Romer Presents Own Plan to Help Troubled South L.A. School

Tanya Caldwell
February 22, 2006

Los Angeles schools Supt. Roy Romer threw a wrench into a charter school's plans to take over troubled Jefferson High School by offering his own proposal at a special board meeting Tuesday.

Romer said his plan includes getting the year-round school back on a traditional calendar by September and reducing the number of students there by at least 1,000 from about 3,800.

He said he has been talking with officials from Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools — one of two charter groups hoping to open campuses around Jefferson High to reduce pressure on the South Los Angeles school — and came up with the strategy.

His proposal includes providing a campus where Alliance can operate, in exchange for rental fees of 16% of the per-student funding Alliance receives.

Romer's proposal excluded Green Dot Public Schools, which last year launched a bid to take over Jefferson High. The charter organization is now asking to open six charter schools in the district, including some that would serve Jefferson.

The superintendent suggested shuffling hundreds of students among other nearby schools — including the newly opened campus on the Santee Dairy site, New Middle School No. 4, and Abe Friedman Occupational Center — to ease the burden on Jefferson. Alliance would operate its charter school at New Middle School No. 4.

Steve Barr, Green Dot's founder and chief executive, said Romer asked if he'd be interested in getting in on the proposal, but Barr declined because he said the reforms wouldn't bring about as much change as adding more schools.

"I'm not interested in doing one school on campus," Barr said. "They continue to do these watered-down proposals … and I don't think people have any confidence in the marginal plans that they're proposing."

Romer's intentions came as a surprise to some board members, who complained that he hadn't given them anything in writing.

"It compromises the integrity and intelligence of the board to do an oral presentation of this magnitude," said board member Marguerite LaMotte.

Romer said he raised the proposal because he wanted the board to be aware of other options as it decides on Green Dot's and Alliance's charter requests.

"We have arrived at a conclusion to an agreement with Alliance as to how do we do this," he said. "But because this subject was going to be discussed today I felt I owed this to [the board]."

The board will vote on the charter issue in March.