Green Dot charter schools has persuaded a majority of tenured teachers at Locke High, a low-performing LA school, to sign a charter petition. Green Dot plans to turn Locke into 10 small schools. Principal Frank Wells, who criticized the district bureaucracy and backed Green Dot, was fired and escorted from the building. The LA Times reports:
“It’s a leap of faith, but if you believe in this partnership between Green Dot and Locke teachers, then you believe that we are trying to change education in Los Angeles by turning more attention to students’ needs and empowering teachers,” said Bruce Smith, an English teacher at the school.
Amid dozens of poor-performing middle and high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Locke has long languished as one of the worst. At least one of every two students drops out, while the majority who remain score at or near the bottom on standardized tests.
Under state law, the school board has little choice but to let Green Dot take over the school by fall 2008. Teachers who want to stay at Locke would have to reapply for their jobs; they would work under a labor contract signed by Green Dot’s in-house union, which is far more flexible than the district teachers’ union contract.
The support for Green Dot by rank-and-file Locke teachers could undermine the authority of union leaders and their position as major power brokers in the district â€” especially if teachers at other schools follow suit.
“I’m going to urge teachers around the city to rise up and take control of their schools,” said English teacher Smith, who plans to speak at today’s news conference. “You can cross out Locke and put in Roosevelt High, or Dorsey or Crenshaw.”
In essence Locke’s teachers are willing to risk their jobs to change their school. They voting for Green Dot’s union and against the district’s far more powerful teachers union. They are voting for Green Dot’s reform promises and against the promise that LA Unified will reform its troubled schools. This is a coup in every sense for Green Dot.