High Expectations for New Esteban Torres High School Pilots

After two-years of grassroots organizing to create awareness and gather support for the Pilot School model, InnerCity Struggle and the East Los Angeles Education Collaborative-comprised of community-based organizations, civic leaders, parents and students-are likely still celebrating their victory Tuesday when the LAUSD School Board voted to approve all five pilots school applications for the new Esteban Torres High School, rather then just the three and two charter schools recommended by the district's superintendent.

In preparation for the Public School Choice decision day, InnerCity Struggle in collaboration with retired U.S. Rep. Esteban E. Torres, the Los Angeles Education Partnership and East Los Angeles community leaders, gathered at the East LA Library to support the five pilot schools proposed. Former U.S. Rep. Esteban E. Torres, whose is the namesake of the high school, told EGP on Wednesday he was very encouraged by the outcome of the school board's vote and believed it was due to community action.

"I have met with teachers, parents and students over the course of the last several months, and I credit the good work of InnerCity Struggle, the East LA Education Collaborative, United Students, and the teachers for their tremendous effort in the balloting polls that took place a couple of weeks ago," Torres said. "They let their voices be heard. They told the Board they are ready for change in East LA Schools."

Maria Brenes, executive director of InnerCity Struggle, told EGP that while they are very excited that under School Board President Monica Garcia's leadership the rest of the school board granted East LA the opportunity to take in-district reform to a different level, the fight to improve eastside education has just begun.

"Now the real work begins, we expect a lot from these five schools," Brenes said. "And we will be there to monitor, make sure that we create one of the best high schools in all of East LA, in all the district."
Brenes said that in promoting the pilot model, they were simultaneously trying to get the Board to understand that the eastside has "quality, experienced  teachers." Through their cooperation, the soon-to-be pilot-school teachers at Torres High agreed to work under different terms in their contracts, she said.

While parents, students and the community supported the pilot proposals, they will also be held accountable for the academic achievement at Torres; a community meeting will be coordinated sometime in the future to address this topic, Brenes said.

Based on the "Belmont Zone of Choice" in the Pico-Union area, the education activists aimed to create the "East Los Angeles Education Empowerment Zones of Choice," along with Garfield High School, Despite Garfield's focus team being ordered to revise their proposal by the end of March, undergo monitoring and reconsideration of its authority coming in three years, instead of five, East LA parents, students, faculty, and community members through the advisory vote have demonstrated overwhelming support for teachers at eastside schools and confidence in student academic potential.

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