Westchester’s Dreams of a Local High School Dashed

Fritz Burns had a vision 60 years ago when he developed the 20,000 homes just north of what is now LAX. He knew that if Westchester was going to be a community it would have to have schools, and so he offered up 42 acres to the LAUSD to build the community a high school. 

Well LAUSD has taken that away from the community now. Westchester no longer has a high school as the LAUSD School board voted Tuesday to turn Westchester High School into a magnet school.

Westchester high school will be modeled after Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES) with a fairly strict demographic balance. 30% white and 70% other racial groups equally split. It won’t be like LACES however because one of the schools biggest benefits is that it is a grades 6-12 span school that provides long term continuity to those enrolled there. High school magnets don’t enjoy the same kind of success.

What will that mean to the Westchester community? Through the ‘Choices Program’, the school will probably be sought after by families throughout the district as they try to get their children out of their own badly performing district schools. 59 out of 70 LAUSD high schools do not meet AYP and are designated ‘PI’ schools. That’s a lot of potential feeders schools that may funnel students  into Westchester’s soon to be magnet program. 

For the time being, just about anyone from Westchester willing to give the LAUSD ‘yet another chance’ will have an easy time enrolling but as enrollment goes up, at some level students ‘will need points’ to get in. Westchester families will not have any priority over any other students in Los Angeles. As a magnet, it’s not our school anymore.

As enrollment climbs there will eventually be a shortage of available seats within the strict demographic enrollment structure.  Westchester’s African-American and hispanic students will likely be the first to find out we don’t have a local high school anymore as students from elsewhere in the district find seats in the school. Not accumulating enough points playing the enrollment game, they will be the first to be bused off to Venice, University, Hamilton, or wherever LAUSD officials can find seats.

Not far behind,  Westchester’s white students will also be bused off to other low achieving high schools in the district. It’s only a matter time as each one of these demographic groups fill up the allotted space available.

This is what happened at LACES when it took over Louis Pasteur Junior High School in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles.

Westchester’s magnet school success assumes that the district is able to provide an education that people will value.  That’s is a big IF given this districts poor academic record.

2 Responses to “Westchester’s Dreams of a Local High School Dashed”

  1. I do not know how Westchester and Playa Del Rey have come to this.

    Enrollment at our two local high schools, Westchester High School and Saint Bernard High School, is predominantly comprised of students who do not live in the neighborhood. Most are visitors and most are not stakeholders in our town.

    The visionary developer Fitz Bernard Burns, and his associates William Hannon, Silas Nowell, F. W. Marlowe and many others, imagined a community with schools, churches, shops and eateries, which would improve the quality of life for those residents who had a vested interest the town. None could have imagined that our school system would reach the levels of transitory enrollment that exist today at all local area public schools and some parochial schools.

    The situation is compounded when you recognize that most visitors are just that; they do not shop here, eat here and generally do not patronize the local businesses here. More importantly, they lack the local knowledge, history, and pride in the town that comes with being a resident.

    The travesty that has been allowed by local residents has created a break in the chain; those links that were fastened and constructed by the hard labors of men like Fritz Burns.

    And people, and I mean especially residents, are afraid to speak out for fear of being colored with some moniker that paints them anti this or that. We just sit back and watch our schools, some with the lowest possible levels of statewide test scores, sink deeper into the neighborhood disconnect. Well, you can color me anyway you like; as long as you use the 64 box.

    This has nothing to do with color; it has to do with rationality; most of which has been lost. In seeking the racial balance that we as parents desire for our children, our little experiment has created the opposite.

    And of course that means we local residents send our kids to school elsewhere.

    Somehow, we have nearly destroyed the local educational system that our parents; many who lived through the Great Depression and served in World War II and Vietnam, fought to create.

    As for the bussing issue, I had saved over a decade ago, an article which I think pretty much sums it up;

    “Charlotte became ground zero for a noble but failed social experiment forced upon the country by the Supreme Court.
    “In 1971, Charlotte became ground zero for a noble but failed social experiment forced upon the country by the U.S. Supreme Court. In its historic Swann vs. Charlotte-Mecklenburg school decision, the court permitted racially segregated school districts to begin busing in order to achieve integration.
    “What began as an effort to remedy the grave wrongs of state-sanctioned racial segregation has turned American society — black and white — on its head. The neighborhood school concept, with the pride and solidarity it engenders in a community, has been badly damaged for the last three decades.
    “Most observers of the recently concluded trial over busing and admissions to magnet schools believe Charlotte-Mecklenburg stands on the verge of a ruling that will declare its school system “unitary” and free it from court ordered desegregation plans.
    “While some are predicting dire consequences if Federal District Judge Robert Potter abolishes busing, the evidence throughout the country suggests that busing has not accomplished its goals and, in fact, has had many negative consequences.
    “Years after a Kansas City court implemented busing, black students in integrated magnet schools performed no better than blacks in neighborhood schools. San Francisco spent more than $200 million [on busing] following a 1982 court order to end school segregation, but a 1992 study led by Harvard Professor Gary Orfield, who supports busing, found black and Hispanic students lacked “even modest overall improvement” [as a result of intrusive court-ordered busing.] A National Institute of Education report could not even find a single study showing black kids fared appreciably better following a switch to integrated schools.
    “…In fact, it is patronizing to think that minority students need to sit next to a white student in order to learn. Many black leaders, from Wisconsin State Rep. Annette Polly Williams, a Milwaukee Democrat, to Cleveland Mayor Michael White have come to that conclusion and led efforts to end busing.
    “…Busing teaches our children a terrible lesson. Rather than eliminating racial discrimination, busing promotes it by teaching children that the government should treat them differently on the basis of their race.” (Charlotte Observer 08/12/99 by Marc Levin and Ed Blum)

    A country without a memory is a country of madmen.
    George Santayana

  2. This issue was discussed at the school board meeting a couple weeks ago when the magnet was approved. The whole plan is still being developed, but the tentative agreement (one board member wouldn’t vote unless this was included) was the Westchester residents WOULD be given priority — a Westchester resident with “0″ points would have priority over people with points that are outside the current school boundary.

    It’s great that we have community members who are staying on top of this issue though — it’s important that Westchester kids never lose the right to go to their local high school!

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