Commemorating Racial Struggles Should Help Prevent Real Life Tensions, Not Provide a Stage for Them

LAUSD needs to intervene to prevent the Mandarin School's campaign from turning into a struggle between races.

The situation surrounding the pending move of the Mandarin Immersion (MI) program has become deeply disturbing, and no worse than last Friday when Marina Del Rey Middle School celebrated Black History Month.

MDR welcomed the LAUSD feeder elementary schools including the MI program
in a celebration of diversity—one of our biggest strengths at MDR. Our
Performing Arts Magnet students--my own two children among them--offered snippets of a dynamic program documenting the Civil Rights Movement in song, dance and documentary oral narrative. My son played the news anchor, reporting from actual historical record. My daughter sang traditional black anthems in the chorus. Some MDR performing arts magnet students are professional performers and some are just incorporating the arts into their education. The culmination of over a month of multi-disciplinary academic study and arts rehearsals, the commemoration was quite moving.

We had specially invited the MI families as a “welcome to the neighborhood” in the hopes of alleviating some of their fears simply by meeting fellow parents, seeing our beautiful middle school campus (designed by world famous African American mid-century architect Paul Williams) and experiencing some of our curriculum and culture. Outside, a festival atmosphere provided the elementary and middle school students a chance to visit booths featuring programs of all the schools. The Venice High School Choir wandered through caroling.

Rather than taking part in the festivities, the MI group held a meeting and peaked into our classrooms. One would think that with their principal along and one of their parents an executive at Green Dot--well versed in campus sharing--they would have known better. What a kick in the gut!

The contrast was unmistakable: the mostly black and brown MDR students commemorating the historical struggle for equal access to education while a group of entitled, affluent families sneaks around to take their classrooms away.

As a longtime Venice resident and LAUSD parent, I support an effort to keep strong programs in our neighborhood. But it was a mark of LAUSD success to me that this program needed more space to grow in order to serve more students. it's understandable that the move to a campus eight minutes away is causing frustration. But the campaign by a group of entitled parents to get what they want for THEIR children ONLY has gone haywire. It seems they will stop at nothing to get their demands met, even resorting to discrediting, racial stereotyping and fear mongering. It promises to get worse this weekend when they have planned a public demonstration which we will have to counter. While it is understandable that parents of kindergarteners would be concerned about sharing space with middle schoolers, their claims of gang fights at our school and the supposed necessity of a fulltime guard at the  restroom to protect them from our middle schoolers is insulting to the students and teachers of our school. Petitions in Oakwood to keep the program in Venice in order to boost property values turn the Prop 13 debate on its head--now demanding that schools prop up property values rather than property taxes supporting public schools. These self-important parents are even taking credit for decreased gang activity in Oakwood, something that should come as quite a surprise to our local police and community leaders who have devoted significant resources to that complex effort for years, and who deserve credit for the success. If the MI families think they deserve credit, I hope they will be first in line to take responsiblity for crime if it does occur.

Several times, I invited MI parents to meet with MDR parents. They have refused, stating that it will not serve their purposes. I have been accused of having financial incentive in their move; one person assumed my husband and I were employees of LAUSD. The truth is that I'm a parent who sees the schools for ALL our children, not just my own. I have worked hard with my community to engage parents and teachers in the whole Venice family of schools. I am gratified to know there are many more like me in our neighborhood's schools.

For an appreciating audience, Black History Month celebrations like MDR's provided an important reminder of the racial struggles for public education in our nation's past. We do not need to revisit them in real time. So the question needs to be asked of Superintendent Deasy: Isn’t it possible for these families to get what their children deserve without taking something—including the self-respect—away from our students at MDR?

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Karen Wolfe March 10, 2013 at 10:24 PM
you as an invitation to a facilities tour. As far as siphoning off our bounty, I am obviously not referring to test scores. I’m talking about the facilities and the space—some of which was paid for by a grant that our teacher wrote. And you’re going to take more space than the current charter co-located there? It’s starting to look like this is not a good fit for MDR either. The district has told us we are not allowed to grow our program but you guys are encouraged to grow aggressively?! We have a waiting list of nearly 100 kids we can’t accept because we have to make room for a co-location? While you guys have been demanding sinks and auditoriums, we have been demanding better instruction and investment in our programs. We had two teachers RIFed who were integral to our school. They allowed us to extend our arts program to the children in our community school. Now that they’re gone, only the magnet students have easy access to the arts. The list goes on and on. I don’t know if any school is willing to have their students chased out to make room for yours. The district might be thrilled with the higher test scores that your program attracts, but their job is to educate all the children, not just a select group of westsiders. Rather than importing higher scores and displacing existing students, I’ll be pushing for them to improve the education from within. If that meshes with your agenda, let’s work together. Otherwise, we’re at cross purposes.
concernedneighbor March 11, 2013 at 12:19 AM
I think you forgot to apologize for being rude, condescending, and for making judgments about 500 people you've never even met. Maybe nobody came to your program because you're a selfish bitch and a raving lunatic and nobody can stand to be anywhere near you. I feel bad for your kids - and any other kids that are relying on you to help them in any way. (And to be clear - I don't have any kids - I just can't believe what a horrible self-centered wretch you are...)
Kim Kabbash Smith March 15, 2013 at 05:37 PM
How unfortunate that you “took the stage,” to make untrue statements about the MI Program. We are not “entitled affluent” parents, are you kidding? Where did you get this information? I am a Venice native, Mark Twain Class of ’79, and Venice High ’82, and your comments are offensive and serve to cause nothing but gossip and unfounded rage. When I arrived at MDR we followed instructions from MDR and went where we were told. I followed my daughter into the auditorium and we thought we needed to leave because of an unrelated performance, so clearly there was a miscommunication. We did not know the performance was intended for us, and did not receive any invitation that I ever saw. We wanted to respect your schedule and keep to our “tour.” You do not know what we’ve been dealing with, or what we’ve been told or by whom. For you to reference “black and brown MDR students,” speaks to your mindset, please don’t profess to know what we saw or think. And I know of no public demonstration other than the long line of parents gathering to enroll their children in the MI program at 1:30 a.m. at the front of Broadway Elementary. These are hard working families that do not pay $30,000 per year to enroll in private schools, but instead battle what they must in the best interest of the children getting an education in this very stressful environment. We need to band together, not share false pretense and misinformation.
Kim Kabbash Smith March 15, 2013 at 05:42 PM
Sounds like your displeasure, as ours, should be appropriately directed to LAUSD, Zimmer and Deasy. Good luck.
Greg Newell April 19, 2013 at 01:27 AM
I'm curious where this topic netted out? I have heard rumblings that they are planning to move the mandarin program to MDR but parents rejected the plan on both ends. How can you fit both growing schools on one campus? Won't it take away from mdr? I am looking at magnet schools for my soon to be middle schooler but this turmoil alarms me. Is mdr going to be a language magnet or have marine science? Where do the funds get spent?


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