Arnold Butler Leads Inglewood Schools to Join President Obama in Educational Accountability
President Obama has openly challenged the education community with the reality that we must become more accountable. By putting additional funds into the system, we must now be ready to step up our efforts to show an increased level of competence in the coming years. Specific areas mentioned were Math, Science and parent involvement.
As an elected member to the Inglewood Unified Board of Education, I take these challenges seriously. Our board has started out on the road to transform the District to meet these challenges of the twenty-first century and the high expectations of our community.
In recent months, the Inglewood Unified School District has been the point of general interest as we attempt to bring about change in our District. As one of the elected trustees, it became clear that the real Inglewood should be presented to address these negative statements:
The first real challenge to our efforts was the open discussion concerning the extension of our Superintendent's contract. After a period of open discussion by the board, it was decided to extend the contract with additional measurable agreed upon outcomes. This process ended 6 months later with the Superintendent being released for failure to meet the performance objectives. This move was met with some major objections but the decision was one that had to be made. We are now into the process of a nation wide search for a new Superintendent. The selection will be handled this time by a professional search firm with buy in from all of our community stakeholders. We are excited by the prospects of the process.
The second major challenge that we are experiencing is that of the budget. Like many school districts in California, our enrollment and funding have become problematic for us. As a member of the budget committee, we made specific recommendations for real savings to staff in order to assist in the preparation of our 08-09 budgets. One recommendation that was presented was the revaluation of the In House General Counselor's position and its department. After much discussion it was decided to not renew the contract of our General Counselor but to return to the previous arrangement of having Legal service provided as needed. This move was seen by most of the community as a good move. The move has a projected saving of over 300 thousand dollars.
During these major changes we have managed to stay solvent with 4% reserve and the completion as of the last four Measure "K" Bond Construction projects. By providing my leadership to the complex La Tijera, we are now ready to break ground on this measure "K" project in June. The construction of a new La Tijera Middle School will be a boost to our new Magnet program for our community.
With the excellent support and involvement by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, we have been granted a settlement with the FAA/LAX of 18 million dollars for sound abatement for our schools. The grant makes it possible to construct a new elementary school to replace Oak Street Elementary, which is directly under the flight path. This project will greatly enhance the educational process at the school and student overall performance. I am actively participating in the planning for the maximum use of these funds so that our schools can remain state of the art for our students and staff.
To assist the new Superintendent with specific academic objectives, this Board with the help of staff, is developing a new educational plan. This plan will include the establishment of Magnet Middle Schools and our own Dependent Charter Schools in order to provide real choice for parents of the District. In addition we will be evaluating our other State Distinguish Elementary School for review and update their programs.
All these plans and programs are being undertaken with the giant Hollywood Park real estate development, which is moving rapidly to reality. The reality is that with 3 thousand new homes and increased educational needs this project presents another major challenge to this Board for which we are preparing to meet. This is major undertaking that requires real commitment and understanding of educational policies, financial management and construction, all of which I can provide because of my extensive background.
These challenges are not to be taken lightly as emphasized by our new President. Education reform is one of the major platforms that has the ability to help change this country. The Inglewood Board understands its responsibilities and is actively moving to meet the major new challenges that are on the horizon; we need the strong support and prayers of our community to insure our success.