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Charter advocates launch salvo against Schmerelson resolution

Mike Szymanski | January 12, 2016

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Scott SchmerelsonCharter school administrators, alumni and parents appeared today at a morning meeting of the LA Unified school to oppose a resolution that will ask the board to condemn any threat to the school system through a proliferation of charter schools.

“Resolutions like this distract us and are perpetuating harmful myths in the community,” Rachel Hazlehurst, of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy told the board, calling the resolution from board member Scott Schmerelson “divisive in nature.”

Hazlehurst and 14 other speakers were part of an effort to pushback against the motion, which was scheduled for a board vote later in the day. The measure is general in its wording but was precipitated by the recent formulation of Great Public Schools Now, an offshoot of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation that wants to expand the number of charter schools in LA Unified.

Schmerelson nodded and listened intently to all the speakers. Before the meeting adjourned for a closed session, board President Steve Zimmer applauded the speakers for expressing their opinions and pointed out that their messages of urging collaboration and best-practices sharing was far more collegial that what he has heard from Great Public Schools Now.

“I hope that there is internal conversation that is happening,” Zimmer said. “The words [in the resolution] were in response to the a proposal that had very different words than the words that were said today.”

Zimmer said he found materials and websites that “perpetuate deficit thinking” about traditional schools and “present a negative picture of the schools they want to collaborate with.”

Zimmer, who has been critical of the Broad initiative but has not weighed-in on Schmerelson’s proposal, said, “We welcome conversation and visiting charter schools, and want the charter community to visit LAUSD schools as well.”

He added he wants to continue “making sure that we have ways of establishing restorative practices and end negative discipline practices at all schools” and welcomes “an honest and open conversation” about the charter school issues.

Emilio Pack, the executive director of the Math and Science College Preparatory school said he has “noticed a lot of speakers [coming to school board meetings] perpetuating some of the myths of charter schools and I feel that some of the language that is part of the Schmerelson resolution perpetuates some of those myths.”

Larry Fondation, director of community engagement for Green Dot, which has 20 schools, said his three children have graduated from LAUSD schools and his wife works at LA Unified headquarters. “We need to stress the commonalities we have, not differences,” Fondation said. “We work closely with many other schools and have large parent engagement and community involvement.”

When she was an LAUSD teacher, Abigail Nunez, now of the Alliance Tennenbaum Family Technology High, said she recalled the myths she heard about charter schools. “The reality is that charter schools are laboratories of innovation.” She said her school routinely shares resources and practices with other LAUSD schools on their shared campus.


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