Posted on September 26, 2011

At Manual Arts High, A Caring Teacher Is at the End of His Rope

Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2011

Art teacher Jeremy Davidson skipped the annual back-to-school-night at Manual Arts High this week.

He’d walked off the job the day before–after 10 years at the mid-city campus–done in by a group of unruly ninth-graders who’d hijacked his sixth-period drawing class.

While Davidson was “trying to give a lesson on shading,” the troublemakers were “whacking each other with rulers, throwing paper across the room, getting up and walking around.”

They blocked the door when he tried to close it, talked over him when he tried to teach.

The first time it happened this semester, he summoned security “four times during the period and help never came.”

Day after frustrating day, he said, the scenario replayed. {snip}


So two weeks after the school year began Sept. 7–after a string of sleepless nights–Davidson called his principal from class midmorning and said: “It would be best if you got me covered so I can pack my things and go.”

{snip} Two days earlier, he had emailed The Times, complaining about “the awful conditions” at Manual Arts.


Still, I had to wonder, what kind of teacher abandons those students when the semester has barely begun? A teacher at the end of his rope, Davidson told me; one who has had his fill of broken promises and dashed hopes.

“You keep raising your expectations, but nothing changes,” he said. “After all these years, I look around and see that things are just getting worse.”

After spending years on a year-round schedule, Manual Arts switched this month to a traditional school calendar, which puts 3,200 students on a campus built for 1,000, during a year when the Los Angeles Unified School District is drastically cutting teachers and funding.


That extra time is important to a school with some of the district’s lowest test scores, where two-thirds of the students drop out. {snip}


{snip} The school has had 10 principals in 10 years. Its faculty long has been considered a combustible mix of firebrand activists and holding-out-for-retirement deadwood.


{snip} In the meantime, Davidson’s decided not to resign, but instead ask for a leave of absence. “I still love teaching,” he insists. “And I’ve got some very talented kids.”

[Editor’s Note: According to this site, Manual Arts School is 82.1% Hispanic, 17.7% black, and 0% white.]