Nearly 200 parents, students and East L.A. community residents hit the streets of downtown Tuesday to present their formal demands to two influential local elected officials, L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina and LAUSD Board Member, David Tokofsky.
Calling on both officials to work together to speed up the process for the selection of a site for a new high school in East L.A., marchers were met with a pleasant surprise from LAUSD Board President Jose Huizar, whose district includes Roosevelt High School.
“The community can’t wait any longer,” said Huizar in the shadows of the L.A. County Supervisors headquarters in downtown, where the first rally of the evening was held. “As LAUSD Board President, this board of education is not going to approve a real estate matter until we approve a site for Garfield.
“We have already looked at over 30 sites to relieve Garfield’s severe overcrowding… we looked at it to death. Now the parents have spoken. The community has spoken. It’s time for officials to make a decision.”
Huizar’s announcement was immediately met with loud cheers from supporters who have been working for months to get local officials to commit to a workable plan.
Molina, who two weeks ago released a letter expressing her strong opposition to any high school being built adjacent to Belvedere Park in East L.A., did not come out to address the protesters, nor did she send out a representative to receive a letter from Inner City Struggle asking for her support.
When it became clear no one was coming out, students and parents chanted, “Shame on you.”
According to Luis Sanchez, director of Inner City, Molina’s staff members had repeatedly asked them not to have the march start at her office.
“The students really felt let down that she wouldn’t come out, or send someone out,” said Sanchez. “It’s not the first time, though. The letter (from two weeks ago) let them down… When she didn’t approve the Belvedere site high school plan, or our initial proposal, that made them (the plans) dead in the water. She’s very powerful in getting things to happen or preventing them from happening.”
“Basically, our line now is that we want Molina and Tokofsky to work together,” added Sanchez.
A response from Molina’s office was not received by deadline, though she reportedly told a local daily newspaper that she would wait to comment on any new plans for a school until LAUSD makes its proposals official.
When marchers reached LAUSD headquarters Tuesday, Tokofsky was waiting and invited the marchers into the main chambers. While he praised the students and parents for caring enough to march through the streets for their cause, he did not commit to backing Inner City’s preferred LAUSD plan for East L.A., which would transform Hammel Elementary School into a high school for 2,000 students and transform East Side Learning Center into new elementary school.
Tokofsky did say, however, that he would approve whatever plan the community came to a consensus on.
That is in stark contrast to Huizar, who went out on a limb Tuesday.
“That says a lot about his leadership,” says Sanchez, in reference to Huizar. “He’s the only elected official who has taken any stance on this.”
Indeed, if Huizar’s vow sticks on the LAUSD Board, then concerned parents and students won’t have to wait much longer to finally be able to see something that has eluded the community for seven years: an LAUSD approved site for a new high school in East Los Angeles that would relieve the serious overcrowding at Garfield and brighten the prospects for innumerable future Eastside students