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The battle in ELA: Garfield High victory over charter Green Dot takeover

By staff |
December 22, 2019
Mothers, teachers, Jackie Goldberg and Carlos Montes at GHS.
Mothers, teachers, Jackie Goldberg and Carlos Montes at GHS. Mothers, teachers, Jackie Goldberg and Carlos Montes at GHS.

Los Angeles, CA - 2019 marked the ten-year anniversary of the successful fight to stop the charter school Green Dot from taking over Garfield High School. The threat started with the so-called Public School Choice 1.0, approved by the then pro-charter Los Angeles Unified School District board and Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines in 2009. Low-performing schools were to be put on a bid list. This allowed charter schools like Green Dot and others to write up a bid or proposal to take over and manage a publicly-funded school.

Garfield High School (GHS) was on the hit list and was put into a bid process. Corporate Green Dot charter schools, under the leadership of former CEO Marshall Tuck, started a takeover bid of GHS. At a community meeting, teachers and parents asked Centro CSO organizer Carlos Montes for help. Montes, a well-known Garfield High graduate and longtime advocate for public education and Chicano Studies, helped lead the historic ELA high school walkouts of 1968.

Several GHS teachers and counselors provided leadership and support and met with Centro CSO to plan a campaign to keep GHS public and locally managed within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The Parent Center staff also helped and supported this fight.

A series of actions were organized to fight off the Green Dot takeover. One action was a large community meeting in the GHS cafeteria with Yolie Flores Aguilar, then a LAUSD board member. At this packed meeting, the parents, students and teachers blasted Yolie Flores Aguilar for supporting the Green Dot takeover. Aguilar was totally exposed as not having the best interest of GHS and the community at heart. She later decided not to seek reelection to LAUSD.

Other actions included attending LAUSD board meetings, a rally and press conference in front of GHS in unity with United Teachers of LA.

Neighboring Montebello Unified School District also expressed an interest in submitting a bid for Garfield Hight School. The GHS community united to fight the takeover and decided to write and submit a proposal to manage the school and keep it as an LAUSD public school. Parents, teachers, students and administrators like then Principal Michael B. Summe attended a workshop put on by United Teachers of LA to prepare to write and submit a proposal.

With input from all parties, Roberta Ikemi, a long time GHS math teacher, wrote the final complete proposal and submitted to LAUSD.

Jackie Goldberg, then a former LAUSD board member, supported the fight to stop Green Dot.
After all the protests exposing Green Dot charters schools as a privatization takeover, Green Dot decided to withdraw.

LAUSD Superintendent Cortines awarded the bid to the Garfield Hight School team with certain conditions. But the victory was clear; Green Dot had been defeated and Montebello USD decided not to submit their own bid.

After this struggle, Garfield High School moved forward and became a successful model of how the community can unite to manage a local public school and be successful. GHS students’ graduation rate is 90%, and over 90% go on to two- or four-year college. GHS now is doing great. This is a recent history of fighting for public education that should not be forgotten. The recognition should be given to the East LA Chicano working-class community, teachers, parents and its allies who united, and won.