The $232 million school has been open for several years now, but has so far not been a success. The idea of building a Fame type performing arts high school right off the Hollywood Freeway in the northwest corner of downtown L.A. to attract the children of the huge array of talented parents who live to the north and west made sense. But, then it was decided that catering to the children of the people who pay most of the taxes was racist, so it was decided to reserve most of the spaces in the school for children from the neighborhood, a neighborhood not noted for producing talent.
The original plan was to get billionaire art patron Eli Broad to kick in some more bucks in return for putting his name on the thing, but he`s been cool to the idea. After several years as merely High School #9, it is currently called the Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts after the recent school chief. But that name probably won`t last because the school board recently paid out $450,000 for the elderly Cortines sexually harassing a middle aged male employee. (But, looking on the bright side, at least it wasn`t a kid!).
Things have gotten so desperate lately that LAUSD has taken the radical step of actually hiring a principal, Norm Isaacs, with a proven track record of turning around a failing school by making it more attractive to talented students. From the LA Times:
After a difficult search process, a veteran Los Angeles principal who later started a local charter school has been chosen the newest leader of the downtown visual and performing arts high school.
Norman Isaacs, 67, was not the first or second choice of Los Angeles Unified School District officials, but he has long been viewed as a leader within and outside the school system for his role in developing and managing arts programs.
… For years, Isaacs nurtured the well-regarded arts program at Millikan Middle School in the San Fernando Valley. Then he left the Los Angeles district, largely out of frustration over his unsuccessful efforts to develop a continuation of Millikan`s program at nearby Grant High School. …
The job of leading the $232-million downtown arts high school, which just started its third year, has proved a revolving door. This summer, a school committee considered more than 30 candidates; its top choices were two educators from outside the system who`d been recruited by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad.
Broad had pushed for an established figure from outside L.A. Unified and was willing to sweeten the district`s salary offer.
But Kim Bruno, from New York City, accepted and then changed her mind. Then, last week, Rory Pullens, who heads the performing arts high school in Washington, D.C., did an about face too. He had been due to start in November.
The district also has replaced three previous top administrators at the school from inside the district, in one case sparking protests.
A Pennsylvania native and economics major, Isaacs had envisioned a one-year Los Angeles teaching stint in 1969. But the job captivated him; he worked his way up through some of the most difficult schools in the system before becoming Millikan`s principal in 1995.
Back in the early 1990s, Millikan Middle School in pleasant Sherman Oaks was a gang-infested wasteland. After a middle school student murdered a local homeowner, the well-connected neighbors demanded that the school be shut down. In desperation, the school district made Isaacs principal of Millikan Middle School and let him implement his hitherto unthinkable strategy of making this public school in Sherman Oaks attractive to people who live in places like Sherman Oaks.
But they wouldn`t let him carry on at Grant H.S., a school best known for three decades of Armenian v. Mexican ethnic rioting.