Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Diana L. Chapman

Linda Del Cueto, who led the way to build a new high school in San Pedro

despite a storm of sharp criticism and steered a collaborative principal to the

area, stepped down from her post in June where she headed all of Los Angeles

schools in its southern region.

She left the job with “mixed feelings” somewhat “bitter-sweet” to head Los

Angeles Unified’s largest region of schools, plopped in central area of Los

Angeles starting in July.

“I loved it here and I’m really going to miss everyone,” Del Cueto explained

during a June interview. “I worked really hard to learn all the unique and

diverse communities and I loved it from the spirit of San Pedro to the

uniqueness of Gardena.

“It’s a lateral move, but it’s one that that Superintendent Cortines asked for.”

LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines needed an experienced

official to manage the largest area of LAUSD which boasts 131 schools, 15 of

which are high schools.

Her new post, she said, will primarily concern an effort to make those campuses competitive enough to keep middle class residents in public schools who are racing to charters and private facilities.

During her three years of heading the southern region, which runs from northern

Los Angeles above Gardena and swoops all the way south to the cliffs of San

Pedro and encompasses Wilmington, Carson, Rancho Palos Verdes, and Lomita, Del Cueto leaves behind her a repertoire of successes – perhaps the most difficult,

finding a principal to rescue the beleaguered San Pedro High.

San Pedro High was thrust into a “public school choice option,” meaning it would

have to compete to maintain its schools against outside operators, such as

charters or non-profits. It also suffered from revolving door leadership,

drooping test scores, poor accreditation and an entrenched staff.

When the last principal retired shortly after a brief two-year stint, Del Cueto

went out of her way to find a successful, “collaborative,” “drill-down,”

principal, one who this time lived in San Pedro, understood the community and

had a keen ability to bring players together.

So far, new principal Jeanette Stevens, who Del Cueto nabbed from another region of the district to prop up San Pedro High School -- has proven to be popular

with the community and scores of teachers within her first year. The school is

expected to pass its accreditation this month – without much trouble – and has

launched a new layout of small learning communities at the overcrowded school of 3,500.

Del Cueto also showed her expertise in manning such a vast area of schools after

weathering the brunt of intense criticism in San Pedro when the district agreed

to build High School 15 at the Upper Fort MacArthur reservation, called Angel’s


Despite massive opposition from a narrow contingency of neighbors, the school

board agreed to build the 800 seat campus, which is expected to open in 2012.

Del Cueto braced the swirling controversy in which residents relentlessly

complained about massive traffic in their neighborhoods, dangerous access on

Alma Street and the destruction of the serene area that overlooks the Pacific.

“I learned through this that the district can do a better job of communicating

with the public,” the regional superintendent said. “Just because I’m passionate

about building a new school, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be sensitive. When the

district rolls out such large projects, it has to be done in a much more

communicative manner.”

Los Angeles Unified had owned the 28 acre site for years. The school will be an

annex of San Pedro High and will partially house San Pedro High’s Marine Magnet

students. The campus will be surrounded by educational resources, including the

Marine Mammal Care Center and the International Bird Rescue Center.

Other areas Del Cueto said she’s proud of include:

--Changing the definition of “articulation” so that it doesn’t mean students get

just a tour of their next school. Now, she leaves behind plans for feeder school

teachers to meet with the faculty at the students’ next educational level. For

example, middle school teachers will talk with high school teachers about

algebra and math, she explained, and what students learned as well as their

strength and weaknesses. In some cases, teachers will even visit students at

their new school.

--Turning Gardena High, another struggling campus under the “public school

choice option,” to small learning communities, but in this case a 9th grade

academy was added. Ninth graders will wear uniforms “to minimize potential

conflict” and be separated from sophomores, juniors and seniors who are not

required to wear uniforms. “We felt the students really needed this as a safety

step,” Del Cueto explained.

--Working with LAUSD's school board member Richard Vladovic’s office in obtaining $25 million worth of funding

to give Harbor Teachers Prep Academy – a nationally recognized high school that

boasts the highest test scores and graduation rate in the district – a permanent

home at Los Angeles Harbor College. It currently operates in bungalows at the

college and has no access to sports facilities. She considered the project a top

priority as the school draws students from Wilmington , Carson and San Pedro.

With Del Cueto’s recommendation, Michael Romero has been named interim local district superintendent.

Vladovic, who Del Cueto worked closely with, said she will be missed, but that Romero is an excellent pick for a replacement.

“Linda did a good job and cared about kids, Vladovic said. “She had a

fundamental belief that all children can learn and exemplified effective

leadership at Local District 8. We will miss her greatly but we have a new Local

District Superintendent Michael Romero who can hit the ground running and who

has very similar traits.”


Russell Jeans said...

The news that Mike Romero is moving into the District Sup slot is fantastic. He's earned it. A great guy and a great force.

Anonymous said...

She was a talking head with little or no experience in the classroom. She tried to bully the schools around to get what she wanted. The whole idiotic reconfiguration of the middle schools (where San Pedro was targeted mainly) was one of her pet projects. When she approached the ideas with the staffs of the middle schools, valid questions were brushed off and refused to answer why LD 8 was targeted the most. She sought no input from the staff at the middle school, and Mike Romero is just as bad as she is. He let elementary school principals ask high seniority teachers to voluntarily displace and go into the pool to become 6th grade teachers preventing middle school teachers from getting those jobs. I wish him nothing but the worst, and hope that LAUSD is broken up soon for the children's sake