By Alfredo Hernandez
In the wake of the failed Scottish Referendum, one can’t help but notice the similarities between the Scots and Granada Hills Charter High School. Both are a group of plaid-clad Highlanders that pushed for independence from a governing body, the Scottish from the English and GHCHS from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Scotland wasn’t as successful as its Highlander brethren, failing to succeed with a vote of 54% no to 46% yes. But, it surely hasn’t failed to pique my interest in the whole process of GHCHS and its separation from LAUSD.
Like many other things, both the referendum and the push for charterdom started with a plan. The Scottish Nationals Party felt that they lacked suitable representation in the British Parliament. Additionally, the Scots wished to have sole control of their vast amounts of Northern Sea oil, a resource that is shared and sold under the flag of the United Kingdom.
Their 607 white-page plan for independence would have legislated for all systems of government and arbitrated the issues of general welfare, defense, democracy, internal relations, and, most importantly, sports.
For GHCHS, the plan resulted from a culmination of input from community members, parents, students and teachers. Granada Hills High School’s (GHHS) grievances revolved around three issues with LAUSD.
Firstly, the school population of GHHS was growing, and LAUSD was going to implement a year-round curriculum to accomodate.
Secondly, LAUSD told GHHS that their tardy system, which had been praised by teachers for encouraging timeliness and reducing class disturbance, could no longer be implemented.
Thirdly, the curriculum of LAUSD was, in the words of current GHCHS Chief Academic Officer Dr. Dilmit Singh, “not as progressive as we had hoped.”
The School Leadership Council felt all of these issues, hindered GHHS’s academic prowess and potential. The School Leadership Council was a governing body of GHHS administrators, teachers, students, parents, and community members that discussed and mulled over anything pertaining to GHHS. A year-round school in their eyes would water down the curriculum, the removal of the tardy policy would disrupt class time, and the stalled curriculum would obviously place a damper on education. GHHS’s plan set for all the bells and whistles needed to run a proper charter school.
On a different vein of discussion, both of these bodies had a prominent leader. For the Scots, that figurehead was First Minister of Scotland and Scottish National Party leader, Alex Salmond. Salmond had lead the Scottish National Party since 2004 and was the most vocal proponent for separation, championing the referendum since 2007. On GHCHS’s side of things, the push for charter was spearheaded by then principal now Executive Director Brian Bauer. Both hopefully set forth to lead their respective constituents to certain victory. They were tasked with laying out a clear vision for the future, and getting everyone else to agree.
Post elections, GHCHS was triumphant but the Scottish separationists were not. This, it seems, is where the plaid-clad celtic comparison ends.
But the loss for the Scottish was not without its triumphs. They have been promised by British Prime Minister David Cameron a larger amounts of undisclosed rights, which have been said to have been agreed upon with the Scottish National Party’s approval. They also left with a greater sense of democracy, having witnessed an unprecedented 84% voter turnout for the historic referendum.
For GHCHS, the path toward implementation was rocky at the start, but has smoothed and self corrected as the years passed. Now GHCHS stands an academic juggernaut, with a name that sends a shiver down a many’s spines and causes college recruiters to turn with a new found interest.
The goal was always to make GHCHS better, to take care of it in a way that LAUSD never could or would. When asked whether or not she felt the goals of the original charter plan were met, Dr. Singh replied with an emphatic “Yes.”
Whether it be a principal and his peers seeking a better way of running his school, or a figurehead and his constituents seeking a better way to run a country, the longing for freedom and self governance remains. The desire to run a body one sees fit, without the oversight of a governing body so far detached from one’s self that they no longer work in one’s best interest, is fundamentally human. What we long for is a sense of ownership, as that ownership brings with it a sense of pride when you see the fruits of your labor sprouting and thriving.
Dr. Singh expressed these sentiments best when she said, “[The] one thing this charter gave us was ownership. And when you are an owner, you take care of things differently way.” And GHCHS has certainly been cared for in a different way, evident in the love and passions shared by many for the school and in the achievements accomplished since the long fight for emancipation.