Autumn Burke is wasting no time getting down to business. The newly-elected 62nd District Assemblywoman’s first order of business is overhauling how the Inglewood Unified School District is run.
She released the following statement on Dec. 19, 2014 in response to a report by KPCC on Inglewood schools.
"Yesterday's report on KPCC about the state of schools in Inglewood—broken windows, moldy drinking fountains, and cockroaches—was sickening. Our children deserve better than that!”
She was referring to an investigative report dated Dec. 18, 2014, which revealed deplorable health and safety conditions. All Inglewood schools were included in the report. However, Inglewood High School had the most serious violations, which was noted in the article:
“Filthy classrooms. Blocked exit doors. Green matter, either mold or moss, growing in a drinking fountain” were among “the 23 ‘extreme deficiencies’ (that) a Los Angeles County inspector found on a recent visit to Inglewood High School, despite a promise by the school district's leadership to fix problems exposed by a KPCC investigation.”
The report is a follow up to a previous article published Nov. 6, 2014 which sent shockwaves through Inglewood. The latest inspection by the Los Angeles County Office of Education was performed a month after state trustee Dr. Don Brann and state school superintendent Tom Torlakson promised to clean up the high school.
Brann announced at the time that he had hired an exterminator, bathrooms would be deep-cleaned and the school’s custodial and maintenance staff would receive additional training, support, and a list of priorities.
Disturbing images of a clogged sink with an unknown green substance, peeling walls, mold and water-damaged ceilings depict the horrible conditions under which students at some Inglewood schools are trying to learn. Morningside High and Munroe Middle School also showed serious neglect.
"I just think about the student who's sitting in a room looking at a hole in the wall with water or rain coming in and what that communicates to the student about how the state values his or her education," David Sapp, director of education advocacy for the ACLU of California, told KPCC. “When I think about that I just know that if I were the state superintendent I'd be on the next plane down to Inglewood to get to the bottom of what's going on and make sure that there's a solution."
Brann, whose budget includes a personal security detail in excess of $300 thousand, commented in an earlier interview with KPCC that he did not know if Inglewood was safe. Violent crime is at its lowest level in the city and Brann admitted there have been no threats made to his personal safety.
Inglewood Mayor James Butts called for immediate action and wrote an open letter to residents (dated Nov. 11, 2014) in response to the Nov. 6 report. Butts said he had contacted Torlakson to fix the situation at Inglewood High:
“He committed to having maintenance crews at Inglewood High this past weekend and on into the week to remediate this situation immediately…Superintendent Torlakson has also verbally committed to allow the City to be consulted, informed and where appropriate, involved, before major decisions are made in the future,” Butts said.
According to the most recent article by KPCC, Torlakson was not available for comment and he has visited the high school once since the Nov. 6 report.
Burke is calling for new leadership at Inglewood schools:
"Inglewood needs a new direction, with local eyes and ears that can address these issues. That is why I am supporting Erick Holly, Dionne Faulk, and D'Artagnan Scorza for the Advisory Board of Education.
"These candidates have been Inglewood residents for years and I am confident that they possess the skills and judgment necessary to ensure that Inglewood students receive the education they are constitutionally entitled to," Burke said.
Last April, the Inglewood school district had a good inspection rating—ranking 93 out of 100, according to KPCC. In December, that number dropped down to 12. County inspectors will conduct a follow-up visit on January 5th to see if any of the "extreme deficiencies" have been corrected.