“Starting from Scratch”
Why We’re Here
In 1997, after reviewing the results of statewide focus group studies on public education, compelling evidence pointed to the pain and suffering of low-income families, most severely in urban areas. This suffering could be a result of high unemployment, high crime rate, drive-by shootings, low expectations, little hope, low academic achievement and other common traits of communities of poverty. Like handwriting on the wall, there was talk of a permanent underclass in these areas. In short, it was anything but the Promised Land envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he made his historic speech ―I Have a Dream.
A lack of quality education in urban settings loomed large as a barrier to that vision. A group of concerned individuals came together and developed a shared vision and a mission to make a difference in and improve the quality of public education available in South Los Angeles. This would be a place where students in connection with their families and the community could belong and actualize themselves empowered with the tools of education. With the approval of its charter by the Los Angeles Unified School District the Watts Learning Center Board of Directors created a public elementary school from scratch, determined to educate students in a special way that could become known as the Watts Learning Center Way.
We are evolving as generative leaders and beginning to see ourselves as educators with an expansive purpose of enabling students to realize their dreams. In the 21st century a quality education is a high probability means to achieve that end. On WLC‘s opening day of school in September of 1997, there were three teachers, an office manager and a Principal with only two Kindergarten students. Despite this humble beginning the board was committed to grow a culture of life-long learners one grade level at a time. Opening in a one room shared Urban League State Pre-school bungalow located in a low-income housing project in Watts, rival gang activity prevented growth at this site. Therefore, determined to serve our students in a safer environment, we moved. Having to move twice from its original location, the Watts Learning Center Charter School continued its search for a permanent home in the community it is dedicated to serve.
Now in our nineteenth year, the charter school has cleared numerous hurdles to successfully educate students in South Los Angeles. Facing a lack of availability of adequate facilities and a pervasive lack of faith by many in the community in a quality public education, the WLC story demonstrates that with a strong belief, proper nurturing, hard work and adequate resources children from low-income families in an urban setting such as South Los Angeles can be high academic achievers.
Our commitment is to bring excellence into the lives of children. Providing opportunities to excel and making a positive difference in the lives of children are the primary goals for the Watts Learning Center. The latest Academic Performance Index of 852, is far ahead of what is predicted for schools in South Los Angeles. The best is yet to come!
Eugene L Fisher, Board President