May 15, 2020News
When the Crenshaw High School principal posted the matrix recently, the faculty quickly saw something wrong: two teachers’ names were missing. As part of a budget-balancing move, the principal had made the unilateral decision to get rid of band teacher Al Tarver and choir teacher Iris Stevenson — without consulting staff or talking to the two teachers themselves. The fact that they were the only Vocal and Instrumental Music teachers at the school meant that, with their elimination, Crenshaw’s entire music program would be gone.
The Crenshaw alumni and community went into action. The chapter chair and co-chair called for an immediate meeting with the principal. Organized by alumni Gustyn Cook and Charné Tunson, the Crenshaw community got active on Facebook, swiftly building a group 800-strong to express their displeasure with the district. UTLA members harnessed the power of their Zoom faculty meeting to send a message of unity, changing their screen names to all read SAVE THE MUSIC PROGRAM.
“It’s a big deal when the faculty supports each other and when, in turn, the alumni and community support the faculty,” Chapter Chair Maynard Brown says. “When the community is behind us, it matters. Administration was trying to get rid of so-called ‘elective’ classes, but there’s nothing elective about them: our students deserve a fully rounded educational program that
includes music and the arts.”
After an intense week of virtual organizing, the district announced it had found $200,000 to fund the positions, and administration reinstated the two teachers and issued letters of apology to the two teachers, the faculty, and the community.
“This shows the power of the virtual space,” Brown says. “We can bring change in a virtual environment and hold the district accountable to what our students need.”