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 A Principal's Coalition

"One-LA has been organizing to strengthen and improve area school campuses for more than five years. A number of victories, ranging from prioritizing bong packages and reorganizing year-round campus schedules to toxic waste clean-ups, have made clear the power of an organized constituency of parents, educators, classified workers, and other community members. However the organizing work has not been just about public action; it has been centered on mentoring and developing leadership among people who genuinely cared about schools but did not have the skills necessary for engagement and collaboration. 

Robert Cordova, Principal of Harmony Elementary initially saw his work with One-LA as a way to deflect concerns of parents onto a different institution. Violence was rampant near the campus; one of the students had been shot and killed. However once Cordova began having relational meetings with organizers and experienced One-LA leaders, he began to see himself not just as a manager of crises, but as an educational leaders with a broader vision for the transformation of his school. He began to see the benefit of working with people outside the walls of the campus, and started viewing parents as assets rather than liabilities. He learned that sharing power did not reduce his authority as principal and that collaboration could lead to innovation and creativity - things he could never have 'mandated' from the top down.

Today Harmony Elementary is not only safer and located in a new building, but teachers are transforming their curriculum and instruction methods as well. Their collaboration with one another, with parents, and with Mr. Cordova, has loosed their imaginations about possibilities for change." (22)

Rebuilding Our Institutions by Ernesto Cortes, Jr., Acta Purblications, 2010.  Cortes is co-executive director of the Industrial Areas Foundation. 

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