November 01, 2012
By Danny J. Bakewell, Jr.
Sentinel Contributing Writer
While most African Americans are focusing on the presidential elections and the re-election of President Barack Obama, Inglewood residents have an equally important initiative on their ballot, Measure GG. GG is a bond measure designed to provide desperately needed repairs, state of the art new classrooms and technology upgrades for Inglewood Unified School District students. It was borne of a request three years ago from Inglewood students who are part of the Black Male Youth Academy.
The young men who were all IUSD students at the time, went to a school board meeting and demanded better technology and more resources for the district’s students. They asked that the school board do more about the poor conditions of their campuses, describing a poor learning environment where there were old broken and blackened windows that did not let in natural light, or let students see out of them. They complained of brown water coming out of the drinking fountains due to old and rusted pipes in the buildings, and told stories of leaky roofs from which water dripped on their desks and how their classrooms were either too hot or too cold as a result of old, faulty and inadequate heating systems and no air conditioning.
Measure GG calls for the Inglewood Unified School District to issue bonds totaling $90,000,000 at legal interest rates to improve the quality of education and the conditions in Inglewood schools. It also calls for an independent oversight committee and NO money to be taken by the state or for school district administrative salaries. Supporters say the measure would make health and safety improvements; replace old roofs; modernize and upgrade classrooms, restrooms and school facilities; improve student access to computers and technology; improve energy efficiency; upgrade inadequate electrical and plumbing systems; construct new classrooms; and qualify the district for over $20,000,000 in state matching grants. Opponents however, argue they are paying enough for schools in Inglewood and Ladera Heights already.
Margaret Bowers former president of the Ladera Heights Homeowners Association and one of the co-chairs of the Measure GG oversight committee if the initiative passes said, “people need to understand, this is a student and community driven measure.”
“Regardless of who is running the district we have to do what is in the best interest of our children in order for them to be prepared to compete in college and in the marketplace when they leave our school system. That is why we created such a strong initiative. We can’t sit around and do nothing, these are our kids and our kids futures that we are talking about.”
Opponents of GG have also talked about the current state takeover of the district as a reason not to support the measure, however Mr. Kent Taylor Inglewood USD state administrator and the person now in charge of running the district is a Measure GG supporter. When asked why he is supporting the measure given the financial problems of IUSD he stated, "Technology is the game changer and Measure GG will help ensure our students have the tools they need to receive a 21st century education and compete with students around the world."
Senator Rod Wright who wrote the legislation for the school takeover signed by Governor Jerry Brown and who represents Inglewood as part of his district is also a supporter of Measure GG he said the reason he supports the measure is because, “The time has come to invest in our schools and our community. Measure GG provides the funds needed to upgrade and renovate Inglewood schools.”
D’artagnan Scorza director of The Black Male Youth Academy and chairperson for the Yes on Measure GG Committee said, “We have to do something to improve our schools. This measure is about our kids and our community and we have to move forward. The state has failed us, so it is up to us to take action! We can’t just sit around and complain about the past we must find a way to move forward, for our children and Measure GG is the way.”
The project list for this measure was designed over the last year with input from staff, teachers, parents, community leaders and the district architect to put together a comprehensive Facilities Master Plan. The Master Plan identifies the major repairs and upgrades that need to be made. Specific types of projects identified include: increasing student access to computers and modern technology, improving energy efficiency by installing solar panels at school sites, modernizing, renovating and constructing classrooms, restrooms and school facilities, repairing or replacing leaky roofs and making health and safety improvement throughout all of the district campuses.
An example of school improvements, which can be made using bond funding, is La Tijera School on the corner of La Cienega and Fairview. The state of the art facility opened to students in January 2012 and was designed and built using Proposition K funding, which was passed by Inglewood voters in 1998. It has learning, technology and science labs for students of every age, an independent kindergarten facility and every classroom is equipped with state of the art technology.
“If the measure does not pass, our classrooms and school facilities will continue to deteriorate,” the Yes on GG campaign responded, when asked what will happen if Measure GG does not pass.
“In addition, funds that would otherwise go to classroom instruction will be needed to make payments to utility companies, and critical safety repairs and improvements at each school. Major repairs will need to be postponed and as a result will likely be more expensive in the future.”
Local elected officials and community leaders in support of Measure GG include: Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, state senators Curren Price and Roderick Wright, assembly members Holly Mitchell and Steve Bradford, Inglewood councilmembers Ralph Franklin and Eloy Morales, Jr. community leaders George Dotson, Margaret Bowers, Reggie Jones Sawyer and a number of building trade unions.