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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 their communities.

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:

  1. Trained 300 clergy and lay leaders in the fundamentals of "faith based" community organizing.
  2. 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.
  3. Won the support of LA District Attorney Gil Garcetti to support the GED initiative.
  4. 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.

PROBLEM/NEED

Specific Problem/Need- 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. LAM’S 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 children’s 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 follows.


Broad Problem/Need

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.


GOALS

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 risk youth.

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 development.


How 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 children’s 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 children’s 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 LA County.


Timeline for implementing short term objectives

1st Quarter

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.

Objectives

  • 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.

2nd Quarter

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 schools.

Objectives

  • 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.

3rd Quarter

Select local schools to adopt. Host formal meeting with principals to ascertain their willingness to partner with LAM.

Objectives

  • Develop an internal list of schools to adopt.
  • Schedule meetings with local school principals to explore their interest in a partnership
  • Host a regional meeting with all local principals to unveil LAM initiative.

4th Quarter

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.

Objectives

  • 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.

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE NEEDS

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.


LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

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.


ROLE OF STAFF

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 board.

Leaders are responsible for surfacing issues, ratifying organizing strategies, and implementing those strategies. Leaders are also encouraged to recruit other congregations into the organization.


JOB 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.

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Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches
7607 South Western Avenue • Los Angeles, CA 90047
Voice: 323-238-0445 FAX: 323-230-6271

Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches All rights Reserved.