As the New York Times reported on August 27 (“At Charter Schools, Short Careers By Choice”) most charter school teachers only remain in the profession for two to five years. In contrast, traditional public school teachers average nearly fourteen years of experience. But in the fantasy world of charter school proponents, far from being a shortcoming this lack of teaching experience is a positive. One charter school official told the Times, “There is a certain comfort level that we have with people who are perhaps going to come into YES Prep and not stay forever.” Wendy Kopp, whose Teach for America program is criticized for high turnover, said “The strongest schools develop their teachers tremendously so they become great in the classroom even in their first and second years.”
I’ve never met a teacher who believes they were “great” in their first two years.
Thursday’s community meeting in the auditorium of Boyle Heights’ Lorena Street Elementary School was ostensibly a Los Angeles Unified School District briefing on why the school was about to share half of its classrooms and campus resources with a charter school.
The players were right out of Central Casting. To one side of Lorena Elementary’s podium stood LAUSD principal Enrique Soberanes — a rumpled, embattled Jaime Escalante-esque embodiment of an inner-city public school educator.
Opposite Soberanes, standing tall and lean and tanned was the impeccably tailored Dr. Jim Kennedy, looking more a William Morris Endeavor agent than the incoming principal of Walton Family Foundation-backed Extera Public School No. 2, the new K-1 charter school being imposed on Lorena Street as a co-locator.
Facing the principals were roughly 75 bewildered, mostly Spanish-speaking and working class parents, their children and a score of frustrated and angry LAUSD teachers.
For more than 30 years each, Cheryl Smith-Vincent and Cheryl Ortega have shared a passion for teaching public school in Southern California. Smith-Vincent teaches third grade at Miles Avenue Elementary School in Huntington Park; before retiring, Ortega taught kindergarten at Logan Street Elementary School in Echo Park. Both women have been jolted by experiences with a little-known statewide policy that requires traditional public schools to share their facilities with charter schools. Ortega says she has seen charter-school children warned against greeting non-charter students who attend the same campus. Smith-Vincent reports that she and her students were pushed out of their classroom prior to a round of important student tests – just to accommodate a charter school that needed the space.
“It was extremely disruptive,” Smith-Vincent says of the incident.
The practice of housing a traditional public school and a charter school on the same campus is known as “co-location.” Charters are publicly funded yet independently operated,