Great Public Schools Now, a private group that emerged last year from a plan to expand charter schools in Los Angeles Unified, has been assuring the public that it would broaden its mission by providing financial support to all kinds of schools, including traditional public schools.
But its first three grant recipients, which were named last week – a charter school, an after-school program and Teach For America, the teacher training program that places recent college graduates in classrooms – provided little evidence that traditional schools in Los Angeles Unified were yet in the mix.
But that’s all going to change, Great Public Schools Now Executive Director Myrna Castrejón said in an interview this week. She said ongoing conversations aimed at a collaboration with the school district will lead to an announcement this fall of a working arrangement between Great Public Schools Now and the district. For now, details of how exactly the collaboration would work are still unclear.
“This is something we’re doing together,” she said. “But the answer is, we’re not there yet. The timing isn’t right to get to that point right now, but we have a commitment with the superintendent to work on those issues.”
If there is a commitment from Superintendent Michelle King, who has been directly involved in the talks, she declined to elaborate.
District spokeswoman Shannon Haber said King had nothing to add beyond her statement last week, that the district is “always looking for solutions that address the needs of all students. Any plan that looks to replicate high-quality public schools, including district schools, is one we look forward to hearing more about.”
The new focus from Great Public Schools Now is to “replicate” successful schools and programs, no matter what flavor — charters, traditional schools, magnets, anything that works. The efforts would take place within 10 L.A. Unified neighborhoods that Great Public Schools Now has identified as facing economic challenges and poorly performing schools.
She said “a good clue” to identifying possible grant recipients would be the list of 49 schools and programs Great Public Schools Now released last December that reflect those characteristics. It included 23 magnet programs, seven traditional schools and 19 charter schools that might qualify for grants.
Which district school within the neighborhoods might benefit from a grant remains part of the current discussions, Castrejón said, but ideas under consideration include “adding seats” to a successful magnet program or “adding a second site,” like an additional classroom, to expand a program that is thriving.
For any grant winner, the challenge for Great Public Schools Now would be to work with the district to find teachers and principals, develop an instruction plan and identify a facility or space to accommodate the effort.
“We have had conceptual conversations with the district,” Castrejón said. “The work is still emerging.”