Three years ago the state of California loaned the Inglewood Unified School District $55 million to keep the district solvent. In exchange for the emergency funds, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson appointed a trustee to manage the day-to-day operations of the district, reducing Inglewood’s locally elected school board to an advisory role.
Since that time, the school district has had three state-appointed trustees running the district, and Torlakson is in the process of finding the fourth, after the current trustee announced his retirement earlier this summer.
This has not been an easy process for anyone, especially Inglewood students. They are the ones who are paying the price for mistakes that others made in the past.
When I took office nine months ago, I made the commitment to provide unofficial oversight of the school district and the state’s role in running it. We need to make sure the district gets its financial house in order, but not on the backs of the students. We need to make sure the schools are offering a high quality curriculum that prepares our students for a brighter future.
On all counts, we are making progress.
At the time of the takeover, the Inglewood Unified School District had a large budget deficit, it was losing students every day and it was in need of some serious help.
Last Feb. 27, I led a delegation of state legislators with Torlakson on a tour of some schools in Inglewood. The conditions we found — blacked-out windows, broken bathroom fixtures and low morale — were deplorable.
To ensure community engagement, on April 11, I hosted a formal town hall at Inglewood City Hall, where the public heard from district officials, local education experts and state auditors about the district’s progress. Plans are in place for revised curricula that prepare students for college and careers; repairs and cleaning have already been done at many school sites and that work is ongoing; and the district is on track for a balanced budget, which is a major step in the process to return local control to the district.
When the community complained that school board meetings were being held so early in the day that they, and even some board members, couldn’t attend, I wrote a letter to the district requesting they start the meetings later. And they did.
But we cannot rest. We will soon have the results of a state audit that will provide further guidance on where we go from here. We’ll have the latest progress report that measures the district on all of the benchmarks it has to meet to regain local control. And, we will have a new trustee who will have to build on the work that has already been done. And I plan to be there every step of the way.
As Inglewood’s elected representative in the Assembly, it is my job to advocate for my community — the teachers, the parents, and most importantly, the students. That’s a job I take seriously and it’s why I have spent so much time focused on Inglewood schools.
I have met with and continue to meet with all Inglewood stakeholders, to hear their concerns so that I can ensure that the state, and Superintendent Torlakson, is working cooperatively with our community to improve the district. As he makes his decision on a new trustee, I want to make sure that he hears directly from you, the people, about your concerns.
There is so much more to do, and I’m in it for the long haul. To keep up to date, residents can always visit my website, www.iusdupdate.com, to receive the latest information on the district’s progress and to view all of the relevant state reports.
Inglewood and all California communities deserve educational excellence and clean and safe schools. Let’s continue to work toward improving Inglewood Unified School District. We can succeed if we work together.
Assemblywoman Autumn Burke represents the 62nd Assembly District, which includes Inglewood and Hawthorne, in Sacramento.