Carpenter Parents and Principal Seek Answers from LAUSD at Major Meeting Thursday

Big decisions are facing the popular elementary school.

Susan Spencer bought her house in Studio City 15 years ago with the hopes that she would one day send a child to her neighborhood school, Carpenter Community Charter School. Now that she has a child ready to enter the school this fall, there may not be any space.

John Livingston bought a house in Studio City so he could have his child enter Kindergarten this year. “I bought here because of the school and now I feel screwed because I paid 10 percent more for a more expensive house than if I bought five blocks to the west,” he said.

 “This is a travesty,” said Alex Izbicki. “This is a school that this community nurtured to be the top school in the LAUSD disaster. Don’t let them bus your kids out of your neighborhood!”

Carpenter Principal Joe Martinez thanked everyone for their comments at the public community meeting at CBS Radford Studios. He didn’t have many answers—yet. Those will come Thursday afternoon, he hopes.

“Our school is a victim of its own success,” Martinez explained at a Studio City Neighborhood Council meeting on Wednesday night. “At our meeting after school on Thursday we will have representatives of the district there and we hope to have some of these questions answered.”

SCNC President John Walker asked Martinez to attend the meeting because he said he received 76 emails about the issue when Carpenter was first dealing with the overcrowding issue, and families fraudulently attending the charter-affiliated school.

“Most of their meetings are during the day, and Principal Martinez was kind enough to answer some of the questions from the community at a night meeting,” Walker said, allowing the question-answer period to last double the allotted 20 minutes for the issue.

The audience consisted of real estate agents who have heard from concerned clients, and new residents who have just rented or bought just a few blocks from the high-achieving enrichment school. On the SCNC board, Richard Niederberg attended Carpenter, Ron Taylor’s son just graduated from there, and Lisa Sarkin remembers going to Carpenter when there were 480 students going there.

Martinez has been dealing with slowly moving out students that don’t belong at the school—and he now has a population of 998 students. Last year, he had 906.

He planned spreading out 144 students among the nine Kindergarten classes. Instead, he got 210 students—an unexpected increase of 32 percent—“and it sent shock waves in our community,” he said.

The school is facing growing pains that already caused nearby Colfax Community Charter School to put a cap on its enrollment—not guaranteeing residents a place at the school. Dixie Canyon, Sherman Oaks Elementary and other schools nearby are also facing sudden increases in enrollment.

“This is an issue that the district is going to have to deal with because they will have to figure out where to transport these children to schools outside their district,” Martinez said.

The principal and the parent-staff Governance Council that runs the charter affiliate school said they prefer that LAUSD give them the tools to help identify students that don’t live in the district and send them back to their proper schools. They estimate that could take care of about 12 percent of their population.

“We are asking LAUSD for help that no other school has ever done, but these are issues they are going to have to deal with,” Martinez said.

The principal tried to assure many of the parents that residents and siblings of existing students would have a priority if the school is forced to have a lottery system for enrollment.

Gretchen Goldsmith said moved to within walking distance of the school so her twins could go to the school. She needs to know if she can get in, or else she’s going to have to apply to private schools.

Linda Tarlowe has a grandchild in fourth grade at Carpenter now who ahs a sibling that will be entering the school soon. Can the younger one get in?

A lot of the group is planning to also attend the Governance Council meeting in the school auditorium on Thursday at 2:45 p.m.

Boughton February 21, 2013 at 03:07 PM
Leave it to LAUSD to decide where to bus neighborhood children? Are you kidding? Cap is a no go. Real proof of residency must be required. All children need to go to school in their own districts. Do this before considering any other options, i.e. NOW.
John Mekrut February 22, 2013 at 05:16 PM
This is one of the many unintended consequences of playing around with what was once a public education system that was the envy of the world. Of course parents are looking for the best for their kids, who can blame them. What will be the criteria for denying student enrollment after their address? CST scores? IQ? Until we properly fund our children's education, like my parents did, we will have for-profit schools and charters and magnets siphoning off the best and brightest, leaving behind underfunded, inadequately staffed "public" schools. How about special needs children, where will they be welcome?
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