North Hollywood school faces cuts because of rise in white student population

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Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood is one of nine schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District facing staff cuts and in turn larger class sizes because the percentage of nonwhite students has dipped below 70 percent.

Following a 1978 Los Angeles Superior Court-ordered integration program, LAUSD schools in neighborhoods with large minority populations get more funding when the proportion of white students is below 30 percent.

The nonwhite population at Reed Middle School has fallen below the 70 percent mark for the past two years, according to a March 22 letter sent to parents from Local District Northeast Superintendent Linda Del Cueto. The district has continued to fund the school as if it still met the 70 percent threshold of Hispanic, black, Asian and non-Anglo students. But in the fall, the school will no longer be counted as predominantly minority.

If total enrollment doesn’t change, that could mean cutting five teaching positions and one counselor position, said Sandra Gephart Fontana, instructional director for Local District East. Fontana also wanted to allay fears that surfaced at a March 15 meeting with parents that one nurse and one librarian position could be cut. However, she said those cuts were never on the table.

As for the five teaching positions and one counselor, those jobs could still be saved, Fontana said. The district has looked into an alternative method that would fund the school under a “per pupil” spending model, she said.

“It will provide additional resources to the school and should ameliorate the loss,” she said. “It’s not exactly sure how many positions will be preserved by that, but it does provide additional resources.”

That also could avert class size increases in English, math, history and social sciences, she said. Those classes could have increased from 35 to 39 students.

Most LAUSD schools do qualify as predominantly Hispanic, black, Asian or non-Anglo, Fontana said. The other eight schools that will lose that status because of changing demographics are 3rd Street Elementary (Hancock Park), Broadway Elementary (Venice), Dahlia Heights Elementary (Eagle Rock), Knollwood Preparatory Academy Elementary (Granada Hills), Plainview Academic Charter Academy (Tujunga), Stonehurst Avenue Elementary (Sun Valley), Emerson Community Charter (Westwood) and Grant High (Valley Glen), according to LAUSD spokeswoman Barbara Jones.

Some parents at the March 15 meeting were concerned that the demographic data might not be accurate, Fontana said.

Carol Kiernan Convey, coordinator for the parent-teacher-student group Friends of Reed, believes the data about the school’s demographics are incorrect. She said she has heard from more than 15 mixed-ethnicity couples with children at the school who are censoring themselves when identifying their ethnicity in district documents. They’re concerned that in the current political climate, where immigration and deportation have become high-profile topics, identifying as nonwhite could have consequences, she said.


“The feeling is you must be Caucasian or white to get the most advantages,” she said of the response she’s encountered from parents.

“We’re going to have to work harder to get people to fill out the forms correctly … because they need to know that helps us,” she said. “It helps us to celebrate our diversity and when you’re of a mixed household, claim that.”

Veronica Gonzalez, whose daughter is a sixth-grade student at the school, said so far she’s pleased with the district’s response to look for additional funds to avoid cuts.

Gonzalez, who is involved in several parent committees at the school, thinks parents are confused about how to identify their ethnicity on a standard district form sent out each year.

“They’re assuming that because you’re here in the United States, you put ‘white,’ ” she said. “Especially with the Hispanic community that I speak to, they’re very fearful since the election.”

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