Today a map came out in the LA Times of the 250 schools in LA Unified that are being opened up to charter takeover. One of the schools is Figueroa Street Elementary School where, in 1996, Alfredo Perez, a 30-year-old fifth-grade teacher, was hit in the head by a stray gang bullet. Here’s how the LA Daily News reported it:
A stray bullet fired in a gang dispute crashed through a school library window early Thursday and critically injured a teacher as his fifth-grade students watched in horror.
The 23 terrified and crying children in the Figueroa Street Elementary School library dove for cover or made their way outside as their teacher, Alfredo Perez, 30, fell to the floor.
“Everybody was screaming and running, and there was blood,” said a somber 10-year-old Maria Ochoa as her baby sitter picked her up from the South Los Angeles school. “I was crying, and thinking he was dead.”
And the LA Times:
Speaking to reporters later in the day, Maria Ochoa, 10, one of Perez’s 23 students, said her teacher was sitting in a chair when she “heard a very loud noise like someone was hitting something very hard.
“I was very scared and I couldn’t move from my desk,” recounted Ochoa, who had been reading a book about rocks. “Everybody was running around and shouting.”
She looked up to see Perez still in the chair, a bullet hole in his forehead and blood trickling from the wound.
He was much loved, worked in one of the worst neighborhoods in LA, and two years later, after making a partial recovery, he returned to the scene of “the accident,” as he called it, to participate in a safety event. Again from the LA Times:
Deeply religious, Perez, who can walk slowly without a cane, credits his faith for his recovery.
“If I speak to someone that does not know about God, I just tell them to hang in there because it can be a cruel world,” he said as he sat on a love seat next to his wife, Virginia. “Sometimes you’re dealt a good hand. Sometimes you’re dealt a bad hand. I was dealt a bad hand that day. But thanks to God and my wife and the support, I’ve come a long way.”
I’m not sure where he is now; I don’t think he ever made it back to teaching. But if he were still teaching at Figueroa there would be a good possibility that he would be losing his job very soon. Figueroa is a failing school, according to the Board of Ed, and therefore a candidate for charter takeover. Since many charter corporations insist on firing entire faculties before taking over a school, it is quiet likely that all of the teachers at Figueroa will lose their jobs. How many other Alfredo Perezes are among them, dedicated educators who put their lives on the line to teach in LA’s worst schools? And not just at Figueroa but at all of the schools on the takeover list?
But I almost forgot. The problem with schools isn’t poverty, gangs or violence. The problem is crappy teachers.
I wonder what Alfredo Perez would think about that.
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