East L.A. for Pilots
On February 23, 2010, InnerCity Struggle (ICS) celebrated a historic victory for Esteban E. Torres High School with the implementation of five pilot schools for the campus as approved by the Los Angeles Unified School Board of Education in 5-2 favorable vote.
After six years of organizing work beginning with the fight to build new schools in East Los Angeles, which resulted in the construction of Esteban E. Torres High School and William R. Anton Elementary School, ICS continues to work to ensure East L.A. schools provide a high quality education through a community campaign for the expansion of Pilot Schools.
"As a student I recall going to the district in 2004 to demand the construction of a new high school to relieve the overcrowding at Garfield High School, and now I continue the fight by promoting high-quality Pilot Schools with the potential of becoming an education model for all schools on the Eastside," said Gabriela Perez, United Students Organizer and Garfield High School Alumnus.
InnerCity Struggle worked for two years to build support and awareness of a Pilot School model, through the East Los Angeles Education Collaborative comprised of CBO's, civic leaders, parents and students. Additionally, ICS parent and student leaders educated and organized to develop a clear understanding in the community about the need for school transformation. In the month leading up to the Public School Choice Advisory Vote, ICS spoke to over 3,000 parents, students and community members to educate them about the voting process. Over 84% of parents, students, teachers, and community members voted in favor of change and the expansion of Pilot Schools as an innovative in-district reform in East Los Angeles.
"We finally changed the direction of our schools in East Los Angeles, the Pilot Schools model is a viable option for schools and families across the district. As Parents we have a voice and believe that our communities can be successful if given the tools, resources, and autonomy to lead our schools toward success," expressed Maria Leon, InnerCity Struggle member and parent of a Garfield High School student.
"I've worked with the community, teachers, parents and students in this process and was encouraged with their participation. The work of InnerCity Struggle's members and the East L.A. Education Collaborative was the key to the Pilot Schools being approved for for Esteban E. Torres High School. The community outpouring was the most telling point for support of Pilot Schools at Esteban E. Torres High School. I believe the Board of Education in its majority heard the voice of the community and acted accordingly," said retired U.S. Congressman Esteban E. Torres, the namesake for the new school and a Garfield High School Alumnus.
East Los Angeles schools will have the opportunity to become a model for school transformation through the implementation of five pilot schools. Coordinated by the Los Angeles Education Partnership, the five pilot schools will work in collaboration as a Community School responsible for the academic success and emotional well-being of students. The Community-Schools model has the potential to become the first of its kind in the nation by establishing community partnerships to enhance the instructional program. For Torres such partnerships include Bienvenidos for medical services, a student-run bank coordinated by the Pan American Bank, and the first bookstore in East Los Angeles through Tia Chucha's and author Luis R. Rodriguez.
"As a community we are committed to monitor the five Pilot Schools to ensure they remain accountable to the community and deliver a rigorous and high quality education for all students," said Maria Brenes, Executive Director for InnerCity Struggle.
Because of InnerCity Struggle's phenomenal organizing work through the past 15 years, Executive Director Maria Brenes was named one of six "2010 Grassroots Leaders to Watch" by Liberty Hill Foundation.