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Interview with LA United Board president touched on Mandarin immersion issues

September 28, 2015

Interview: Schoolyard Scuffles

Posted September 16, 2015 by The Argonaut in News

LAUSD Board of Education President Steve Zimmer on the winner-take-all attitudes that are hurting public schools

Steve Zimmer, who represents the Westside on the LAUSD board and is now its president, says the California Charter Schools Association has taken “a combat approach” to occupying space on public school campuses
Steve Zimmer, who represents the Westside on the LAUSD board
and is now its president, says the California Charter Schools
Association has taken “a combat approach” to occupying space
on public school campuses
The new Common Core state standardized test results are in, and they don’t look great for LAUSD.

Nearly a year after the departure of Supt. John Deasy, the school district still awaits new permanent executive leadership.

Traditional public school enrollment is declining as charter schools pick up more students and move into empty LAUSD classrooms, while specialized education programs designed to keep families from leaving the district are encountering resistance from neighborhood schools.

Steve Zimmer, the longtime Westside LAUSD board member who became president of the board in July, has a lot on his plate.

A former high school teacher and counselor, Zimmer says he hopes to chart a different course than past LAUSD board presidents — one less-defined by political friction and internal division. But he does not mince words about his dislike of the California Charter Schools Association, whose independent expenditure committee spent heavily against him during his 2013 reelection bid, a race that drew national attention due to the involvement of billionaire Eli Broad and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Zimmer takes personal responsibility for the failure in June of his plan to transfer the popular Mandarin Chinese dual language immersion program from Broadway Elementary School in Venice to a new, $30-million facility on the Mark Twain Middle School campus in Mar Vista. Believing that most stakeholders would accept the program as part of a larger vision for a Westside language education pipeline was a critical mistake, he says.

“I was broadcasting a perspective that was shared by a very few,” Zimmer says. “I vastly overestimated the reservoir of goodwill, which is completely dry on the Westside. And there is not a first assumption of goodwill.”

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