Lead Story West Edition

Inglewood schools chief releases recovery plan

INGLEWOOD – Boosting student achievement, upgrading school facilities and reducing the district’s staggering dropout rate are among the top priorities for the Inglewood Unified School District, State Administrator Vincent Matthews explained in a draft recovery plan released recently.

Announcing the finalization of his plan at an advisory board assembly last week, Matthews said his proposal is designed to transform the state-controlled district and return it to the leadership of the local Inglewood community.

“The district needs to retain leadership that has the ability and capacity to set priorities, bring about strategic reform, engage the community, ensure accountability and manage resources,” said Matthews, who was named administrator of the district last October.

The financially challenged IUSD has been under state receivership since September 2012 after the governor approved Senate Bill 533, which was coupled with a state-approved emergency loan for $55 million to avoid fiscal insolvency.

Matthews’ plan incorporates a strategy to balance the books while improving the quality of education within Inglewood schools.

“The number of parents and families are choosing other options because they don’t feel that there is enough rigor in our schools or in the classroom, so the plan definitely looks at rigor in the classroom and what’s happening in the classroom,” he said. “It addresses academics and how we are going to increase academics and instruction so that can help families either return or stay.”

The plan also focuses on providing teachers and staff with training in new state standards, updating the district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan, and integrating staff members to identify the policies, procedures and strategic plans that will bring about substantial changes in the district’s policies and practices.

The remaining pillars of Matthews’ plan are to increase parental involvement, retain and train a quality teaching staff and manage fiscal expenditures consistent with current and projected district revenues.

“We now have a roadmap and a direction towards getting to a place that the district moves forward, capacities are built and authorities are returned back to the board,” Matthews said during last week’s IUSD advisory board meeting.

Between 2006 and 2016, the district’s enrollment has plunged from 15,000 to 11,000 students, due in part to competition from charter schools. That decline in enrollment, coupled with soaring dropout rates, has negatively impacted the district’s revenue, leading to scores of layoffs and a decrease in funding for facility maintenance and upkeep.

Matthews’ recovery plan is being received with enthusiasm among many advisory board members.

“The thing that I have faith [about] with Dr. Matthews is that he’s not new to this. He took a school district that has our same look and brought them out of receivership,” board member Carliss McGhee said, referencing Matthews’ ability to return the Oakland Unified School District back to independence in 2009.

“So his plan is not based on what he thinks, it’s based on what he knows.”

Board member D’Artagnan Scorza agreed, adding: “I think that Dr. Matthews recovery plan articulates a pathway forward for the first time since the state takeover and it addresses some critical issues that we have.

“I also think that it addresses those critical issues, but I think it does more than that. It goes a step further and says this is what needs to happen in order to assume local control moving forward.”