The Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches is a network of 45 African
American congregations that span Los Angeles County. The organization
was founded in 1994 to address hopelessness and despair in the African
American community. The mission of the organization is to build
the capacity of clergy, lay, and community leaders to revitalize
LAM utilizes a "liberation
theology" methodology to achieve its mission. The process
begins with the establishment of "intentional relationships"
between LAM and local pastors. Interested pastors work with LAM
staff to create leadership teams within their congregation. Once
a team is developed, LAM assists it in conducting a "listening
campaign" throughout the entire congregation. The purpose
is to surface a collective vision. The team also helps to identify
the "capacity building" needs of the church.
Upon completion of
the "listening campaign", LAM unites the congregation
together with other congregations who have engaged in a similar
process. Through a spirit of linkage and reciprocity, all participating
congregations engage in "faith based" community organizing
campaigns to achieve solutions to pressing problems. Every campaign
is designed to create a series of "learning opportunities"
for clergy and lay leaders. "Learning opportunities"
act as catalysts in nurturing the wealth of untapped "human
capital" that exists within each institution.
During the first three
years of operation, LAM has achieved a number of significant victories.
Among those are the following:
- Trained 300 clergy
and lay leaders in the fundamentals of "faith based"
- Initiated a campaign
to mandate that ex-offenders obtain a high school equivalency
degree as a condition of probation and parole. The measure passed
the California Assembly 79 to 0.
- Won the support
of LA District Attorney Gil Garcetti to support the GED initiative.
- Won the Support
of the LA County Board of Supervisors to provide funding for
a pilot GED preparation program to be implemented in local congregations
in Los Angeles County.
The state of public education in Los Angeles County is in disarray.
Primary and secondary public school students are not receiving
an adequate education. Per pupil allotments are insufficient.
Teacher expectation of students is low. Parental involvement is
problematic. Very few parents understand the "nuts and bolts"
of reform. Bureaucratic resistance to change is ever present.
In the Los Angeles
Unified School District, for example, African American students
are being severely miseducated. Black students represent 13.8
percent of the student population. Their achievement scores are
dismal. Stanford Achievement tests indicate that: 1st
graders are achieving at the 28th percentile, second
grade students are achieving at the 26th percentile,
3rd grade students are achieving at the 28th
percentile, fourth grade students at the 24th percentile,
fifth grade students at the 24th percentile, six grade
students at the 22nd percentile, 7th grade
at the 21st percentile, eighth grade at the 24th
percentile, ninth grade at the 22nd percentile, and
tenth grade students are achieving at the 22nd percentile.
LAMS reseach indicates similar scores for students in Compton,
Inglewood, and Pasadena.
The Los Angeles Metropolitan
Churches is challenged by these circumstances. In our latest "listening
campaign", a majority of the members expressed concern about
the state of their childrens education. A strategy team
was formed to begin researching the causes of the educational
dilemma facing African American children in the school system.
Portions of the research findings have been outlined above. In
an effort to formulate a response, LAM believes that the crisis
in public education must be placed in the historical context that
LAM asserts that its
members are witnessing the end of the "Second Reconstruction"
in America. The United States is shifting from and industrial
based society to an information and technological based society.
As the economy continues to reconstruct itself many of the cultural,
educational, and economic assumptions under which our families
and institutions have operated under are quickly becoming obsolete.
States rights, welfare reform, and the dismantling of the Federal
"safety net" will push more people permanently into
the ranks of poverty. More poverty equates to greater despair,
an increase in dysfunctional families, and a continuing deterioration
in public education.
Important lessons from
the "First Reconstruction" can inform those concerned
about contemporary circumstances. First, concepts of compassion
and concern for the poor will take a back seat to the acquisition
and consolidation of wealth. Secondly, the country will turn a
deaf ear to issues such as race relations. As a result, many of
the gains made by people of color will be reversed. Third, as
was the case during the "First Reconstruction", the
United States will witness a rise in the "prison industrial
complex." Finally, urban cities will see a withdrawal of
federal, state, and local funding for public education. A primary
motivation for the withdrawal is the fact that urban cities are
becoming increasingly populated by low to moderate income African
Americans and Latinos.
The long term goals
of the project are as follows:
Goal #1- Transform
LAM member churches into "Small Learning Communities"
that take on the primary responsibility of providing traditional
and nontraditional educational programs for youth and adults.
Goal #2- Develop a
county-wide power base of parents and church leaders who can affect
institutional changes in public education.
The short term goals
of the project are as follows:
Goal #1- Initiate a
One Church One School "adopt a school" program. The
aim of the program is to provide after school programs for at
Goal # 2- Create a
minimum of ten "Freedom Schools/Parent Centers" in local
churches that will train parents to become informed advocates
for educational reform in Los Angeles County.
