The career center at Grant High School--usually cluttered with books, pamphlets, posters, student files and scholarship announcements--was neat and bare Friday afternoon, its contents packed into 21 cardboard boxes ready for storage.
Center director Alan Ringer’s desk was cleared of its paper work, except for a few snapshots and an appointment book. Chairs were upended on tables, typewriters and a computer locked away.
Ringer said the equipment and materials, collected during a long career, are too valuable to risk losing during the chaos that may ensue if Los Angeles teachers strike Monday.
He said most teachers plan to lock their important materials away or take them home. “It’s not to be defiant but only to make sure that everything is secure,” said Ringer, co-chairman of the Grant chapter of United Teachers-Los Angeles.
Teachers, administrators and students at Grant, in Van Nuys, tried to keep cool heads Friday, despite a giddiness born of adrenaline and uncertainty.
Rumors flew about negotiations, and teachers held a spirited question-and-answer session with union officials in the school’s library. The gathering was accented with mild profanity, anti-Board of Education repartee and declarations of solidarity.
“I don’t remember this much spirit the first time,” said English department chairman Garrett Wossner, a veteran of the 1970 Los Angeles teachers’ strike. “There’s a spirit of militancy abroad.”
Principal Robert Collins worked with Grant’s four other administrators to put the final touches on plans for security, scheduling and staffing for 3,300 students and more than 100 classrooms.
Students fretted over whether to show up at Grant on Monday or to wait the strike out at home.
“One of the main things confusing us is what teachers say,” said Ron Brigel, 17. “Some tell us to raise hell with the substitutes, some say don’t come at all, and others said the work assigned during the strike won’t count so don’t even bother doing it.”
Brigel said he planned to attend because not showing up could hurt his grades.
Others planned to stay at home to avoid a rumored gang fight.
“I feel there might be rioting or other things going on because there’s a lot of bad feelings,” said Kenisa Stalling, 16, explaining why she plans to stay home. “If I come, we’d just be sitting around and I come here to learn.”
Collins offered assurances of safety. A police officer, two administrators and three campus aides will be present. He said he did not believe the gang fight rumors but said his staff would be ready in any case.
He and other administrators met with a group of parents Friday, and he had met earlier in the week with student leaders and teachers. He issued a two-page memo telling pupils what to do in case of unstaffed classrooms and promising that scheduled activities would take place.
The plans were listed in a sheaf of papers covering nearly every aspect of how to run a sprawling urban high school during a teachers’ strike. Collins said he expected more than 80% of the school’s 132 teachers to honor the picket line.
As he planned for the strike, he looked beyond it.
“I don’t see this as a battle or a war,” he said. “My concern right now is absolutely for the smooth operation of my school when teachers return, so that the deep divisions that can exist when some go out and others do not, don’t occur.”
Teachers scheduled picket-line duty, urged one another to bring cameras to photograph strikebreakers and talked about how to apply for emergency loans. They also thought about their students.
Check on Students
Ringer, for example, on Friday broke the news to one girl that she had received a $500 scholarship. He arranged to use a telephone next week to check on working students he supervises. He discreetly handed out his unlisted home telephone number to some pupils needing advice on college or career plans.
“A lot of them will come and talk to me on the picket line, and I will still talk to them,” he said.
Dan Gruenberg, the school’s dean of students, tried to settle all the discipline cases that still remained on his desk Friday. “I don’t want students coming in Monday having to serve detentions,” he said.
Pam Felcher, an English teacher, said she told her students that their term papers were due Monday, strike or no strike. “If we’re all here on Tuesday, I want to go right on,” she said.