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When—and Where—Will Potential Dropouts Come to Eagle Rock High?

They aren’t expected until August, but a decision on where to school underperforming ‘Tri-C’ students on campus is likely in weeks—against stiff parental opposition.

A group of students at a high risk of dropping out because of poor credits are not expected to join until August, but a decision about whether or not to accommodate them in a secluded space on campus meant for students with special needs is likely to be made within the next three weeks.

In an interview with Eagle Rock Patch this past Friday, Annick Draghi, an LAUSD director for secondary schools in District 4, said that LAUSD officials are “still having conversations” about precisely where to house the so-called “Tri-C” students. Some of the students, Draghi confirmed, have been expelled from other schools, and the decision to send them to Eagle Rock High is a cost-cutting measure for the budget-strapped LAUSD.

On Tuesday, February 7, Patch reported that during the previous week Draghi led a group of LAUSD officials on a “walk through” of the ERHS campus to address concerns that the Tri-C students would displace the special-needs students, some of whom were born with Down syndrome and who receive “Community-Based Instruction” in such simple tasks as how to shop, cook and take a bus.

The article can be viewed by clicking this link.

Some 30 special-needs students are currently being educated in two chain-linked bungalows located near the ERHS softball field on the edge of Yosemite Drive. (See photos.)

Principal Asked to ‘Locate Two Classrooms’

The LAUSD asked ERHS Principal Salvador Velasco to “locate two classrooms” for the incoming Tri-C students, Draghi said, adding that the principal is “still in communication with the District” about whether the students will end up in the two bungalows used by the special-needs students.

“Somewhere in the school we need two rooms for the Tri-C students,” Draghi said. “It is up to the principal to determine which two classrooms will cause the least disruption to everyone, including our special-needs children who are presently in the high school.”

The Tri-C students have “either had social or learning difficulties or emotional problems” that have contributed to their “lack of success in getting credits,” Draghi said, explaining that no more than 40 of these students will be attending Eagle Rock High in two rooms meant specially for them.

Allowing Low-Achievers to ‘Get Back on Track’

One of the rooms will accommodate 17 students under a “Continuation” program aimed at allowing high school students to continue their education instead of dropping out, Draghi said. The second room will accommodate another 17 students under the District’s “Special Education Continuation” program meant for students who have difficulty learning, she said.

Both groups will follow a curriculum that “allows them to get back on track,” Draghi said, adding that the students will be taught by specially trained teachers “who understand their problems.”

Draghi said she did not know where the Tri-C students headed to ERHS are currently based and whether or not all of them reside in Eagle Rock. It’s possible, she said, that some of the students might be from other parts of Northeast L.A. (Draghi referred these details to another LAUSD administrator, Janet Davis, who is in charge of continuation high schools and option schools. Patch is waiting to hear back from Davis.)

Resistance to Tri-C Students ‘a Shame’

Asked what she made of the reaction of parents who are worried about the presence of Tri-C students on campus because some of them might have had criminal backgrounds that led to their expulsion from other schools, Draghi said: “That’s a shame because the neighborhood has students who are academically at risk and are struggling.”

Besides, she added: “These students choose to continue their education instead of dropping out and they have teachers who know how to get them academically back on track.”

If anything, said Draghi, “we should welcome them so that they don’t end up on the streets—and this is what we should be doing for all our communities.”

Parental Opposition

Draghi’s arguments cut little ice with Alejandro Jimenez, the father of a junior at Eagle Rock High. Jimenez recently spoke with the LAUSD director over the phone to convey his concern over the plan to send Tri-C students to the school his daughter attends, and from where his son Alejandro Jimenez-Jaramillo graduated last summer before joining Harvard as a freshman.

“Clearly, the Tri-C program will directly and negatively impact our existing special-needs students” if they are displaced from their bungalows, Jimenez wrote in an email to Patch, pointing out that it’s not yet clear how the LAUSD plans to continue to serve the students, as required by law, in an alternative facility.

“Given LAUSD's current and worsening budget crisis, any such replacement facilities would be years in the future at best,” Jimenez said. “Until then, our special needs students will suffer in order to benefit Tri-C students who started life out with far more advantages than our special needs students.” He added: “This is a perverse and inequitable result.”

'Alarming' Failure to Consult Parents, Students

What’s more, a Tri-C program on campus is likely to diminish the school’s “attractiveness to parents who would otherwise choose to have their children attend ERHS due to its I.B., Honors and Gifted Magnet programs,” Jimenez said.

(Last summer, ERHS became the first LAUSD school to be fully certified by the global International Baccalaureate (I.B.) program, a cross-disciplinary curriculum that connects academic subject to each other as well as to key aspects in students’ lives.)

“The only thing more alarming than the substance of the District's proposed initiative is its failure to notify ERHS parents and students about it,” Jimenez said, adding: “The District must immediately suspend this proposal and hold public meetings to address the many and passionate concerns expressed by Eagle Rock parents and residents in the comments” section of Patch’s previous article on the issue.

