Saturday, April 21, 2012

Jonas Salk Community Day School

Jonas Salk Community Day School, in East Hawthorne, is a representative example of the crap and corruption that defines Los  Angeles County Office of Education.

TheisAlternative Education program serves students who have been previously incarcerated, the majority for drug possession or drug sale on local campuses. I had subbed at the campus twice, and the disturbing results of what I had witnessed indicated to me that there is a growing problem with the whole model of public education.

First, I want to relate what other staff members in the County shared with me, including one woman who disdainfully remarked, “I’ve got my respect.” What she meant; she would not compromise her own self-respect just to keep a job. After one summer at the school, she sought a transfer. She was not about to let a bunch of teenagers tell her what to do, she told me. The Salk program had quite a reputation, so I gathered.

Another substitute teacher, who has survived full-time teaching at Locke High School before taking on long-term assignments at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, called the site “Jonas Suck.” This coming from a man who had dealt with students at Locke High before the charter, who had threatened his life, who sprayed fire extinguisher white foam across the classroom on a frequent bases, and whom he had prayed on a daily basis that certain students would never come to class. Notwithstanding these horrors, this substitute maintained a positive mien in a mean world, but he would not go back to "Jonas Suck".
Jonas Salk Community is a damaging program, one in which the adolescents pretty much get away with everything. The school is mostly "run" by one older woman, who claims to command a lot of respect. She provided me the referrals, she would scold and lecture the students, she would make the phone calls to parents if their kids got out of hand in the classroom. Yet even she admitted to me very quietly: ""There is very little we can do to hold kids accountable."" She would have the students sit outside, which for some was a grievous consequence. What does a substitute teacher do, though when that no longer works?

Jonas Salk School (Outside)

 Before I pass any judgment on Salk and the culture of disrespect which takes place unrequited, though, I have to write about the terrible family conditions that some of these kids endure.
One young man told me that his mother was in prison. I never heard about his father. Another kid told me that he was kicked out of his house, and he neglected to tell me if he was living anywhere else. Some kids were bright but not wise, they engaged in illicit drug sales on their home campuses. In some startling cases, a number of students had been kicked out of middle school, and they had never enrolled in a public high school, bouncing around from one Community Day School to another. In more extreme cases, these students had been kicked out of other CDS schools under County jurisdiction, either for rowdy behavior, rampant misconduct, or just refusing to show up. From El Segundo to Torrance, students from the South Bay end up at Jonas Salk for criminal reasons, not just for lack of credits. I even met some students from South Torrance High School and El Segundo High.

The drug use that is prevalent in youth today should be enough to alarm even the most naive among us. The majority of students in the school were arrested and transfered from their local schools because of drug possession and sale. Most of the students enrolled in this school had major run-ins with law and authority, too. Many of them were still under probation. The last thing many of these students need is one more location where they get away with everything. At Jonas Salk, kids get away with everything.

One of the full-time teachers at Salk commented that students were reportedly writing in the textbooks, vandalism pusnishable by a fine. Nothing happened. "You have to give kids consequences," the teacher complained to me. As a substitute teacher there on two occasions, I and the attending staff commanded very little authority. In some Community Day Schools, the site secretary whom I worked with commanded enough respect to suspend students for flagrant disrespect. At Salk, students would throw trash around the room, talk over the teacher and the paraeducator on site, do no work. When I subbed there, there was no lesson plan. I could create an assignment for the students to work on,  but I had very little authority beyond holding kids in place. I could not send kids home, no one would support me enough to push the students to behave. No suspensions, no authority, no way to run a school. The kids were very much in charge at these sites. The last thing that students need is more license to be out of control. Whether they admit it or not, they want some adult, if not their parents, to hold them accountable. Since most teachers do not step up, they take a stand early and often against authority, a dangeroud trend which hurts our youth and imperils them for the future.

One young lady yelled at me when I expected her to put her papers away. Other students just throw things around the room (yes, I know that I have already brought this up). Most students do not bring any supplies to school. In the midst of this chaos, the couselor in charge of the PAU actually expected me to come up with a lesson and lead a diligent little class through a worthwhile lesson. As a rule, students in Community Day Schools do not think that they have to listen to a substitute teacher. In many cases, they do not even listen to the full-time teacher or even their parents.

I do not write these things with the express interest of digging up a lot of dirt. What people in this state, and this country, need to realize is that a cult of equality and law-suit terror is hurting students and hampering teachers from doing their jobs. We need to deregulate schools, we need to keep schools accountable in the best way possible, through choice. Students from broken homes and dangerous neighborhoods need parents, not friends, administration and discipline, not accomodation and dysfunction. The Los Angeles County Office of Education is just not doing well enough for the most at-risk youth in our communities, young men and women who have developed a crass and disconcerting entitlement mentality, buffered by race-baiting and affirmative action gone awry, which has permitted them to take charge at the expense of the adults in their lives. Kids need caring, they need consequences, and if we expect the state to do it, then their future is all the more compromised.

Jonas Salk is hardly unique, though very representative, of the larger problems plaguing public education today. Choice, consequences, and consistency are lacking in a world gone weak in the knees, where educators or more concerned about their paychecks and pensions than their pupils, where administrators are worried more about losing their jobs than losing their future, and where parents are not being parents, enabled by a welfare state to have kids without first becoming parents themselves.

1 comment:

  1. I went to this school for a year , i was arrested over a threat i had made and was expelled even though i had proven the threat was not serious , i went from advanced classes to middle school grade education with the constant threat if being robbed or having to fight another student , Some days kids would even roll up blunts at lunch or break time and smoke them in plain sight and the teachers would act like they didnt see it , please shut this school down the amount of laziness and corruption should never be able to get this point at an educational facility