In Hollywood, Politicians' Kids Get a Private School Education on the Public Dime
Activists in South Hollywood recently staged a funeral for their park, part of which was leased for what's become a controversial school project.
Normally, a minority-dominated low-income neighborhood like South Hollywood would have reason to cheer the arrival of a new school, especially one that offers a departure from the mind-numbing, teach-the-test curriculum that prevails at other public schools.
But though the newly named Beachside Montessori Village school is located in South Hollywood, it isn't for South Hollywood kids. Neighborhood activists cite enrollment figures that show the school is dominated by white kids, some of whom have politically connected parents.
"This school was created for politicians," fumes Pete Brewer, a longtime activist in Hollywood. Among the political offspring he says will go to Beachside: the children of School Board member Jennifer Gottlieb, Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober, Hollywood Commissioner Heidi O'Sheehan, and Hollywood spokeswoman Raelinn Storey.
Retention ponds cover what used to be a green Lincoln Field in South Hollywood.
Photo provided by Pete Brewer
The city leased the school district the park land where they are building a portion of the new school, and they did so without the referendum required for disposing of city parks, a violation of Hollywood's charter, according to Brewer.
What's more, the construction of Beachside Montessori at Lincoln Field caused flooding in the five-acre space, turning what used to be a grassy park into a bunch of retention ponds, as you can see in the photo above.
Another South Hollywood activist, Andre Brown, says the city collaborated with the School Board in "discrimination" against the low-income, minority children who live in the area surrounding the school, at Lincoln Street and North 24th Avenue.
"The people in this community weren't notified in time to put in applications for that new school," says Brown. "The kids in District 2 should have had the first opportunity."
According to Brown, the city could have sent residents a letter about the school application. It could have dropped a note with the water bill. And the school district could have contacted parents with students enrolled at the other South Hollywood schools, McNicol and Colbert.
The district did none of that, he says. The single disclosure: a digital sign near the construction site for the school that notified parents to register their children for a drawing -- and that was two weeks before the deadline.
At McNicol Middle School in South Hollywood, 50 percent of the student body is black. In Colbert Elementary, it's 75 percent. At Beachside Montessori, only 12 percent of the students are black, says Brewer. Of the 587 registered students, 356 are white.
"It's like a private school for these people, but it's paid for with public tax dollars," says Brewer.
I've left messages with Storey, the city of Hollywood spokeswoman, and with Gottlieb. If I hear back, I'll update this post with their remarks. A school spokesperson is also researching the question of how local parents were informed about the drawing to enroll students for Beachside Montessori.
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