“We are here to improve and overcome our differences,“ said LAUSD Local District Central Superintendent Robert Martinez.
Mayberry Street Elementary School— On Friday night, November 30th, for three-hours, the school auditorium was filled with about 200 people comprising of parents, school staff and community, including LAUSD Local District Central (LDC) Officials.
Superintendent Martinez arranged for this Listening Session four-months earlier, at a request of Mayberry Amigos a school-based parent coalition, to present their concerns. Discussion would serve as a turning point towards improving communication between parents and the school system.
Parents spoke about declining enrollment, campus moral and the inappropriate handling of students with behavioral problems. Parental fear of retaliation was also mentioned, and by the questions uttered it became evident that parents had not been formally informed and included in the magnet program outreach process in terms they could understand.
Student enrollment has been in the decline for the past 5 years, per local district central and parents, however online data to support that fact was not found. “In the last nine months from spring of 2017 to the present, enrollment has dropped from 321 to 260,” said one parent.
Although public school review.com for 2018-19 displays a ratio of 21- students to 1-teacher at Mayberry Elementary, some parents have observed classes with student numbers of 31, 34, and 35. Several parents tend to not favor these large-size classes because of the possibility to set the ground for bullying and misbehaving. “The teacher might not be aware of the bullying that takes place in that classroom,” said a parent. While a second parent said that her “6-year old” in a big class is sent to the office to sit quite often because he misbehaves.
Parents complained about students bullying students on school grounds involving different grades and ages. They use demeaning language to hurt feelings, make gestures, apply physical force or send emails to harass, voiced a parent. For example, a child says he’s afraid of going to the restroom because two older boys bully him, said this mother. While a third parent said she tells her child if attacked in the restroom to scream out for help.
According to Explorelausd.schoolmint.net, April 2018 school data shows only 82% of students feel safe at Mayberry.
There was a meeting to resolve the bullying misconduct after a young student was “attacked”, but nothing changed, said a fourth parent.
Several parents made suggestions for correcting bullying: “Talk to your child to not be a bully and not to be bullied,” said a parent, encouraging parents to visit the school. “Talk to your child’s teacher and get to know classmates.” Yet, another parent added that behavioral issues should be dealt with at home: The home teaches children manners and how to behave, and the school supplements the molding of the child with education.
Still, a parent said that children need knowledge about what they’re doing and that school should be helping them in problem solving to deal with their issues. This is part of learning, and a child with a problem should not have to sit in the office all day, she said.
Parents of various backgrounds expressed similar sentiments, of having fears about their children’s safety, especially since the police were called on very young children twice this year. A parent identified legislation regarding the custodial interrogation of juveniles, updated 2017-18. “Students may not be used to testifying without an advocate present,” she said.
Mayberry Amigos recommends that school leadership submit to the following for the handling of students with behavioral problems:
Parents request that school leadership send out notices of school meetings at least two weeks in advance to meet the notification requirement of the workplace, even though school district requires only a two-day or 72-hour notice.
Moreover, several parents said that besides a flyer for notification, use technology to make phone calls and send emails.
Many parents voiced that they make arrangements to attend school meetings because they want to get involved in their children’s education. “Yet, we sit not knowing what the meeting is about because there’s no translation,” said a parent. Mayberry Amigos recommends that the school provide translation in the language that parents understand and hold parent meetings in the evening for greater parent participation.
The Special Education and Dual Language Programs together involve 60% of the overall student population. “Special Ed is robust with a variety of programs that include autism, and mild to moderate disabilities,” said a parent. Meanwhile, programs struggle to include students with the use of technology. For example, the parent of a student in Special Education said computers and laptops were provided to regular students, but not for special education students. “Why not. They also learn if taught. Get them the laptops,” he said.
THE MAGNET PROGRAM
How will it affect the future of the two existing programs, their promotion and longevity? Would magnet program use the resources of existing programs? How would this program enhance the experience of the current students? It appears that there has been little to no conversation between the local school district, school leadership, and the parents in general. If there had been a dialog, parents would understand the new program’s benefits and implementation plan.
Keith Abrahams, Magnet Program Executive Director of Student Integration Services, was present at the Listening Session to answer parents’ questions about the magnet program and to explain how it fits the continuity pattern: Elementary, Middle, High School.
Students attending Mayberry as their resident school, have the option of enrolling in Magnet Media. “No points are needed,” Abrahams said. “At Middle School Magnets, students start to accumulate points to move on to High School Magnets.” Upon culmination from Magnet Media, students living in the area of King Middle School would enroll in the King Magnet Program. Those living in the area of Irving Middle School would enroll at Irving Magnet.
Irving Magnet also offers the Dual Language Program (DLP) to Mayberry students in the DLP regardless of points because it fits the pattern that continues on to Franklin High School in Highland Park, which has both a Magnet and a DLP. Roybal High School has a Magnet Program available to the Mayberry community, Abrahams said.
A student who continues through the DLP from elementary on through high school, upon graduation will receive a seal of bi-literacy on their diploma, said Martinez.
Though Mayberry Amigos welcome the magnet program, they said they feel the Local District’s outreach process could have been more inclusive by informing all parents of what the magnet program would resolve. Further, they requested that the Local School Leadership Council help parents get involved in the school site and local district decision-making [process] so they can have a say in their children’s education.
Lastly, Mayberry School Principal said communication is something “we” can work on. The principal apologized for any perceived injustice, thanked everyone for being present and sharing their concerns. “My door is open. I do listen. The decisions that I make are with my best intentions for the safety and the confidentiality of the students,” the Principal concluded.
Thanks to Silver Lake Star Connie Acosta for contributing this blog post. Connie is a member of the Echo Park Neighborhood Council and the Los Angeles Press Club. She omitted the names of parents and Principal throughout the article for anonymity. Edited for clarity by Betsy Hall.