STNC Holds a Special General Board Meeting Concerning Proposed Co-Tenant Joining Mount Gleason Middle School
Out of concern of the spread of misinformation and the rapid community response to the news that the Los Angeles Unified School District was planning to move North Valley Military Institute from its current location onto Mount Gleason Middle School, the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council called a special meeting board meeting on Wednesday, February 9 to bring all affected parties together. Those that would be affected by this forced move are the students and families of NVMI, Mount Gleason Middle School, Valley Oaks Charter for Enriched Studies (VOCES), and Mountain View Elementary School. Each party has its own specific concerns and needs, and the STNC believes that by bringing them all together, it is possible to present a united front to LAUSD and find a solution that is beneficial to everyone. This meeting was attended by an amazing number of people, at least 166 interested parents and community members and the full STNC board was present by the end of the meeting.
Beginning with NVMI, their concern is having a location where their entire school can be together on one campus, preferably their own. The LAUSD proposal will send the middle school aged students to Mount Gleason, and the high school aged students would stay at their current location on the VOCES campus. The head of NVMI, Dr. Mark Ryan, has repeatedly stated the intention of NVMI is not to encroach upon other schools. “NVMI has proposed multiple solutions which would in no way impact other schools negatively.” The issue at hand is, LAUSD has previously denied their charter in an attempt to decertify and remove the school, but the Los Angeles County Office of Education took over jurisdiction of NVMI under the rules of Prop 39. Now, after numerous complaints from VOCES, LAUSD has decided to split the school and has given NVMI until March 1 to respond.
Moving the middle school students to Mount Gleason would cause a terrible ripple effect that would affect hundreds of students, and disrupt a vital community school. The issues that would affect Mount Gleason directly revolve around splitting the campus to provide room for NVMI students. Mount Gleason students would have limited access to, or completely lose access to multiple vital parts of the campus including STEAM training classrooms, Student Leadership Room, the Restorative Justice/Student Voice room, and computer labs. The school could also potentially lose Sycamore behavioral health counseling that is currently available to students as well as the Parent Center and the IEP room used for Parent/Administrator conferences. That doesn’t even include the logistics of how Mount Gleason and NVMI would share lunch areas, P.E. facilities, and the auditorium/multi-purpose room. There is also the issue of future plans at the school that would be jeopardized by this move. It had been announced that Mount Gleason will be matriculating the Dual Language Armenian-English program that currently runs from Kindergarten through Grade 5 at Mountain View Elementary School.
This is one of two areas where Mountain View students and parents become affected by this move. If NVMI is moved onto the Mount Gleason campus, the school would lose the ability to add the classes associated with the dual language program, because that classroom space would no longer be available. Parents of students in the dual language program have openly threatened to pull their students from LAUSD and find alternative options. What of students looking forward to the gifted program, or the STEAM magnet? They would also be negatively impacted by this move with the loss of facility access as detailed above.
As for VOCES, they want their campus to be left to them. They find themselves potentially, and wrongfully, saddled as the co-villain in this scene. They never asked to share their campus with NVMI, but they’ve coexisted for years, even if that coexistence was tenuous at best. The faculty, staff, students and parents can relate to the trepidation that is being felt by the parents, students, faculty and staff at Mountain View and Mount Gleason.
As the meeting went into comments, it was clear that each side felt very strongly in their stance. The one main tenet of this meeting was reiterated by STNC President Lydia Grant, the solution to this situation is “not pitting school versus school or parent versus parent.” Ms. Grant stated that she had been in contact with many of the elected officials who represent both Sunland-Tujunga and the area of Sun Valley where VOCES and NVMI are located. She urged that everyone in attendance contact their elected officials, and “we cannot get this accomplished without everybody on board.”
The STNC also drafted a letter to LAUSD officially stating their opposition to the move, which detailed much of the information above. There was a problematic section of the letter that appeared to unintentionally paint NVMI students negatively However, this was mentioned in the public comments portion of the meeting regarding the letter, and, after a unanimous vote by the board to amend that paragraph, it was agreed to be changed. The board then voted unanimously to approve sending the letter to LAUSD.
Time was coming up quickly, and Ms. Grant urged those in attendance to send their emails voicing concern to the LAUSD office managing Prop 39. Foothill Telegram also urges all readers to do the same. The District must put all students first in this scenario, and not just make an apparent random determination.