Columnists Education Opinion

Stability brings new day for Inglewood schools

Historically, the Inglewood Unified School District has served as a beacon of opportunity for youth of color. 

Once known as the “Jewel of the South Bay,” families throughout Los Angeles moved to the city to enroll their children in Inglewood’s schools. Unfortunately, in recent years the district has faced financial challenges that led to state oversight and upheavals in leadership, further complicated by declining student enrollment, shifting demographics and a reduction in state funding.

Today, however, the leadership of the Inglewood Unified School District, with the guidance of the Los Angeles County Office of Education, has entered a new era. Thanks to the support of the community and its families, we are creating a positive and stable environment where young people thrive. 

The change taking place in Inglewood schools is remarkable. Young people, parents, educators and community members are building programs for success in the schools. 

Inglewood is a place where children thrive in modern classrooms. Students engage in programs that place them on paths to college and careers in adulthood. We are preparing students for success and teaching them to thrive in a challenging, ever-changing world.  

The results of Inglewood’s new approach are impressive. And the progress can be demonstrated by data. Student-centered improvements in Inglewood schools are reflected in graduation rates that rose by more than 5 percent in 2017-18 and reached 86.2 percent for the district.

This momentum of change was reinforced by the recent appointment of Erika Torres as the new county administrator. Torres is not new to Inglewood. Since mid-2018, she has worked on behalf of the Los Angeles County Office of Education to support former state administrator Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, who retired in October. 

Torres has the background and skills needed to build on the work of Meléndez and her team to continue the momentum of change. Despite Inglewood’s demonstration of improvement, much remains to be done surrounding facilities, fiscal processes and long-term solvency, special education services and a continuous improvement model for the kindergarten through 12th grade instructional model. 

Torres is the right person at the right time to support this work.

Today, Inglewood schools focus on the whole child. Each student’s academic, socio- emotional development and wellness are supported and reinforced by robust instructional programs, behavioral support teams and intervention strategies. 

The environment of support is epitomized by the Community Schools Initiative. Under the Community Schools program, the Los Angeles County Office of Education works with Inglewood schools and multiple L.A. County agencies and community-based organizations. Together, they leverage resources that ensure students graduate ready for college and careers as engaged community members.

New and innovative programs designed to engage students throughout the learning day are underway across Inglewood. Some innovations involve redesigning how the school district uses its physical space to serve students. 

For example, we’ve added two new kindergarten through eighth grade options and have rebuilt classrooms to accommodate growth at Beulah Payne and Woodworth-Monroe. As Inglewood schools undergo renovations, children thrive in dynamic learning environments.

For our youngest students, Inglewood has expanded early education opportunities through its Child Development Center, with new classes opening throughout the community. Diverse grade span offerings, such as preschool through grade 8, allow students to learn, grow and develop friendships that will last a lifetime. 

Inglewood Unified is focused at the elementary school level on programs that promote strong basic reading and mathematics skills.

Additionally, the district has many enrichment opportunities, including academies that focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) and leadership. With a renewed focus on preparing students for college and beyond, our high schools have expanded advanced placement course offerings and created vibrant new career technical education opportunities that prepare students for college and the workforce. 

Please join Torres, the Inglewood Unified School District and the Los Angeles County Office of Education as we continue to create a unique California success story in Inglewood. 

You can learn more about the school district and its bright future at inglewoodusd.com

Debra Duardo is the superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education. D’Artagnan Scorza is the president of the Inglewood school board.

By Debra Duardo and

D’Artagnan Scorza