Meanwhile, another parent whose child attends ERHS and who was the focus of one of Eagle Rock Patch's “Whiz Kid” articles in June 2011 emailed LAUSD Board Member Bennett Kayser on Sunday to inquire about the imminent arrival of Tri-C students on the Eagle Rock High campus.

Campus Safety Fears Add to Overcrowding

“If students will be coming to the program who have been expelled from other schools, then I would be concerned about their behavior and campus safety,” wrote the parent, Jillian Pierson, in the email to Kayser, which was copied to Patch. “What extra precautions will the district be offering?”

Added Pierson: “The school already suffers from over-crowded classrooms, mixing of middle school children as young as 11 with senior high school students on campus, and the challenge of educating kids with a huge diversity of academic abilities.”

Susan R February 13, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Well, Frankliln High does not want these students. They talk them out of continuing their education. Just ask their vice-principal that says, "you don't want to come back here do you?" and " you would be too old when you graduate". This certain vice-principal should be fired. And, it sounds like these students are special education students. By law special education students are entitled to keep going to school until age 22. Sorry, but the district doesn't like it and Frankliln high school doesn't either and parent's of so-called "normal" student's do not like it that is too bad for them. And, they should not be educated in bungalows hidden from the rest of the school. All schools do this. Shame on them!! There is a continuing education program for kids in Cypress Park at the community center but they do not accept special education students which is illegal. Hope someone from LAUSD is reading this. There is the new School down on San Fernando Road. These students could be placed there. But they probly would not take them either. No one wants to help students that really need help.
Susan R February 13, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Anyone see the movie "Dum and Dummier"? That is real life in LAUSD.
Michael Larsen February 13, 2012 at 03:29 PM
LAUSD seems reluctant to give the community any real information about the Tri-C program. Here are 2 links that I found that paint a bleak but not unexpected picture: http://bit.ly/A2tYxj http://bit.ly/z76CXZ
Patricia Neale Vuagniaux February 13, 2012 at 04:29 PM
It's a shame that after Eagle Rock High started to clean up-now they want to bring it down again by allowing troubled youth to swarm back in... These troubled kids affect the good kids. Eagle Rock residents have worked hard to own property here. Some may have come from worse areas and others not. My daughter went to ERHS and graduated last year. She was tormented by a girl who was bused in from another neighborhood because she had been expelled from her own districts school. My daughter suffered emotionally as well as academically until she was finally expelled once again. As a Hispanic women myself, I grew up in South Central. I experienced horrendous abuse at the hands of "troubled" teens. I was beaten up as well as locked in a closet for several hours from the "continuation kids" on more than a few occasions. The abuse went on until I was forced from the school and transferred to another district. I worked extremely hard to move away from gang infested youth of all races-with no morals and not one ounce of regret for their actions. Unless you have lived through it, watched your family suffer-you will never understand. I thought of sending my son-who is also special needs (13) and suffers from a learning disability to ERHS but at this rate, it looks like private school. I would never allow him to experience the indignities I endured. Shame on LAUSD for sacrificing the good kids for the bad ones. Sincerely, Patricia Neale Vuagniaux
erxicana February 13, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Mr. Singh, I am AGAIN disappointed in your assumptions and labeling of students who should be supported and provided the opportunity to graduate as "potential drop outs"....as you keep reporting in a divide and conquer mode vs a balanced article...I am seriously thinking about dropping patch from my daily routine.....Shame on you!
Ajay Singh (Editor) February 13, 2012 at 08:16 PM
@erxicana: I just got off the phone with the LAUSD administrator who coordinates the so-called Tri-C schools, or community day schools, and she had no hesitation acknowledging that the students in question exhibit "at-risk behavior" and that many of them have been expelled from regular LAUSD schools on a variety of charges, including criminal ones. To that extent, I see myself as doing nothing more or less than reporting what I have been told by District authorities who run these very programs designed to prevent students from dropping out.
Leticia February 13, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Is ERHS & LAUSD being exposed to future civil lawsuits stemming out of actions done by "at risk behavior" students on and off campus grounds? What preventive actions will be done to assure the safety of the major established school population from the "criminal ones?" Will there be metal detectors for potentially hidden weapons, firearms, etc.? Why can't already established programs in bigger schools or Optomist be an alternative? Why solicit outside criminals & expose the community to potential physical or threaten incounters? I don't know but is LAUSD willing to be exposure to civil lawsuit knowing the current events that have taken place including that of our district's budget cutting?
Tim Ryder February 13, 2012 at 09:00 PM
My dad used to say, "When you get lemons, make lemonade" and I think that saying can apply to this situation. Considering that these 40 'dropouts" will be tomorrow's 'drop-ins' to the jail system, we should look at how we can create an more intelligent strategy to enable these kids to choose a more productive future. The fear-mongering types like Larsen have failed once again to scare us into submission. I say we embrace these kids, welcome them into the community, actively introduce them to the political arena and have them work with TERA, the ERNC, Jose Huizar, and the slew of other community organizations around and involve these kids in the community so they can help contribute to a better society for all of us. It would be much cheaper than having them sit in a jail cell for $50 grand a year.
