No one really tells you squat about what being a grown-up entails. It was mind blowing enough when my oldest son turned double digits three weeks ago, but this fall will be spent searching for a middle school for him--middle school!! (Known in my childhood as "junior high school"). But in the LAUSD, the process begins in the late autumn before 6th grade and so my wife and son and I began our odyssey in earnest around various middle schools and their respective magnet and gifted programs.
As someone that never really knew what he wanted to be or was going to be as late as 20, this does seem a bit early and ''herd-like", but I figure that my own path was fraught with enough misery and uncertainty as to be, well, wrong. So, I put aside my reservations and stepped out with wife and child to John Burroughs, an imposing brick, typical urban looking school in Hancock Park/Larchmont.
After checking in and being led into the auditorium prior to the little tour we were going to get, one of the administrators began hyping the school as is her job (the Principal wasn't there), but not a minute into her pitch did she mention the importance of the election on November 6th. Not as in Obama v Romney, but as in the two school related propositions, 30 and 38 (30 being Governor Brown's, 38 being Molly Munger's). Both are similar--a tax increase, generally on income, but also a small sales tax in Brown's (Brown would raise the sales tax from 7 1/4 to 7 1/2 percent).
The cutbacks she described over the course of the next hour were indeed draconian--class sizes at the magnet were now about 34 kids per teacher, the school bus service was not corner pickup, but central location and the distance for pickup altered from 3 miles away to 5 miles away. And a cursory check of the very room we were sitting in gave life to the assertion that schools are on shoe-string budgets. Unpicked up trash was under the seats, the carpet was worn to nothing and when we got the tour of the classrooms, they appeared to be more apt for a reformatory than an institution of learning--gray, concrete, carpet-less brick. The topper for us was seeing the kids seated outside on the cement for a short stretching recess--were this a hotter day, this would have been Arpaio-like in its apparent cruelty. As is, it was kind of ugly and unpleasant--nothing my wife and I ever endured in school.
Burroughs has an excellent reputation and good test scores, but it is an enormous and somewhat rundown looking institution. And yeah--throwing money at it could only help, smaller classes, cleaner yards, even newer bathrooms.
We're looking at our local, Starr King next week. I hope not to be as taken aback and I don't mind hearing the "please vote to prevent cutbacks" lecture again at all.
Johnny Angel Wendell.