The Seeds of Discontent

Academia Semillas accomplishes education for our youth and that is why bureaucrats want to shut Semillas down

By Professor Juan Gomez-Qui??ones, History Department, UCLA
Published on LatinoLA: October 7, 2013

The Seeds of Discontent

Like the proverbial seed of it's symbolic name, Academia Semillas has earned the right to continue to grow and flourish in the hard-scrabble El Sereno community. Only 11 years old, the schools have provided a unique academic and cultural environment that has generated dozens of graduates who have achieved the kind of academic success most school districts can only dream of.

But the students, parents, teachers and faculty of the small community school have gotten caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare that is threatening to effectively shut the school down and rob El Sereno and the surrounding Latino working-class communities of one of the few academic resources available.

First denied charter status by LAUSD, Semillas sought relief from LA County's Office of Education only to encounter to the same narrow-minded attitude by bureaucrats that seem more threatened than encouraged by the school's success. Rather than support, even applaud the school's academic achievements, another massive bureaucracy is wasting precious public resources through a series of "investigations" and hearings to harass and even ridicule the school, its students and its teachers.

Academia Semillas has met all academic, fiscal and regulatory requirements while serving the needs of 400 students, hundreds of parents and dozens of staff as well as meeting the expectations of its many community and academic supporters. The Semillas academic standards have been validated by the International Baccalaureate World School, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the Eligiblity in the Local Context (ELC) of the University of California as well as a score of academics with expertise and recognition in schooling. These are plain demonstrable facts.

Semillas is a minority-organized charter school servicing primarily immigrants. Some members of its staff are immigrants, thus it expected to be, and was thoroughly tested, evaluated, audited, scrutinized and its leadership readily critiqued. The school has been targeted by right wing extremists. Directors, principals and teachers have been insistently asked for their social security numbers and income tax forms. Nearby parked cars have had their license plate numbers recorded. Administrators have been pillared by right-wing leafleting. And the school was even the target of a right-wing radio program host.

Semillas has been discriminated against because they raise the banner of Indian-Mexican academic cultural heritage while privileging the preparation of working class kids of immigrant families. Semillas calls for education, as many may do, but more so Semillas practices education, in their preparation for college. Indeed, Semillas accomplishes education for our youth and that is why bureaucrats want to shut Semillas down.

Those of us who support Semillas would be remiss in our responsive abilities as pro-education advocates as well as plain citizens and taxpayers if we did not demand not only the continuance of Semillas but additional support.

We acknowledge the many pro-education good people, whether elected or public officials, teachers and professionals and especially parents who have provided indispensable support to Semillas. To be sure, we also have support from some LAUSD and LA County Education Board members but our opponents outnumber them.

We remain optimistic that the seeds we've planted will continue to grow.

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