By Charles Thomas
Uncertainty and tension continue at the Venice Skills Center. For many students and teaching staff, it is “needles and pins” over the future of the Center in the wake of recent drastic budget cuts.
In March, the school board voted to “zero out” funding for adult education. However, since then, there has been ongoing talk among the board, the school superintendent, labor unions and others for ways to keep adult education. Unless a solution is reached, this will mean closure for the Venice Skills Center.
Since that devastating news from the March meeting, the board has not revisited the budget issue as anticipated. According to Steve Zimmer, our board district representative, we should have received more budget information (via board vote) around May 15.
However, the “anyone’s guess” atmosphere continues among staff and students at the Center (as nothing further has come from the board). On May 9, the Center’s teaching staff was summoned to a meeting and told they likely would lose their jobs on June 19. This meeting was a “last rites” (of sorts) for the Skills Center. Teachers were instructed to remove all posters from the walls along with personal effects, and to turn in student records. Teachers were also given technical assistance on applying for unemployment and addressing the issue of whether to take retirement. The principal, herself, is opting for retirement although she had hoped to work at least another two years.
Despite discouraging news, there is still an amazing undercurrent of hope and resolve for the Center’s survival. Rallies and activism have continued full force. As we go to press, a Town Hall Meeting is scheduled for June 1 to mobilize supporters, teachers and students on the issue of adult education.
The meeting is scheduled at 3p.m. at city council member Bill Rosendahl’s field office, 7166 W. Manchester Ave (aat the corner of Manchester and Lincoln Blvd). Zimmer, Congressional Representative Maxine Waters and representatives from the offices of Bill Rosendahl and State Senator Ted Lieu are expected to attend. This could be a great opportunity for meaningful dialog. Please show your support by attending.
On May 5, a few hundred of us rallied at Venice High School. Response to our Westside Rally was evidenced by honking horns along Venice Boulevard from passing drivers showing support. Speakers at the event included Matthew Kogan, who chairs the Adult Education Committee for the teachers’ union.
In his remarks, Kogan pointed out that the sign identifying the office of board member, Steve Zimmer had been removed the day before our rally. Zimmer’s office is right across the street from where we held our rally, and the previous day Zimmer’s sign had been taken down.
On March 29, a bus load of us from the Skills Center trekked together to La Plaza del Mariachi in East L.A for a rally. We bonded in camaraderie as our bus load emerged together, converging on the Plaza with our placards, signs and whistles. The rally speakers, as usual, were passionate and motivating on what we can do for our adult ed crisis. A big focus of the speeches that day was directed towards Monica Garcia, the current school board president. There is great contention and dissatisfaction among Garcia’s constituency for what was said to be her budget mismanagement, squandering, and voting along with the board majority to “zero out” funding for adult ed. A formal “recall” campaign has been launched against Garcia. See www.RecallMonicaGarcia.com.
A “testimonials page” is now online, where written accounts of those who have benefitted from the Skills Center (and adult ed in general) can be read. A video version of that format is available at youtube.com/saveadultedstories.