Leftovers from City Hall: Hey failing schools, take the money!

For three years a student failed to make any progress.

Then, one day, a teacher made an offer.

The teacher would pay for a private tutor, but the student had to skip the lunch recess all year.

The foolish student said he was too busy during recess to study.

He knew best how to run his life, he said.

A similar scenario is playing out right now in the San Gabriel Valley.

Despite making the list of “persistently low-performing” schools this month, a pair of the area’s worst schools are turning down what could be millions of dollars.

Workman High in the Hacienda-La Puente Unified School district and Valleydale Elementary in Azusa Unified were named to the list.

Under his new education plan, President Barack Obama is willing to pay each state’s “persistently low performing” schools between $500,000 and $2 million.

In exchange, the schools must do one of four things: close, become a charter school, fire the principal and half the teachers, or fire the principal and make other acceptable changes to the school.

Valleydale has a dismal 636 Academic Performance Index (API) score. Schools in similar neighborhoods have an average score of 719.

The state has a goal of 800 for all schools.

Valleydale for three consecutive years has failed to show the modest improvement goals set by the state.

While schools across the state have been getting better, Valleydale has a lower score today than it did three years ago. I’m sure the staff there is working hard, but when is enough enough?

Azusa Unified Superintendent Cynthia Cervantes McGuire said she doesn’t have time to apply for a grant before the June deadline.


Would Cervantes accept that logic from a student?

Why not hire a consultant for $50,000 and bang out that application.

As for Workman High, why not close it?

Due to declining enrollment, the school has only 1,085 students. La Puente High – which barely was left off the list of the state’s worst schools – is literally one mile away.

Why not take a couple million dollars, hire about 20 teachers and few administrators and make La Puente High a much better school? Spillover students can attend Los Altos or Wilson high schools.

By the way, I can’t even figure out why Workman made the list. It’s API rose from 578 in 2007 to 636 in 2009, which is still slightly below average for schools in similar neighborhoods. The dropout rate is bad, according the school’s state report, but data on just how bad was not available.

Superintendent Barbara Nakaoka said the school is already implementing a plan to improve scores and won’t apply for Obama’s grants.

Still, why not take the money? The district is going to have to eventually close a school anyway.

As for Valleydale, it’s time for parents to quit letting the bad performers make all the decisions.

Seriously, the staff is not going to fire itself.

Take the money. Unless parents pressure the board to change something, nothing is going to happen.