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Mayor Villaraigosa welcomed students at the Santee Educational Complex in downtown L.A. Tuesday morning as they arrived for their first day of class. The day marked the beginning of the mayor's efforts to make major changes to L.A. public schools.
The students at Santee Educational Complex are just some of the nearly 19,000 kids under the control of Mayor Villaraigosa's Partnership for L.A. Schools program.
"We're going to have standards for achievement, for attendance, for graduation rates," said Mayor Villaraigosa. "And we're just going to roll up our sleeves and get the job done. This is not going to be easy."
Santee and Roosevelt High School, both year-round campuses, are the first two schools to launch the new reforms. The program is centered around more accountability and less bureaucracy. Ten of L.A. Unified School District's lowest performing schools have joined the Partnership.
"We're all looking forward to it, really," said teacher Deborah Monroe. "Everyone voted for it, there are no surprises. The surprise is going to be how many new things we get and what money we use to get them from."
The mayor promises to boost the schools' budget by about five percent. Teachers and staff will have more say in how money is spent and how they run their classrooms.
"We're really excited about seeing what happens because there's a lot of potential and we want to use the potential that's there for us," said teacher Naomi Katz.
For students, the focus is on college prep curriculum and making sure they have a safe environment in which to learn. There will be extra help for those students struggling to keep up with the course work.
"Well, I've heard a lot about this school, you know, that it's had a lot of problems," said Andrea Vega, a student at Santee Educational Complex. "But I mean, you know, it's a good school and, you know, if you try your best I think you could graduate out of this school."
"It's new, I'm really coming into it, so let's see what it takes to graduate in here," said Santee student William Fabian.
The mayor told students Tuesday that it's going to take more work, but more students will end up with diplomas and hopefully go on to college.