Staff and Parents Remain Hopeful After LAUSD Denies Renewal of South LA Charter School

By Mihir Tulpule

The outside of Celerity Dyad Charter School.

In recent years, Celerity Dyad Charter School has become an academic powerhouse in South Los Angeles.

The school’s mathematics and language arts scores have consistently surpassed its competitors, such as nearby George Washington Carver Middle School, according to the 2014 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress Report.

The school also posted scores over 20 percent higher than both district and state averages in standardized testing in 2014, as reported by the California Department of Education.

However, despite the school’s strong academic performance, Celerity Dyad’s next term charter renewal, which begins fall of 2017, was one of five school petitions rejected by LAUSD this fall, leaving both parents and staff worried about its future.

According to a representative from the Celerity Educational Group, District officials cited concerns about governance, not academic performance.

Founded in 2007 by the Celerity Educational Group, a non-profit organization created to educate and serve at-risk children, Celerity Dyad has served as an alternative to local public schools for 700 children, the majority of whom are Latino. Charter schools like Celerity must ask the school district overseeing it to renew their authority to operate.

Although the school will remain open through the remainder of the school year, the decision by LAUSD that could potentially lead to a school closure, has parents questioning how their children will transition into other South Los Angeles schools, many of which are reportedly understaffed and suffer from inadequate funding or facilities.

Yuri Ramirez says she’s seen the change in her daughter, who transferred from another school to Celerity Dyad two years ago.

“At Cooper Elementary, probably because the classes were bigger, they didn’t pay attention to my daughter,” she said. “As soon as she came to [Celerity], her scores just leaped right up. If they close down this school, a lot of kids’ scores are going to fall.”

For parents like Jose Rodrigues, whose 6-year-old son has just started school at Celerity Dyad, having to switch schools is a tough pill to swallow.

“I don’t see why they should close a good school,” Rodriguez said. “I used to send my kid to another school, but they weren’t good. . . I don’t know what I’ll do if this school closes. It helps a lot.”

Several staff members at Celerity Dyad have also expressed concerned about the impact a potential closure will have on the schoolchildren.

“This is going to be hard on the kids, of course,” said a Celerity Dyad teacher who declined to be named for fear of retributive action.

“The teachers are so dedicated here,” said Gerson Esquivel, a fourth-year facilities management worker at Celerity Dyad. “They always take extra time to help the kids. One of our teachers left, she went to a public school in Orange County. Even there, teachers don’t tutor the students if they aren’t paid. Here, they always stick around, they help out.”

That rapport with parents and staff has been an integral component of the school’s success, said said Nadia Shaiq, Celerity’s Director of School Services.

“There’s a wonderful culture there of teachers and staff that really care about students,” said Shaiq. “It is one of the strongest schools in the state of California.”

Despite the charter’s renewal rejection, the Celerity Educational Group has appealed the District’s decision and remains optimistic about an approval to continue operations for another five years.

“We’ve met with teachers, parents and different stakeholders and let them know that the decision happened by LAUSD, but that we are very confident we’ll continue to serve the students of South LA,” said Shaiq.

Celerity Educational Group expects to hear back about an appeal approval in May.

The Los Angeles Unified School District was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.