I am a proud parent of a Whitney High graduate. Your article by James Gomez discussed some of the reasons why Whitney High is such an outstanding school and deserves its No. 1 recognition. Whitney High ranked at the top 99 percentile on the state CAP test for seniors.
I teach 18 miles away at Jefferson High School in South-Central Los Angeles. Some people call it gang country. Jefferson High ranked at the very bottom, at the first percentile. All of us must ask why. All of us are responsible for the crime that allows a situation to exist that guarantees that the kids at Jefferson will fail in school and in life.
I am also proud of the fact that I was involved in the establishment of the original Whitney Learning Center. Bob Beall, the principal, and the staff should be given the credit for making Whitney into the school that it is today. We need more Whitney High Schools. We need to do something in this state and nation to make sure that there will be no more Jefferson high schools that are unable to help kids in the inner cities.
The junior high schools that send students to Jefferson High had the lowest scores on the eighth-grade CAP test. Therefore, the elementary schools in that area are unwilling or unable to guarantee that every child can read and write by the sixth grade.
I've seen no evidence that there is any plan to improve Jefferson High. It's the same story every year. The teachers struggle to help kids, but the administration isn't even willing to admit that a problem exists.
A day before graduation about 100 "seniors" did not know if they were going to graduate because they had not passed the proficiency test or they did not know if they had enough credit. How can the administrators continue to get away with such behavior? No principal in the inner city should be given a pay raise if there is no improvement in learning.
All of us must care about those inner city kids. They are the ones who are destroying our society with gangs and drugs. Most of the Whitney High students will be successful because they are motivated in the right direction. The Jefferson High dropouts are the ones that pose the greatest threat to our way of life. They are motivated in the wrong direction. They need gangs and drugs to survive. They are no different than the students at Whitney, other than the fact that they don't have a chance to make a success of their lives.
The elementary school kids near Jefferson High are joining gangs and selling drugs. Police raids have not stopped the killings from drive-by shootings. Many of my students have killed or been killed. If we as a society do not help the young kids, there won't be enough jails to keep all of them and all the police raids in the world won't help. When there are more gang killings in this area, maybe some of us will wake up. I pray that we will do something before it is too late.
RICHARD F. ARTHUR