union charters but maintained by union labor. Do parents and students cross picket lines? What happens if they do? A strike is to be avoided – maybe not at all costs – but we are coming to the time when both sides need to act like adults. Or maybe less like them.


THE REST OF THE WEEK’S NEWS IS ADULTS BEHAVING BADLY, whether locally, internationally, nationally or in the ultimate alternate reality: Washington DC. When someone did get it somewhat right – say as in Net Neutrality – others got it way wrong in reaction. There was an ugly little story in LA School Report resurrecting conduct between consenting adults that goes into embarrassing detail and approaches the level of celebrity gossip; it’s an elephant in the room that bears watching (and definitely not 'bares watching') but may be best intentionally ignored on these pages. Certain folks meeting at CPAC suggested that the way they dealt with organized labor in Madison, Wisconsin is the way to handle ISIC or ISIS Syria+Iraq. Meanwhile ISIC/ISIS celebrated Take Your Sledgehammer to the Museum Week. The Congress continues to confuse U.S. immigration reform with Sarajevo in 1914 and/or 1992-96. One can hardly wait ‘til Congress focuses on reforming NCLB!

Maybe the way to handle MiSiS is the way they handled organized labor in Madison?

IF YOU LOST MY NOTES, here’s the way I’d vote in the schoolboard elections next Tuesday. If they let me!

●District 1: George McKenna
●District 2: Scott Schmerelson
●District 5: Bennett Kayser
●District 7: Richard Vladovic

On Charter Amendments 1+2, which changes the election dates of municipal+schoolboard elections to increase voter participation and slightly extends the terms of current office holders, here is my foolproof algorithm:

● If you like the incumbent or think your favored candidate will win …or will achieve the runoff and win there, vote YES.
● If you don’t like the incumbent or fear your candidate won’t win or win in the runoff, vote NO.
● If you can’t bear the thought of an extra year-and-a-half of Mónica García vote NO.
● If you perversely think you’ll vote YES on one and NO on the other: I like your thinking …but they both have to pass for either to take effect!

For an amusing animated YouTube video from the League of Women Voters explaining all of this – and featuring talking tacos – see this: http://bit.ly/17Hi3Tp

For other races, you are on your own ...though you may apply the algorithm.

¡Onward/Adelante! -smf

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