Los Angeles, CA
Earlier today, LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy and the leadership of the West Athens Elementary Parents Union (called the Aguilas de West Athens, or “AWA”) signed a groundbreaking Partnership Agreement aimed at transforming their school over the coming years. The negotiated Partnership Agreement is a first of its kind within LAUSD, where organized parents have successfully negotiated a number of important “kids first” reforms to be implemented at their school in the coming year.
The highlights of the West Athens Partnership Agreement include an investment of $300,000 in new staffing positions to improve school climate and student safety; a renewed focus on Common Core implementation and higher quality professional development for their teachers; and plans to significantly strengthen parent voice and parent power at the school over the coming year.
Parents and district officials spoke collectively about the collaborative process that brought about this agreement and their plans to transform the school in the coming years:
Winter Hall, one of the Steering Committee members of the Parents Union:
"We are not only celebrating that we are making some steps towards changing West Athens Elementary, but we are also celebrating the fact that despite what differences in opinion that we've had, whether it be with the school, district, parents, teachers... this proves that we are able to sit down, despite all of that, and have a dialogue... If we can't sit and talk...we are stuck."
"My hope is for West Athens is that it's not just an elementary school that is preparing students for middle school, but that it is an elementary school that starts to prep these children for college. That should be what we're thinking about here... And I hope that the collaboration between the school and parents and teachers continues. I don't want for us to... forget that we need each other."
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy:
"I actually think this is a remarkable model. I was very humbled to have seen people work through difficult situations to lead forward on behalf of no one but youth. All our parents were right. It's not about going to middle school; it's about university. It's about being the next set of leaders in this community."
"I also want to thank the parent leadership, the parent union... and Parent Revolution for finding yet another way in LAUSD to be first about problem solving as opposed to blaming."
"I'm proud to sign this pledge, and this promise to sign to support the school. This is a beginning."
Cheryl Hildreth, Instructional Area Superintendent for LAUSD:
"Change doesn't come overnight. This process has shown... that it is dialogue, where people are talking to each other face to face with respect – that is what gets problems solved. I know that this process will continue because we have parents who are invested in the education of their children"
AWA, the Parents Union, was created by parents at the start of the school year out of frustration with years of low academic performance and serious concerns about school climate and safety for their children. The parents of AWA knew that they had they had California’s Parent Trigger law as a tool they could use, but, like other Parents Unions, wanted to first try working collaboratively with the district to achieve an improved school for their kids. And for the first time ever, LAUSD came to the table to negotiate with parents before they gathered a single Parent Trigger petition, just as they routinely do with powerful employee unions. It was this willingness to collaborate that helped bring about the deal that AWA parents and Superintendent John Deasy signed today.
“We are very pleased with the support we have received from the district,” said Lerina Corder, Coordinator of AWA. “They listened to our concerns and our objectives for the school, and they have been meaningful partners throughout the process. We have been working together to develop solutions, and by signing this agreement today, we are committing to continuing to do so.”
“This level of compromise and collaboration is the next wave of the parent power movement,” said Ben Austin, Executive Director of Parent Revolution, the non-profit that has been working with and supporting AWA.
“This is an example of parent power working, and the movement spreading. When you look back to Desert Trails, the district refused to work with the parents, and they had to petition for a charter school; and even at 24th Street Elementary, the parents had to engage in a full blown petition campaign before the district really came to the table as partners. At West Athens, it is clear that the district views parents as collaborators and valuable stakeholders in their children’s education. Parents and the district were able to strike a collaborative agreement that’s good for kids. It just shows how far this movement has come.”
Parent Revolution transforms underperforming public schools by empowering parents to advocate for what is good for children, not adults, through grassroots community organizing.