There are two schools in southeastern San Diego where more than 90 percent of students come from the surrounding neighborhood. Families are welcomed on campus and students walk down neighborhood streets to get to school.
It is very much the image of the neighborhood school that San Diego Unified wants to create in every corner of town. But these aren’t neighborhood schools the way district officials imagine them. They’re charter schools.
While other nearby district schools are figuring out how to attract students from the neighborhood, students are clamoring to get into Gompers Preparatory Academy and The O’Farrell Charter School.
Charter schools are public schools that operate autonomously, like mini-school districts. They have open boundaries, meaning students from any ZIP code can attend. On the other hand, traditional public schools – which the district calls “neighborhood schools” – are the school students are assigned to attend automatically if they don’t opt out.
But Gompers and O’Farrell are complicating those definitions.
About 94 percent of Gompers’ 1,230 students come from within a five-mile radius of the school. And 80 percent come from within three miles. These students live within the boundaries of Lincoln High, the neighborhood high school they’d attend if they didn’t opt into a charter.
We Stand Up For You. Will You Stand Up For Us?
Donny Powers reveals a lot here and from experience, I would say, he is absolutely right to question what is going on at GPA. Back in 2004, Bersin placed many extra administrators there before it went charter; they formed a 'work group' committee and 'voila' two months later a charter was railroaded through. And all the stories about the 'old' Gompers are just that, 'stories'. There was NOT a 75% turn over of teachers every year and I challenge anyone to prove that. There were NOT daily fights or neighborhood problems pouring into the school. Those were lies propagated by the privatization people with their own agenda. Not long before Gompers was taken over, it earned a distinguished school award under the direction of Marie Thornton and under the legendary drill, band and choir director, Ms 'Rich', Gompers won exemplary status for its performances. Not only does Donny make a good point but so do many of the other commentators here. The charters siphon resources from the public school, kick out students they do not want and 'have a good 'ol time' at the taxpayers expense. Wake up people!
Gompers Predatory Academy, aka GPA... absolute joke of a learning environment..!!
Visited the campus a few times, students are bored, teachers are lemmings, and all seem to just adore the principal. Campus is an Alice in Wonderland and the exterior is an advert for the headmaster.
I respectfully request that someone run a comprehensive comparative analysis of grades (including AP courses), test scores (including the CAHSEE-even though it may be phased out), college acceptance, and actual college attendance/length of attendance. I worked at Gompers for five and a half years and struggled with what I considered to be a hostile work environment for anyone unwilling to do exactly what they were told by school leadership; this would include assigning grades which did not match student's true abilities. If properly reported and analyzed, the numbers would prove disturbing and confusing that students who struggled with passing the CAHSEE (which really only goes as high as 8th grade standards) would pass all of their classes- including AP classes with a C or better. A comparison between grades given in AP courses vs AP exam pass rate may prove telling as well. I resigned three and a half years ago and during that time there were seniors with GPAs of 4.0 and higher, yet the AP exam pass rate was in the single digits at best. I would be curious to compare SAT scores against this data as well. I am not a huge fan of standardized testing and do believe that one should consider the whole student when determining ability- but the gap between grades "earned" and scores achieved should be somewhat close I would think.
I take exception to a lot of the information in this article but do agree that the atmosphere is very carnival-like. A LOT of time and effort does go into the show- much to the dismay of those of us who would have chosen to better use that time to help close the academic achievement gap and authentically prepare the students for college readiness.
@Donny Powers " I respectfully request that someone run a comprehensive comparative analysis of grades (including AP courses), test scores (including the CAHSEE-even though it may be phased out), college acceptance, and actual college attendance/length of attendance."
I support this. I'd like to see them for district-manged schools, too.
@Donny Powers I have a good friend that was an administrator at traditional public schools and now charter schools and he says the same. You have good and bad in both places. The difference is that a charter can be closed if it falls below the surrounding schools student academic achievement. Traditional schools stay open no matter what?
I agree with you. Wouldn't it be great if ALL schools were transparent and honest with their data? I commented on this article, not as a criticism of your reporting, but in reaction to Gompers continuously promoting and publicizing numbers which I believe are less than accurate or authentic. I brought my concerns to the school while I worked there three and a half years ago, then again in my letter of resignation in January of 2014, and yet again later in emails and meetings with two of the members of the Board of Directors. It troubles me that little or not enough has changed since then so I am compelled to raise these concerns here. It seems unfair and inappropriate to compare one school to another based on data which has not been thoroughly vetted- especially given that students' futures are at stake, families make what they believe to be informed decisions based on the numbers provided by the school, and millions of dollars are spent sometimes directly related to that data. I dedicated myself to serving the students and families of Gompers, that does not end just because I am no longer employed there. It is offensive both personally and professionally that business as usual continues at GPA until those who can make an honest change do so.
Some charters are great, and some are garbage. Like other public schools, it boils down to who's running them.
So what's the intersection between Gompers and O'Farrell and your other educational thread: bilingual education?
It is no surprise that charter schools have such cooperative students. They throw out the behavior problems and have very few programs for special needs students. These students end up at the true neighborhood schools, the public schools which actually serve any student in the neighborhood. If we want great schools we need to be sending many more resources to the public schools, especially those in the same neighborhoods as Gompers and O'Farrell. Those public schools are dealing with many children living trauma filled lives. At one of the middle schools in that area 20% of the population is a special needs student and the supports for these students are so few that 8-10 of them are in clusters in general ed class rooms. I know that at the same school an average week has 1-2 students in such crisis that they are actually hurting themselves by cutting or threatening self-harm. Despite these facts that middle school has made huge progress in creating a positive environment. Academics are stronger, behavior problems are decreasing and many new clubs and extra activities are creating happy environment on campus.
@KIm Carpender look at the true numbers. You will see that the special ed numbers are higher at these charter schools than their similar surrounding schools.
Like all charters, what is the attrition rate of students over their 4-7 years at Gompers/O'Farrell? As a charter, they have the ability to jettison students who don't fit expectations they demand. No excuse charters work for some but not all. Remember this story from 2010?
Mario, Why do so many charter schools have the word academy in their name? My niece attends Gompers and has since 9th grade. On her first day of school she was given a ticket by the clothes police, because her khaki pants had one row of stitching on the seam not two. We bought her pants at Target to save some money, but she was told she had to buy her pants at a small store in Lemon Grove along with her shirts embroidered with the Gompers name. These items were very expensive for a family living at the poverty level, as most families are whose kids attend Gompers. To me khaki pants are khaki pants, whether they have one row of stitching or two. When her father called and asked about this ridiculous ticket he was told to either buy the more expensive pants or go to another school. My nieces family lives 1/2 block from Gompers.
Every time I drive by Gompers parking lot and see the painting of the director on the wall it reminds of the film 1984, it looks exactly like Big Brother as depicted in the film.
What is the name of the company that runs the for profit Gompers High School? How much profit do they make yearly? Are the teachers represented by a union?
Allen Bersin was one of the more loathed superintends in the history of San Diego Unified. He main objective was to retrain teachers into his vision of how a teacher should teach and what the should teach. Lots of class time missed by teachers so they could be retrained.Lots of money spent on substitutes. Morale of the teachers and staff at San Diego Unified was at an all time low while he was the boss.
@richard brick Again, no for profit runs Gompers. Richard actually knows that there are NO "for-profit" charter schools in the entire San Diego county. It's hilarious what people put out there as "facts."