Mon, May

Hard Times at Franklin High School

THE EASTSIDER - Until recently, Benjamin Franklin High School (FHS) in Highland Park was considered according to LAUSD, a safe and high performing school sought by parents and students alike (I’ll explain). Then, along comes long-standing Principal Regina Marquez-Martinez. She has managed to complete an amazing trifecta - she is evidently disliked by Staff, students, and parents! 

To understand the problems, we must understand the school! Benjamin Franklin HS (US News ranking) has 4 schools within its campus!, FHS “residential” grades 9-12, Franklin Stem Magnet grades 9-12, Dual Language Academy Magnet grades 6-12, Franklin High School for Advanced Studies and also the inclusion of Special Education. 

FHS boasts many awards given to them by a fee-based membership education association Magnet Schools of America. So what gives? How does a designated school with a 94% graduation rate have so many problems? Better yet, how does a school maintain a deplorable 21% proficiency in Mathematics and yet is awarded for its STEM magnet program? Confused? Let’s dig deeper! 

Now here’s where it gets tricky! Obviously, selective data is being misrepresented to reflect on the entire school. Don’t for one second underestimate students and their parents not figuring this out. Which of the four schools is the actual recipient of the award recognitions boasted by Principal Marquez-Martinez? 

With each school within a school fighting for recognition and turf (bathrooms) along with a principal who apparently treats all the students with a penitentiary-correctional style line of action there is no wonder why these students over a year ago signed a petition demanding better conditions per KCAL News. 

On Thursday April 11, she held a community/school meeting to address multiple concerns by all the local stakeholders.  It blew up! 

I can do no better than quote from a letter sent to LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvelho by attendee Frank ‘Poncho’ Ormsby:

On Thursday April 11th I attended a meeting at Franklin High School in Highland Park that was meant to address fight clubs, alcohol on campus, drug usage on campus, bathroom access (or lack of) and poor administrative leadership! I was hoping to attend a respectful and collaborative meeting between the parents, students, community, and administration. Instead, what was heard and witnessed was self-promoting biographies, bureaucratic steering techniques, a combative staff (calling parents’ names), a contemptuous administration and non-responsive school district officers!

Franklin High School (FHS) is a deplorable, below failing (F-) performing school with 77.7% students unable to reach state Mathematics standards and over 50% unable to meet state English standards. Additionally, FHS has been plagued by frustrated students lashing out at a disrespectful administration leading to the problems that we were supposed to be addressing at this meeting.

What concerned me the most were the complaints about limited discussion opportunities for parents and community attendees during meetings of advisory groups governed by the Ralph N. Brown Act! LAUSD Administrator of Operations, Mr. Gilberto Martinez, stated that these meetings limit public participation purposely to prevent "public hijacking" of the meetings. A speaker mentioned that at current FHS meetings the public was limited to a one-time comment opportunity, total of 6 minutes shared among all public attendees, and only at the beginning of the meetings agendized as public comment.

Although it’s widely known that these bodies are permitted and should consider adopting local policies (by-laws) that exceed the minimum requirements of the Brown Act. For instance, bodies like the California School Board Association allow 3 minutes per speaker and a total of 20 minutes per agenda item! FHS arrogantly selects, despite being a failing school, not to listen to or invite collective conversation during their school meetings. Flow of ideas and viewpoints during discussion of any item is indispensable and significant to helping this inadequate learning environment!

Personally, I see this as restricting First Amendment protected speech and not providing ample opportunity for public involvement in school site decision making. The school should provide a generous opportunity for public involvement during meetings allowing diversity of viewpoints contrary to the existing unsuccessful practices in place today!

In closing, I challenge you to grasp the idea, what does this school (LAUSD) really fear?  Ask yourself, are we preparing these young adults to go to college and be competitive in the world market? Will these individuals be professionals and be able to afford to live in LA (Highland Park) or will they become another statistic of LA? Based on FHS's performance I’m forced to select the latter! I would like to encourage you to try anything that can improve this school site! Or, continue your daycare approach to education and pretend that F stands for FANTASTIC!

Frank "Poncho" Ormsby

Highland Park Resident



At a community meeting I attended Friday, April 26 it turns out that the Principal’s answer to all this was to send out a flyer for a “Franklin HS Safety Meeting #2” to be held on Friday, May 3, from 5-6 in the Student Cafeteria. What can be accomplished in 1 hour? 

I am mildly surprised by what downplayed and timid this was to what’s looking like a declaration of war by the community, the teachers, the students. Even as she and her administrative team look for a bunker. 

This meeting will have already taken place by my next article.  I just wanted to alert everyone of the importance of the meltdown at Franklin High. In the meantime, I wonder if our LAUSD Board member Rocio Rivas is in the loop about this, she attended the April 11th meeting but slithered away early through the meeting without comment! I guess there’s other more important issues in her district? How about Superintendent Carvalho? Who recently blamed an LAUSD employee for not intervening to prevent a fight that resulted in a shooting of a student outside of Washington Prep in the Westmont area. 

Stay tuned