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ROMER SUGGESTS LAUSD THINK SMALL BREAKING UP SCHOOLS MAY HELP RETENTION.



Byline: Beth Barrett Staff Writer

Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850.  Unified has embarked on an ambitious program to provide more personalized per·son·al·ize  
tr.v. per·son·al·ized, per·son·al·iz·ing, per·son·al·iz·es
1. To take (a general remark or characterization) in a personal manner.

2. To attribute human or personal qualities to; personify.
 instruction to middle and high school students by opening new schools and retooling old ones into small learning communities.

But the price tag comes high: up to $4 million per existing campus.

Superintendent Roy Romer Roy R. Romer (born October 31, 1928 in Garden City, Kansas, United States) was the 39th governor of Colorado and served as the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District from 2001 to 2006.  said Friday that breaking up large schools into academylike units of 300 to 500 students - along with other instructional changes - is critical to spurring academic achievement and boosting graduation rates.

``The bottom line is to successfully move youngsters through high school,'' Romer
This page is about the cartographic mechanism called a "Romer" or "Roamer"; for people named Romer see Romer (surname)


A Romer or Roamer is a simple device for accurately plotting a grid reference on a map.
 said. ``One of the biggest problems of society is the isolation of not being known. If (students) get someone who believes in (them), then youngsters will really reach much higher.''

During a meeting last week, the district's chief operating officer Chief Operating Officer (COO)

The officer of a firm responsible for day-to-day management, usually the president or an executive vice-president.
, Tim Buresh, provided the School Construction Bond Citizens' Oversight Committee with rough cost estimates of $2 million to $4 million per high school, with the caveat the program might not encompass all 49 existing high schools. He said middle schools would require fewer physical modifications.

Romer said the program would be phased in as the district's budget and other factors allow.

``It can't be too costly, or we can't do it,'' Romer said.

If retention rates can be boosted from about 50 percent to at least 80 percent, the investment would be returned in more graduates, at a lower cost per graduate.

Romer said he's been focused on the small learning community concept for a couple of months. He recently went with other district officials to New York City New York City: see New York, city.
New York City

City (pop., 2000: 8,008,278), southeastern New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The largest city in the U.S.
 to look at models, a trip underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Melinda French Gates (born Melinda Ann French on August 15, 1964) is a former unit manager for several Microsoft products: Publisher, Microsoft Bob, Encarta, and Expedia. In 1994, she married Bill Gates, founder, chairman, and former chief software architect of Microsoft.  Foundation.

``We definitely are going to do our version of small schools. I'm very focused on it. We're gearing up on it,'' Romer said.

New high schools, he said, should be opened with the small learning communities in place, while existing schools could be modified - painting hallways, moving walls, providing separate dining areas, for instance - to make the transition feasible.

Reaction to the proposal was generally enthusiastic, though concerns were raised about implementation, from costs and time frame, to accountability.

``It's sensational,'' said Richard Riordan Richard J. Riordan (born May 1, 1930) is a Republican politician from California, U.S. who served as the California Secretary of Education from 2003–2005 and as Mayor of Los Angeles from 1993–2001. Riordan ran for Governor of California unsuccessfully in 2002. , who as mayor launched small primary centers. ``You can't manage a school that's more than about 600 kids. Big schools have layers of bureaucracy, no decisions get made, no one is in charge. It's a total disaster.''

Riordan questioned how much authority would be vested in the small schools' leadership.

``They better have all the power of a principal, or it won't work,'' he said. ``They need some real power ... so they can be held accountable.''

Romer said the leadership structure has yet to be worked out, but that each small learning community would have at least an ``instruction leader.'' Romer said some elements, such as class schedules, would need to be negotiated.

``We want to bring teachers and the union along on it,'' he said.

United Teachers Los Angeles President John Perez said teachers are generally ``big supporters'' of small learning centers, but they fear they will be implemented hurriedly, with insufficient planning, training, and funding.

``It's not the what, it's the how,'' teachers are concerned with, Perez said.

``One of the intricacies of this is you get a group of teachers together and they stay with the kids. It's like a marriage. If it's a shotgun marriage shotgun marriage
n.
A marriage that is forced or necessitated because of pregnancy. Also called shotgun wedding.
, it's not going to work.''

