JEFF HIGH HEAD ROLLS
After three incidents of violence at Jefferson High School, school supe. Roy Romer has replaced its principal, Norm Morrow. The new principal will be Juan Flecha who will move from his current position at Eagle Rock High School. Something about this smacks of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Despite what mayor-elect Antonio V. said about Morrow ("My sense, frankly, is that things are out of control," and "I don't get the sense that anyone was in charge.") my sense is that the problems facing Jeff High and other schools are beyond the capacity of a single individual to fix. Morrow was the sacrificial lamb, a head rolled out for public consumption to create the appearance that "something" was being done. Let's off the principal and maybe the problem will go away.
If only it was that easy.
In addition to changing the principal, JHS will also get 90 (count 'em ninety) surveillance cameras, three more school cops, a new coat of paint and graffiti removed from the campus. A new high school will also open its doors in July to handle 700 students from JHS.
The simple truth is, the fights didn't break out over the lack of fresh paint or overcrowding. The problems go deep into the neighborhoods and beyond. For example, the homicide of Cabrillo HS student DEMETRIUS "BEAR" WILLIAMS in Long Beach back in February had nothing to do with the school environment. Cabrillo is a brand new, $45 million school chock full of programs. It has the highest ratio of computers to students of any major urban school on the West Coast. It's got advanced programs for media, animation and computers, a pre-engineering magnet program, a college prep magnet program, and an academy of finance and information technology. So no one gets left behind, Cabrillo also has a "recovery" program for kids falling behind to help them catch up. Plus there's dance and music, drug and gang counseling, mentoring programs and gang diversion. The Greater Long Beach National Conference for Community and Justice supports an on-campus group called Jaguars United whose purpose is to promote interaction between racial groups. They sponsor events like movie nights, peace rallies and "fishbowl" lunches where students are encouraged to socialize with members of different racial groups. All this was in place way before Williams was killed. If ever there was fertile ground for peace and harmony, Cabrillo should have been it.
Despite all these good intentions, racial tensions persist at Cabrillo. At the end of the school day, black students walk on one side of the street and Latinos on the other. Blacks go to the MacDonald's. Hispanics go to a taco stand. Racial taunts are commonplace. If anything, Williams had taken racial diversity to heart. He fathered an out-of-wedlock child. His girlfriend is a Latina. Instead of bridging the racial divide, his relationship with a Latina, cops say, got some people on both sides bent the wrong way.
Williams also claimed WEST COAST CRIPS, self-admitted on an FI card. The two accused shooters, according to LBPD, are WEST SIDE LONGOS. And there we are back at the neighborhoods.
While JHS hasn't experienced a BEAR incident, it's abundantly clear that video cameras, some new paint and a new principal aren't going to solve its problems. Antonio V., Romer and city leaders should do a little more than change the window dressing.