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My stepdaughter just finished a small project for her 3rd grade class, and is becoming increasingly interested in astronomy. She has been aggressively asking about portions of the solar system, and trying to figure out how to use her telescope to explore even further than its limited lens will allow her to do so. She was excited about this project as she was able to make planets out of paper mache and explain why they were her favorite, and explain why she chose them.

She, expectedly, received a high marking for her interests in the astronomical project. She was extremely proud of herself at the news that something she was interested in, was now reflecting in a good grade. It became the best of both worlds for her, education coupled with the will of wanting to learn about a subject.

Then she received other news from her school (James Monroe K-8 School). News that brought that spirit down to fear of what would happen next year. Her school had relayed news to her that Long Beach Unified School District was planning to close it’s seventh school in the past 4 years, and Tidah’s school was the target.

Parents had banded together in the past week in an effort to sway the school board’s decision which was made last night. They passed flyers around the neighborhood in an effort to garner support and encourage people to email and call our local representatives as well as email the board officials. There was even a facebook page that was started on behalf of the effort, and of course many parents voicing their opinions and dismay over the news of the possible closure.

If you have read my previous blog posts, you can probably tell that I would not be letting a situation like this happen without myself becoming a loud mouth voice in this fight to keep Monroe open. This was a school where we, along with other parents, put a lot of care into.

My first target was to find a way to speak to Superintendent Chris Steinhauser as I had his twitter handle,  as I needed him to know I wanted him to hear my ideas besides just a plea to keep Monroe from closing. If you notice his twitter feed, he really does not reply back publicly, but I had to raise an eyebrow. Next I went the good ol fashioned route, no not calling or sending a stamped envelope. I emailed him. I sent an extremely long email. I voiced my concerns over the closing of Monroe, asked him to dispel the rumors that Monroe would be flipped into a continuation school, and hear what solutions I wanted to try.

I wanted to personalize the email a bit so he would understand that I was a parent that understood the neighborhood, as well as having attended a LBUSD school previously. Below is my letter:

Good Morning Mr. Chris Steinhauser,

Understandably, you have probably received numerous emails, phone calls, and even twitter messages (especially from myself) in regards to the closing of Monroe. I have also have been made aware of the replies you have given to other concerned parents, to where you point out child attendance within our own community, as well as busing as an issue. Unfortunately, I was hoping there was a better resolution.

My stepdaughter is currently in 3rd grade at the school (and is not bussed in, we actually live a few blocks from the school)…

……(a ton of points here between him and I)…..

Tidah, along with many others would much rather see Long Beach Unified keep Monroe open, finding alternate funding to supplement what is being lost, and working with the City of Lakewood to create their own District, and alleviate some pressure on LBUSD (as well as other school districts). This way we can possibly avoid possible traumatic experiences for our kids, which may cause them to need to attend a continuation school (yes I have heard the continuation school rumor is false).

Thank you,

Anthony Tanaka

Mr. Steinhauser was kind enough to take my message seriously, and almost promptly called me back. Unfortunately, we played phone tag for the first couple of times in trying to communicate. I missed his first call, and he was unable to answer my reply. However, we did finally speak. I calmly explained my position, and tried to include the voices of the other parents in my push as well. First I will say that from some parental positions (whom are often less educated and don’t read up on the situations going on with the school system), are often mindless enough to pop off at the mouth and claim that it must be because Monroe is a bad school. Another, is parents understand the need for budget cuts but can’t understand why Monroe is being targeted.

Mr. Steinhauser explained his position. He mentioned that even though Proposition 30 had passed, it only helped minimally. He spoke on how Monroe’s majority of the population is bused in from different parts the area, and is extremely expensive to do. Monroe’s local population was unable to satisfied the amount of students needed to monetarily justify in keeping the school open. Some have speculated that Measure K may have had some involvement. Ultimately and simply, LBUSD needed to trim some money from an already lean budget. Monroe was going to be a casualty, but the board was having a meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 4th) to hear the parents out. Although, from the sounds of things, the LBUSD minds were made up far in advance of this meeting.

Then this happened last night, every parent’s worst fear: Long Beach Unified school board votes to close Monroe K-8 in Lakewood.

Unfortunately, this was inevitable albeit we all tried, and are still saddened by the closing. My stepdaughter has noticed how popular her school has recently become because of the news. News vans were staked out in front of the school this morning as if they were doing their best impression of an ‘Occupy’ movement.

This is terrible news, but my stepdaughter will be ok. She is obviously a bit fearful of what the future holds. However, as a parent, and someone whom doesn’t like to see any child be deprived of a good education, I am not stopping there. I’d like to see what can be done by resurrecting and pushing a notion for a Lakewood Unified School district. As of right now, there are a multitude of school districts that ‘govern’ over the City of Lakewood. When I spoke to Mr. Steinhauser, he mentioned that even if this were done, Lakewood would need to close some schools. The reason for that being, not enough of Lakewood’s population can fill the necessary number of seats needed. However, perhaps with some interdistrict help, Lakewood can achieve the number of enrollments needed.

My first objective, speak to council men, and Lakewood’s leaders who are still involved in wanting to push this forward. A short conversation with my mom has lead me to Steve Croft and Todd Rogers, both part of Lakewood’s City Council. I did send a lengthy email to both of them, as I have noticed that they were involved with pushing a Lakewood Unified School District, which is currently named as Lakewood Schools Committee. Albeit, I am happy that there is a committee to bring about educational change to Lakewood, I would like to see that name returned to Unified School District. If California is going to get itself back on track on an educational high, parents like myself, as well as our elected leaders need to become even more proactive then just dropping off our kids at school and buying a candy bar during fundraisers. My hope is Lakewood will be a beacon.

I sent a letter to both of the Lakewood Councilmen, and if I am able to, I will publish here later. At time of writing this blog post (Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 5:30pm), I have heard back from Mr. Todd Rogers. He explained that he shares in my frustration over the issue of Monroe, as other educational hurdles I had mentioned. However, we will be speaking with each other with in the next few days, and I obviously look forward to it. I hope progress can be made, and there can be some direct action we can take to solidify a comfortable learning system for our kids.

Until then, Tidah will be outside looking at the stars.