It’s not everyday that you have to deal with an unforgiving police officer to spring your 10:45am meeting from the dean’s office of a local high school.  

I just had the pleasure of sitting down with an 18 year old (let’s call him Tim), and a 15 year old (let’s call him James), to discuss a project they recently started.  Former students of Fairfax High School, just blocks from my office, they are looking for help in what is sure to be a daunting task; Transforming LA USD.

Their “success criteria” for the project might feel audacious given the current state of affairs…

They want LA USD to become an innovative, inspirational school system where kids are known as people.

The last part is especially important to them.

On their walk to my office they were taken aside by a police officer and interrogated aggressively about their being out of school.  Despite telling the truth that James was transitioning to an innovative home schooling program, that his mother was literally driving over at that moment to meet with appropriate people to facilitate a smooth transition, and that he was on the way for a meeting with me about this specific project, the officer gave James a ticket for truancy.

Tim tried to support James in his explanation, and told the officer it hurt his feelings and upset him that he was not giving them a chance to confirm what they said.  It was at that point the cop cursed at Tim and told him that he would be brought to county if he interfered or talked back further.  He then dragged James back to the dean’s office, but being 18, Tim was set free.  He then ran to our office to get help.

After walking to the school with Tim to confirm everything James said, and even brining his father along with me, the cop still felt it was best for a judge to sort it all out.  What shocked me was the school even had notes in their computer system about James being switched to a different school and the mother was in her car on the way over to sign him out, yet none of this mattered to the cop.

The cop was simply doing his job.  I don’t debate that.  It only bums me out knowing that the cop would rather a judge handle what to me is a simple conversation and an example of kids looking to make a difference in their surroundings.

Talk about an inspiring start to their project.

But I digress…

When I think of education reform, I’m inspired by thought leaders shining a light on the topic and pushing for change (From recent events, Sir Ken Robinson or Davis Guggenheim’s WAITING FOR SUPERMAN come to mind) and people actually in the trenches taking a risk and getting their hands dirty (Michelle Rhee).  I’m not holding my breath for this reform from the top, though, as the debate has been around for a long time with much fanfare and little in the way of transformative results.

That said, I don’t want to wander too far down that rabbit hole.

What I can say is I was thrilled to sit across the table from two teenagers taking on a leadership role in their own futures.

They asked for suggestions, connections, inspiration and research ideas.

I gave them the perspective I have from being on the advisory board of the media academy at Grover Cleveland High School, my work with other non-profits that do after school programs, and a few friends who are teachers and board of education members.

But I’m one person, and they have a big project ahead of them.

So, I’d love your help.

I’ve included a few links and articles I sent them below, and would love to tap into whoever reads this blog to further their project.

Who do you think they should meet?
What programs should they be aware of?
Are there other people out there specifically focusing on LA USD that they should collaborate with?
What else should they be reading?
What questions should they be asking?