The California Department of Education, the Compton Unified School District and the plaintiffs represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Robert Myers of Newman. Aaronson & Vanaman and attorney Karl Manheim, today announced an agreement on improvement of school facilities and educational services in the Compton Unified School District.
The 16 page agreement places in abeyance, pending a comprehensive inventory of the district's needs, a lawsuit filed last July by the ACLU on behalf of parents with children enrolled at Compton USD. The first-stage agreement calls for the department and the district to ensure that school facilities are brought up to standards, and addresses other areas such as school security, community involvement, student promotion policies and adequate textbooks.
"We are pleased that Delaine Eastin, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Dr. Randolph Ward, State Administrator for Compton Unified School District, have taken bold action to improve the quality of education for all children in Compton," said Mark Rosenbaum, Legal Director for the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. "This historic agreement reflects their good intentions and the progress already underway demonstrates that they are moving the 29,000 students in the Compton School District closer to the equal educational opportunities they so clearly deserve."
Specifically, the agreement requires that a certified teacher will be present in every classroom on every school day and that any teacher hired after the agreement will be employed for no more than two years without passing the California Basic Educational Skills Test. The agreement calls for continued and expedited efforts in the following areas: (1) all broken and loose electrical wiring and fixtures will be repaired or replaced; (2) bathrooms will be safe, sanitary and operable; (3) all schools will remain clean and operational and free from graffiti; (4) all playground equipment will be repaired or removed if unusable; (5) broken windows will be replaced; and (6) drinking water will be available to all children.
The agreement will provide guarantees on school conditions and textbooks and will create site committees to help oversee facilities improvements. New district plans will be created to address school security and student promotion. The agreement also requires the ACLU and the district to collaborate to bring new parent volunteers into the district to help with site maintenance, tutoring and security.
Compton Unified School District has already begun implementation of many of the plans and provisions required under the ACLU agreement. For example, more than $16 million in modernization projects have been or will soon be completed at nine of the district's 38 K-12 campuses. To renovate many of the other aging schools, the district acted earlier this week to place a $107 million bond measure before voters in April.
To stem the threats of El Nino, the district has accelerated completion of 183 re-roofing projects, the result of an $8.5 million emergency repair plan begun in late 1996. A new textbook accountability system was implemented in September, and the district's textbook budget increased from $1.4 million to $1.95 million for 1997-98 school year.
A School Safety and Security Program, introduced in September, calls for random weapons screening on high school campuses, as part of a long-range plan to further reduce campus crime, which dropped 41 percent last year. The district has beefed up its uniformed police force and increased the number of security assistants by 40 percent in the last year.
In addition, Compton USD is introducing five new "student safety net" programs to provide additional tutoring, corrective reading, summer school, and test preparation for its neediest students. A new student promotion policy, based on reading ability, will be implemented in September.
Superintendent Delaine Eastin said, "I am pleased that all parties have agreed to work together to bring about the positive changes we all want for kids in Compton. By avoiding a protracted court proceeding, we can return now to devote our full attention and resources to educating youngsters."
Dr. Ward, who just marked his one-year anniversary as Compton's State Administrator, acknowledged the key role of the ACLU in raising community awareness of the needs of the school district. "After decades of neglect and mismanagement, the public is recognizing the plight of Compton schools. We have accomplished much in a short time, but we have only scratched the surface. I challenge every parent, teacher, business and community organization that has a stake in improving our schools-- work with us. We need your help now more than ever. Our kids need you."