Perez said Romer has talked to the union, and that the superintendent said he understands the program can't be started all at once, nor imposed uniformly at every school.

``Hopefully, he'll stick to what he told us,'' Perez said. ``If you shove something down people's throats, even if it's a good thing, people won't do it.''

Perez said the district initially might ask schools to volunteer for pilot programs to show how small learning communities can work.

And it will take time, he said, to address all the details, including how administrators and teachers will be assigned.

``It's planning,'' Perez said. ``You can't take something off the top of your head and say, 'We're going to do this.'''

Romer said the district would move gradually, with some existing schools converted during summer months, while year-round schools Year-Round School is the operation of educational institutions on a calendar-system that tracks students into class schedules throughout the entire calendar year. A primary motivation is that higher student throughput is accomplished via more effective scheduling of school  might have to be adapted a building, or wing at a time.

David Abel, chairman of New Schools Better Neighborhoods, a nonprofit A corporation or an association that conducts business for the benefit of the general public without shareholders and without a profit motive.

Nonprofits are also called not-for-profit corporations. Nonprofit corporations are created according to state law.
 agency that promotes small, neighborhood-centered schools, said he supports LAUSD's efforts.

``At first the district, because of the immense responsibility to find seats, had little time to think beyond the triage triage

Division of patients for priority of care, usually into three categories: those who will not survive even with treatment; those who will survive without treatment; and those whose survival depends on treatment.
 of putting roofs over kids heads,'' Abel said.

Now, he said LAUSD LAUSD Los Angeles Unified School District (Los Angeles, CA)  has a responsibility to do more than house children.

``Clearly smaller classrooms and environments where teachers and students can have a focus and engagement of their minds is relevant to outcomes.''

Buresh, the district's chief operating officer, said students in smaller schools typically fare better.

``There is no magic pill, but a key factor (in retention) is the size of the learning community,'' Buresh told the bond oversight committee.

Board President Caprice ca·price  
n.
1.
a. An impulsive change of mind.

b. An inclination to change one's mind impulsively.

c.
 Young - who was on last month's tour of New York City schools - praised the concept.

``The advantage to smallness is that you get a higher level of personalization Custom tailoring information to the individual. On the Web, personalization means returning a page that has been customized for the user, taking into consideration that person's habits and preferences. ,'' Young said. ``All the kids are known to all the adults. It is a much more intimate way of learning.''

Young said the learning communities would be akin to existing magnets or academies where students take a core curriculum, but also explore areas of interest. There currently is a 30,000-student waiting list for magnets, she said.

``There's an enormous customer demand for small schools. Personalization treats our kids as the individuals they area. Small learning centers get students excited about learning.''

The district has hired architects HMC HMC Harvey Mudd College (Claremont, CA)
HMC Harborview Medical Center (Seattle, Washington)
HMC Hosted Messaging and Collaboration
HMC Hoffman Modulation Contrast
 for $139,787 to look at a variety of school models, and the small learning communities are anticipated to be part of the scope, district officials said.

In January, a study by district Instructional Support Services support services Psychology Non-health care-related ancillary services–eg, transportation, financial aid, support groups, homemaker services, respite services, and other services  personnel said the district's large comprehensive high schools need to be divided into the smaller learning communities.

``Based on what we know and understand today about youths' needs and the conditions of high-performance learning organizations, the district needs to transform its secondary schools from large industrial-like factories into small communities of learning,'' the report said.

Jim Delker, LAUSD's consulting deputy chief facilities executive, said many of the details are yet to be fleshed out, including how many schools would be converted.

``I'm not to the point where I know what the ripple effect ripple effect Epidemiology See Signal event.  would be,'' Delker said.

Bond oversight committee members generally gave the small learning community concept high marks but had some reservations about cost and implementation.

``I'm always happy to see LAUSD thinking outside the box,'' said committee chairman Robert Garcia This is about the SNK character. For the politician from New York, see Robert Garcia (politician)

Robert Garcia is a character in the King of Fighters video game series.
.

The committee's consultant Tom Rubin called the concept, ``very interesting,'' but said as always, ``the fiscal impact will be key.''

Committee member Connie Rice said moving to smaller learning communities is the right idea to keep kids from getting lost in high schools of several thousand students.

``It's a good idea. It will take a lot to implement it.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:May 4, 2003
Words:1182
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