Rick Shaw February 13, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Not suprised the ERock Pot Shop crowd is happy about the potential increase in business.
Rick Shaw February 13, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Those concerned about "labels" and increasing pot sales won't mind the coming metal detectors, stabbings and gang fights...I will. Also, LAUSD saying this is a "cost saving measure" is ridiculous. LAUSD will get PAID and cares about nothing else.
jayres February 13, 2012 at 10:13 PM
I think we just need the right educator to help with these students. Michelle Pfeiffer could shape their Dangerous Minds, or Edward James Olmos could help them Stand and Deliver, we could call on Morgan Freeman when they need a friend to Lean On Me. So long as he knows that Robert Guillaume is the HNC.
Concerned February 13, 2012 at 10:35 PM
I happen to work with these kids everyday and can tell you from experience that most of our students come from ERHS. Not all of our students are behavior problems. Most of them are in trouble because of the teenager sickness in other words "lazyness". these kids deserve a second chance without being labeled as "trouble makers"!! Before most of you talk you should go visit a CDS or continuation school!! And get to meet some of these kids. You will be truly surprised!!!
Rick Shaw February 13, 2012 at 10:49 PM
That you, Mr. Velasco?
Michael Larsen February 13, 2012 at 11:00 PM
LAUSD needs to lay out the FACTS in this situation. Anonymous assurances that everything will be just fine just won't cut it.
Christina G. February 14, 2012 at 01:44 AM
It's sad that as parents are we learning about this from ER Patch. ERHS has enforced parental involvement in our kids schooling, but why was parental opinion not solicited for such an impactful decision? As Jillian Pierson stated, our school is already over-crowded and has the unique combination of being a Junior and Senior High School. At this point I don't really know how to feel about this situation. My utmost concern is the safety of my child. Specifically being exposed to individuals that expose at-risk behavior, have been kicked out of other schools for charges - some criminal charges, and what precautions the school has the budget to support. We need to hear offical communication from LAUSD and ERHS!
jayres February 14, 2012 at 02:12 AM
I've mentioned this several times before here on Patch, but LAUSD has built so many new state-of-the-art schools all over the South LA area. Nearby my work there is 8 to 10 new schools all within a three mile radius, A couple High Schools, the rest middle and elementary. The surrounding neighborhoods are garbage and don't have a high enough tax base to support such extravagant facilities. But areas with strong, well kept, high tax neighborhoods, have old facilities and overcrowding. In an attempt to be fair, LAUSD actually penalizes wealthier communities in order to subsidize poorer ones. Only they don't level the playing field, they actually neglect higher taxed communities, making them scrimp and scrape for funds that have been diverted out. Its common knowledge that the more you pay in property and municipal taxes in LA the less you get in return on that investment. South Pas schools would not be nearly as good if they subsidized El Sereno, Highland Park and the like. At Marshal HS in Los Feliz they made a huge deal about the new Football Field/Track, but that neighborhood should be able to afford a project of that cost every year with all the local taxes.
Susan R February 14, 2012 at 05:54 AM
Concerned had some great comments and is absolutely correct. These kids may just need extra help and to give up on them is a huge mistake. I am sorry that Patricia had such bad school experiences. That shows there was a sever lack of supervision at the school and probly had bad teachers and bad staff. All schools need to have good supervision to keep kids in line. Special education students are supervised the whole time they are in school. All students should be. It is better these kids get educated than be in jails. Good teachers can turn any kid around. Problem is there are not enough good and caring teachers.
Susan R February 14, 2012 at 05:58 AM
AJ, seriously you need to sit in on some classes including special education classes to see what really goes on. Did you see the movie "dum & dummier?". The movie make be a little extreme in the point but it is really reality. See the movie.
Sarah Bucolic February 16, 2012 at 07:03 PM
If I'm understanding this correctly, special education kids are not being brought in. Kids who are doing poorly by choice and who have gone to criminal ways are being brought in? I wouldn't call them special education kids if this is the case. I'm not against bringing them in and giving them a stable learning classroom where someone will try to convince them to turn their lives around but not at the cost to the special education kids. These are not kids with learning disabilities that are being brought in. They are kids who are choosing to mess up at school. Is this what is going on here? If so do not categorize them as special education kids. It's not fair to the kids who really do have learning disabilities. I think also that maybe some of these troubled kids need more parent involvement. If it wasn't for my mom intervening in high school I would have been kicked out of school just because the dean didn't like my brother and associated me with him therefore didn't want me there as well even with good grades. The root of the problem needs to be found and a solution found instead of the LAUSD just salivating over money. This whole topic is just sad and shows how much more money means to the people in charge of our children's education rather than the students themselves.

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