Principal wants teachers, not dollars

Frank Wells, principal of a very bad Los Angeles high school, said he doesn’t need more money, reports the LA Times. (Repent of your sins! The end time is near!) On a visit to a Green Dot charter school, Frank Wells bitterly criticized the district bureaucracy for blocking real change at Locke High, near Watts. He called it “criminal to allow a school to continue on year after year, the way this one has.”

“The more you fail, the more money they throw at you,” he said. “We’re filthy rich; I don’t want any more of your money. Send me quality teachers.”

Wells was brought in to turn around Locke but says he’s run into a “brick wall.”

Meanwhile, the school board turned down Green Dot’s plan to open charter high schools as an alternative to Locke and negotiations have collapsed on a plan to break up Locke and let Green Dot manage the successor schools.

The two sides could not agree on how much autonomy Green Dot would have in running the schools.

Locke administrators and teachers weren’t involved in the discussions, so Barr invited Wells — and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings — over to a successful charter, Animo Inglewood.

In talking about the need for “revolutionary” change, Wells sounds ready to back converting Locke to a charter school — or just blowing it up. I don’t see how LA Unified can keep Green Dot out if their own turnaround principal says Locke is hopeless under the current system.

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  1. This is an example of where the ability of a principal to pay incentives to get quality teachers would probably have an impact.

    I don’t know too many teachers who would volunteer to transfer to Locke. My school is one of the alternatives to Locke — and Washington and Fremont — but our enrollment is only 360 (one reason our school has a graduation rate about 60% higher than Locke). One of our foreign language teachers began her career at Locke and has no desire to return there. Former Supt. Romer wanted to be able to force teachers to teach wherever he saw fit to assign them, which wouldn’t be terribly good for morale or retention….

    So Principal Wells has all this money… He can buy mountains of new text books but without enough “quality teachers” what good are those book? He can equip his classrooms with state of the art technology but without enough quality teachers the equipment is likely to go to waste.

    There isn’t a level playing field when it comes to hiring quality teachers. Geography, neighborhood safety, reputation, and challenging students make schools like Locke less desirable to most teachers. Offering incentive pay could level the playing field.

    One more thing: it is important to consider, when discussing a school such as Locke, that there are already quality teachers there. I know some myself. They might be in the minority which makes them even more outstanding. They put up with a lot of crap every day in their classrooms, in the hallways, and then they get dumped on along with the rest of the school by the press, the public, and the politicians….

  2. Elizabeth says:

    why is it so hard to enable strong principals to enact reform at their schools? why do school boards and even administrations (plus unions) continually put the adults ahead of the needs of the kids?

  3. Well let’s see.

    The unions look out for the interests of the teachers, more or less. The administration looks out for its own interests as does the school board.

    Who’s unadulterated goal is to look out for the needs of the kids and how much influence does that bunch have?

  4. wayne martin says:

    > Former Supt. Romer wanted to be able to force
    > teachers to teach wherever he saw fit to assign
    > them, which wouldn’t be terribly good for morale
    > or retention….

    Firemen are assigned to fight dangerous fires, policemen are assigned to dangerous neighborhoods, bomb disposal personnel are assigned to dangerous situations which could result in the end of their lives on each assignment .. the list goes on and on ..

    So what makes you think that teachers should be considered “professionals” if they are not willing to work in dangerous places like other public service employees?

  5. for the same reason that policemen aren’t randomly assigned to bomb disposal duty: proper training, career choice, pay structure.

    education and social intervention are not identical jobs — even when they overlap.

  6. This is a multi-layered story. It’s not just one lone voice in the wilderness; it’s also a heavily budget-centric school district who wants to maintain total control over all administrative aspects of Los Angeles public education. They’re also in the fight of their lives because of Villaraigosa’s insistence that he take control of a goodly portion of the district.

    Aside from the (relatively) few quality teachers in that district, LAUSD has been on a steady implosion course for the past several years. I don’t think, really, they ever recovered from the bussing fiascos of the 70’s.


  1. […] 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 […]