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Mayor and LACCD’s Improper Placement Of Ex-offender/Gang/Union/Workforce Programs At Van de Kamps Site Endangers Charter High School Students 



It is dangerous for high school students to attend Alliance Charter, or any school, at the Van de Kamps campus as it is currently configured.


Editorial by Miki Jackson and Laura Gutierrez of the Van de Kamps Coalition


Have parents and students at Alliance Charter High School located at Van de Kamps Campus at Fletcher and San Fernando Road, been told who the target users of the historic Van de Kamps Bakery Building (HBB) are, and just what major populations the Mayor's programs in those buildings serve? The adaptive re-use of the historic Van de Kamps Bakery Building,  just a few feet across a common patio area from the "New Education Building" (NEB) that houses the Alliance Charter, holds some surprises for the parents and students of Alliance. 


Mingling with the young Alliance students, sharing common the common areas between the buildings, especially the open "patio" are that is where students socialize and mingle, are the clients of these programs: adult expungement classes for former criminal offenders, probationers, felons and high risk gang diversion program members are among adults seeking training and job assistance at the campus. There is no screening  to ensure they are not a danger to students. There is no screening or separation of any kind to protect students. 


The LACCD officials know this a risky business, we have read the emails in which they tried to figure out how to install fences and other barriers to keep these populations apart, as they know they should. They just didn't figure out how to do it in a "cost effective" way and still get the buildings open fast enough to rent to the eager tenants, so they did what they have done over and over at the campus, they shined it on. 


We have asked over and over if these parents and students have been fully informed of this risk. Are they comfortable with such a configuration?  We have asked Deputy Mayor Larry Frank in public meetings, we have asked the Trustees and officials of LACCD. we have asked administrators and others working in these programs at public meetings. We have demanded that these responsible parties issue a written explanation outlining the risks and explaining what safeguards are in place. We have demanded they issue a statement saying they are not allowing these risky populations into the campus with Alliance students, if that is true. We have demanded that they at least issue a statement saying they are screening for sex offenders and violent ex-felons. They have done nothing. They have never denied that these populations are being mixed together, in the emails we have read, they acknowledge it. Who thought up such a plan?  From our study of the emails obtained, it was the Mayor and LACCD officials. 


No where else that we have able been locate has a combination of these two populations so close together and with nothing separating them. We have been told that LAUSD would not be able to put an LAUSD campus there because state regulations would not allow such mixing of unscreened adults with students. Indeed, any non LAUSD adult wishing to enter an LAUSD campus must check in and be allowed admittance by officials at that school. Charter Schools do not have to abide by as strict a set of safety regulations and laws as public schools, yet we have heard out cries about too little protection for students at LAUSD schools…what does that say about this is situation?


We are concerned that in the rush to lease to tenants on the part of LACCD, Alliance and the Mayor, young people are at risk. We are baffled at the seeming lack of concern of all these officials and entities who are entrusted with the safety of young people. We know these entities and key individuals are aware of this hazard, from emails we read and from our own communication with them. 


We can only assume the parents have been kept in the dark, as it would seem unlikely that a campus with this mixture of populations would be a top choice by any parent for their children to attend, no matter what other advantages it might offer. This would seem especially true now that a second Alliance High School has opened just blocks away on a full LAUSD campus, with all the safeguards of an LAUSD campus, plus playing fields and exit curricular activity.


The Van de Kamps historic bakery building was saved by Northeast community activism headed by the "Save Van de Kamps" coalition of some 28 community organizations and many individuals over 10 years ago. The campus was built by bonds issued for the Community College District to put a satellite campus of L.A. City College there. Mark Drummond, the Chancellor at the time, and the Board of Trustees decided to open it as, in their words, "a commercial tenant based" site about four years ago. Drummond was forced out under a cloud shortly thereafter. The reasons the Trustees give for this have shifted over time, but money has been an issue. 


The campus and the adjoining property with Denny's on it, are leased by the District and it is a profit making venture. The satellite campus was never planned to cost the district any District funds to run, but was to open under a carefully researched and approved business plan that started with an 80% to 20% ratio of for fee profit making classes and Community College curriculum. Emails we have obtained show a deliberate abandoning of the site in favor of a cobbled together deal that included the Mayor's office, Eli Broad and Richard Riorden's favored charter school and union interests.


A huge award winning investigation by the L. A. Times "Billions to Spend", 

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-community-colleges-html,0,3512910.htmlstory , of the use of College bonds during this period unearthed a vast amount of fraud, cronyism and waste inside of the District, of which Van de Kamps was a more than $70 million dollar part. The State Controller's office has pointed to millions in possible misuse at Van de Kamps, but the District has stalled the investigation by refusing to give the State Controller full records of Van de Kamps. The DA is still looking into some of the allegation of that audit.


We support and value the workforce and second opportunity programs being funded by a massive infusion of stimulus funds from the Federal government (WIB funds among others). These programs are properly placed at more than 18 Worksource locations throughout the county including some only a mile down San Fernando Road from Van de Kamps. None of those Worksource centers are in the same campus where high school students are present.  Some of these programs are part of the offerings at college campuses, but they do not make up 50% or more of the campus and colleges are inherently primarily institutions for adults. High schools are not. Yet here at Van de Kamps we have a dangerous mix that we can find no where else. 


The tenants of the bakery building, Community Development Department, Community Career Development (CCD) Workforce with Worker Education & Resource Center, Archdiocesan Youth Employment Services, One Source Center, SEIU Work Training all have in their missions, funding and or partnerships important programs for Probationers, ex offenders, gang diversion, youth at risk for gangs and other similar populations. One of the funding sources for these programs id the WIB - Workforce Investment Board, ex offender programs are a key element of Worksource programs. see http://www.wiblacity.org/images/stories/PDF/2010-11_annualreport.pdf

 The Van de Kamps Workforce center is listed on their web site : http://www.wiblacity.org/images/stories/PDF/2010-11_annualreport.pdf

 

We hope the parents and students become aware and demand answers about the safety of their children  If they read this they now know it was the Mayor, Alliance Charter Schools and LACCD officials who cooked this up. We hope that it will not be an injury to a student that will shock everyone awake. That would be a tragedy, especially when we know this is a dangerous situation that urgently needs to be fixed. 


And what are the taxpayer/voters of Northeast Los Angeles thinking as they write their check to the County Tax Collector?  They already know that LACCD staff illegally used $7.1 million of community college bond funds to DESTROY CLASSROOMS at this site so that the Mayor’s program administrators could have their own private executive administrative office space in the bakery building. Are they wondering if they will be writing huge checks for lawsuits if high school students are threatened, or worse, harmed by their fellow campus mates?


The Van de Kamps Coalition continues to wave a red flag of warning, we try to make our community aware of these problems. We are underfunded and up against powerful, well funded and connected interests who do not want this information out there. We have put this in public testimony, flyers and articles before and will keep doing so, we have to rely on others in the community to amplify our message. www.vandekamps.org