Making the LAUSD strike bearable: Schools tap movies and the internet

Reseda High School vice principal Phyllis Castaneda clicks through a slide presentation in the campus auditorium as students at the school are in the school auditorium and gym as UTLA teachers are out on strike in Reseda.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

With staff cut short, school administrators have limited options for keeping their students busy during the day, but some are leaning on online learning.

Inside the auditorium of Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies in Tarzana on Monday morning, Principal William Crockett called a group of high school students to order and thanked them for coming.

He gave them instructions: Turn off Wi-Fi on all personal devices. Speak in whispers.

“The last rule is a very simple one,” Crockett said. “Don’t be a jerk.”

Students were then handed Chromebook laptops so they could complete assigned lessons in an online learning program called Edgenuity.


Meanwhile, Principal Susan Canjura of the Los Angeles High School of the Arts in Koreatown was planning the day on the fly.

The first stop for her 450 students – or whatever number showed up – the fanciful Moorish auditorium that was designed as an artistic tribute to the old Cocoanut Grove nightclub, which used to occupy the same location.

Students from her school and another school would be watching the movie “Black Panther” while administrators figured out what to do next. Canjura hoped to move her students into a few classrooms and, there, they would do coursework on computers – an option not available during the last teachers’ strike in 1989.

But Canjura said she couldn’t count on help from the 15 non-teaching staff members who would normally be on hand. Most of them had planned to take part in a sympathy strike being carried out by Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents most non-teaching workers in L.A. Unified.

Instead, the principal was counting on assistance from her two-person clerical staff, who belong to a different union. If need be, she said her students would just stay in the auditorium.

Janet Tovar, a retired administrator who provides assistance at the school, said that administrative staff planned to try to lead a discussion about the movie. The goal, she said, is to make sure learning takes place in any form possible.