By Cheryl Ortega, Director of Bilingual Education, UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles). Cheryl Ortega taught for 38 years in kindergarten and primary education bilingual programs in LAUSD. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of UTLA as Director of Bilingual Education. She worked with Marshall Tuck and PLAS for a year at the request of parents and teachers at Ritter Elementary School.
In 2008, Marshall Tuck approached Ritter Elementary School in Watts soliciting their admission to the Partnership for LA Schools (PLAS) under the sponsorship of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The parents of that school in a community 75% Latino and 25% African American agreed on the condition that the nationally renowned Dual Language Program be kept intact. In a historically underserved community, in a longtime low performing school, the language program held out high hopes for improved student achievement following its excellent track record all over the country. With promises made, Ritter signed on to PLAS.
Within a month of the signing, PLAS, under the direction on Marshall Tuck, reneged on its promise and cancelled the program. Parents were outraged. They complained to the principal, the superintendant of PLAS, the CEO of PLAS (Marshall Tuck) all to no avail. Parents organized two public demonstrations in front of the school. Mothers pushing baby strollers carried signs that said, , “Resueten los derechos de la familia en Ritter,” – “Bring back the rights of families at Ritter” “Restore bilingual education.” Tuck was unmoved. So Ritter parents sought legal counsel. They went to the Mexican American Legal and Educational Defense League (MALDEF) and the Public Counsel Law Center.
For almost a year those two organizations interviewed parents from Ritter and came to conclusions culminating in the filing of legal complaints against PLAS and Marshall Tuck. In a letter to then Superintendent Ramon Cortines, MALDEF and Public Counsel lawyers wrote that under Marshall Tuck “PLAS continues to disregard state law, regulation, and LAUSD policy and is failing to implement transparent and uniform procedure to ensure parent and student rights are protected.” Parents and students were denied civil rights because of Marshall Tuck. Their ability to equity and access to an education were severely curtailed because of the failed policies of Marshall Tuck.
Numerous parents reported to their attorneys that they were never notified about changes to their children’s language program, required under that California Education Code and state law. PLAS, under Tuck’s leadership failed to notify parents of their right to have their child placed in a dual language program. They failed to place children in the program even when the parents specifically requested it. State law and the California ed code require, not only this, but that a denial of a parent request must be based on an evaluation of each individual child, not a blanket school policy decision. FAILURE, FAILURE, FAILURE, FAILURE. According to the attorneys, “PLAS violated numerous procedural and substantive requirements under California law when it unilaterally terminated the Dual Language Program.”
In spite of studies nationally, statewide and locally concluding that children who have been educated in dual language programs outscore and outperform their peers in all programs, including those for native English speakers, the administration of Ritter Elementary School in Watt’s told the African American parents that Dual Language was not for their children, thereby precluding them from the possibility of becoming multilingual and looking forward to greater career options in the future.
Marshall Tuck failed and betrayed children in his charge. He not only deprived them of the most highly acclaimed program in the nation, but he did it by deceit, fraud, manipulation and abuse of his office.
After this failure of enormous proportions, he now wants the opportunity to lay waste to the schools of the entire state of California. Let’s not give him this power. Let’s not let him betray more children.
Vote for Tom Torlakson for Superintendent of Public Instruction.