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Commentary: A victory for education in the San Fernando Valley

Subrata Chakravarty | October 17, 2018

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Last month, the San Fernando Valley scored two big victories. The Los Angeles Unified School District board approved a petition by Granada Hills Charter (GHC) High School for its charter renewal and the establishment of a K-8 grade school. These developments are important steps toward creating opportunity for parents and their students while establishing a high-performing school that will improve the quality of education in our area.

My wife and I strongly value public education and raised our two boys to appreciate the gift of a quality education.

Upon enrolling our eldest son in GHC, my wife and I noticed how the school was changing his life. Our son overcame his inhibitions and blossomed into a success-oriented, hardworking and compassionate young man who continues to make us proud in his college career. With quality teachers and diverse opportunities, GHC empowered him, as it did so many of his classmates, to unlock his potential and discover who he truly is and can become.

I was dismayed, however, to learn this amazing school’s charter status had been in the political crosshairs for years. As a parent, I felt it my duty to stand up for the school that had given so much to my child and helped define our community.

In my role as a Parent Ambassador, I worked with other parents to advocate for GHC’s charter renewal petition. During the process, we met our local LAUSD board member, Scott Schmerelson. The meeting was polite as the parents shared their stories with Schmerelson, who, despite some reservations about its charter status, assured us he would support GHC’s petitions if LAUSD staff recommended it.

When the time came for the board to vote on the petitions, I was surprised to hear about Schmerelson’s no vote on GHC’s K-8 material revision, despite LAUSD’s Charter School Division’s endorsement. It is a powerful testimony to GHC’s administrative reputation, as well as the passion of the students and other supporters who showed up at the school board meeting to support the school, that the vote was successful despite Schmerelson’s purposeful, spiteful and unfounded attacks on GHC’s integrity. It was clear that his vitriol was designed to derail the judgment of other board members, who thankfully did not fall for his tactics.

Charter schools are working to raise the level of all schools and the educational profile of California. But some like, Schmerelson, don’t want to see the progress and results, choosing instead to politicize education and reining in schools, bringing them down to their lowest educational denominators.

GHC provides an environment of growth for our students without ignoring the needs of the underprivileged and special needs students. In fact, in this environment, I have witnessed numerous cases of exceptional performance from students facing significant challenges in their lives, who may not have succeeded otherwise.

Schmerelson promotes the status quo at the expense of progressive schools like GHC that seek to stimulate growth. He seeks to protect the static, at the expense of the dynamic. Our country’s success depends on our being able to produce a high-quality, educated workforce. This can only be accomplished by offering our students quality educational choices and the room to grow — not by condemning them to a stunted existence.

Politicians like Schmerelson continue to play their power games at the expense of our children’s futures, and we cannot allow this to happen. It was a frightening thought to see how much power one person’s opinion, however misplaced, can have on the lives of millions. By the same token, each one of us has the power to not allow those people to control us. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Let’s swap “evil” for “mediocrity,” and “good men” for “progress-minded people,” and the statement still applies. Onward to more victories!

Subrata Chakravarty, Ph.D., lives in Porter Ranch and is the chief scientific officer for a cancer research organization. He is the father of two sons, one attending a public middle school and the other at the University of California.

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