L.A. Mayor Appoints Superintendent for School Reform Effort

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L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has named a veteran San Diego educator to carry out the public school reforms he's positioned front-and-center in his first term. More on the story from KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: Mayor Villaraigosa announced his choice in the library of Gompers Middle School, one of the six schools teachers and parents voted to place under the mayor's oversight starting in July.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: An experienced reformer, Angela Bass, has come on board as Superintendent of Instruction. Angela has almost a 30-year track record as an educator and a change agent with San Diego Unified.

Guzman-Lopez: Angela Bass will run the Partnership for L.A. Schools, a non-profit the mayor's formed to run six middle- and high-school campuses. Most of them are in South and East Los Angeles.

Bass said she's excited about working to improve those schools. When she paid a visit to the campuses in recent weeks, she said, she saw the urgent need to focus on learning. With the help of Villaraigosa, standing behind her, she related the schools' daunting statistics.

Angela Bass: There are only 22 sixth and seventh graders who are proficient in mathematics – this is general mathematics – in an entire school.
Villaraigosa: Out of...
Bass: Out of 1,117 students. There's something wrong with that, people, and we're here to work on that.

Guzman-Lopez: Bass and Villaraigosa said that encouraging parent involvement and supporting teachers will be important elements of their recipe for change. Bass has worked on reform before. She started out as a teacher and principal in San Diego Unified. About nine years ago, that district's former Superintendent, Alan Bersin, tapped her to join the administrative team pushing his wide-ranging math and reading improvement effort.

The vice president of the San Diego Unified teachers union, Marc Capitelli, said that Bersin didn't listen to teachers' suggestions, and that Angela Bass was no different. She was principal at Encanto Elementary about six years ago when Capitelli taught there.

Marc Capitelli: She didn't create an atmosphere that people wanted to stay in. I had best friends that had been at Encanto for years and years. They left Encanto, some of them left teaching, some of them went – one of my friends went to Texas, so that's about as far away as he could get from her. It was awful.

Guzman-Lopez: After the announcement, Bass disagreed that most San Diego Unified teachers were unhappy with reform, and she defended the results.

Bass: In any kind of change, there's a lot of learning that goes on. Were there mistakes? Yes. Was there a lot of learning? Yes. Did children improve academically? Absolutely.

Guzman-Lopez: The principal at Gompers Middle School looks forward to the shift from L.A. Unified's supervision to Mayor Villaraigosa's Partnership for L.A. Schools. The key to success, that principal said, will be to identify and keep what's working and make changes from there.

CORRECTION: In the original broadcast version of this story, we misidentified the vice president of the San Diego Unified teachers' union. His name is Marc Capitelli, and he is the vice president of his union, the San Diego Education Association. We regret the errors, which have been corrected in the script above.