Goal #3- Challenge
a minimum of three school districts in Los Angeles County to participate
in the One Church One School program during the first phase of
do goals fit into CHD goals of institutional change and empowerment
of the poor?
LAM has developed a
multifaceted approach to respond to the historical challenges
facing its constituents. The GED Initiative, which is the first
phase of the response, is designed to quell the number of poor
and illiterate people who are becoming involved with the "prison
industrial complex." The GED legislation, which recent passed
the assembly, has created institutional changes that will help
ex-offenders obtain the skills necessary to become productive
members of society. LAM proports that one of the ways that the
system can continue to oppress poor people is to keep them illiterate.
It also understands that if ex-offenders are not literate, they
do not possess the basic skills necessary to become productive
members of society.
The second phase of
the response is the One Church One School Initiative. The One
Church One School Initiative is designed to help African American
students achieve grade level proficiency in core curriculum subjects.
A minimum of ten LAM member churches will adopt ten local schools.
Unlike traditional adopt-a-school programs which tend to take
on the form of bake sales and "surface engagement",
clergy and lay leaders will seek to establish relationships with
school officials with an eye on understanding issues of curriculum
and instruction. LAM expects the relationships to result in its
members obtaining a clear understanding of the educational achievement
levels that children should be attaining at the end of each school
year. LAM will work with school officials to recruit children
who are having difficulty. Specialized tutorial and after school
programs will be provided to the children. Parents of the children
will be required to participate in "Freedom School"
classes to equip them with the skills to become informed supporters
of their childrens education.
Through this initiative
LAM intends to demonstrate that all children can and will learn
if they are: (a) placed in "small learning communities"
with a maximum of 15 students, which allows for more personalized
instruction; (b) if students are placed in nurturing environments
with teachers and tutors who proceed from a premise that all children
can and will lean; (c) parents are capable of learning the skills
necessary to support their childrens education if the skills
are transmitted in a "user friendly" environment that
honors and affirms the role of parents.
Once LAM has been able
to demonstrate significant improved educational outcomes of the
children that participate in its program, the organization will
use the data as ammunition to begin challenging school districts
to institutionalize the One Church One School model. LAM will
target special funding such as "Title One", to fund
the expansion of the LAM model in local congregations throughout
for implementing short term objectives
During the first quarter
LAM will host a public action with the superintendents of three
school districts in Los Angeles County. The purpose of the action
will be to gain each of the superintendents support for
the One Church One School Initiative.
- Host strategy sessions
to plan action.
- Conduct local leadership
training sessions on the dynamics of a public action to prepare
emerging leaders for conducting the public action.
- Host public action.
During the second quarter
LAM will meet with cluster leaders in areas where it intends to
adopt local schools. The aim of the sessions is to establish relationships
with the "key educational players" who have the power
tro help and/or hinder LAM in its attempts to penetrate local
- Develop a list of
cluster leaders in school districts.
- Conduct one on one
meetings with each leader to gain an understanding of their
perception of the challenges in local schools.
- Unveil, in broad
strokes, the intent of the One Church One School Initiative.
Select local schools
to adopt. Host formal meeting with principals to ascertain their
willingness to partner with LAM.
- Develop an internal
list of schools to adopt.
- Schedule meetings
with local school principals to explore their interest in a
- Host a regional
meeting with all local principals to unveil LAM initiative.
Work with local principals
to convene a series of meetings with faculty of local schools
to determine the curriculum outcomes children should be achieving
as well as specific achievement levels of children. Seek to establish
a working group of faculty who will assist LAM in designing the
tutorial programs for students.
- Convene meeting
with local principals.
- Convene meeting
with local teachers.
- Obtain names of
people to sit on working group.
- Host annual meeting
LAM education committee to assess the progress of the initiative.
The meeting will also be used to ratify dates for the opening
of the tutorial programs.
LAM has a technical
assistance relationship with the Regional Congregations and
Neighborhood Organizations. RCNO is a national training center builds African
American Church based organizations. RCNO also has a relationship
with the UCS Center for the Study of Religion and Civic Culture.
During the CHD funding
year, LAM will provide leadership training for a minimum of 100
clergy and lay leaders. The training will prepare leaders to conduct
a successful campaign to win support for the One Church One School
Initiative. A minimum of twenty of these leaders will participate
in national faith based community organizing training. These sessions
expand on local training.
The staff of LAM act
as coaches and mentors for the project. They are responsible for
coordinating fundraising, leading research activities, conducting
local leadership training, and other duties as defined by the
Leaders are responsible
for surfacing issues, ratifying organizing strategies, and implementing
those strategies. Leaders are also encouraged to recruit other
congregations into the organization.
DESCRIPTION OF STAFF PERSON
The duties and responsibilities
of the lead organizer are to staff the issue committee and provide
local leadership training. The organizer must develop and implement
a recruitment strategy to bring in additional churches.