Bringing students back to Inglewood

State-appointed administrator Vincent Matthews dances the
State-appointed administrator Vincent Matthews dances the "Cupid Shuffle" with students at a back-to-school event August 19, 2016.
Priska Neely/KPCC

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As the Inglewood Unified School District enters its fifth year under state control, enrollment continues to decline and school facilities remain in need of repair.

That's the challenge facing state-appointed administrator Vincent Matthews, who is entering his second year with the district. Matthews is starting the school year, which begins in Inglewood on Monday, with a new plan to capitalize on the development flooding Inglewood with the arrival of the Rams.

"The community owns the school district," Matthews said. "And so we want to make sure that community partners want to step in and understand that it is incumbent upon you to partner with us to make sure that the students who are leaving up have a quality education."

Since 2010, Matthews said, enrollment has dropped from 15,000 to roughly 11,000 students. (California Department of Education data lists enrollment at 13,162 for the 2015-2016 school year). 

"Parents vote with their feet and right now, some parents have made other choices," he said. "But our goal is to turn that around."

To lure families back, the district is introducing career pathway programs at the high school level. In addition to core classes, students will be able to choose courses focused including law, engineering, business and healthcare.  


The district also plans to start major construction projects this year on school facilities in dire need of repair. 

At a back-to-school event, Matthews led a crowd of parents and students in call and response district-pride cheers. Community organizations and local vendors came to hand out backpacks and other supplies. 

Matthews is the fourth administrator appointed by the state since the school accepted a $55 million bailout loan from the state in 2012, after nearly declaring bankruptcy.

For the district to return to the control of a local school board, it must show increased capacity in instruction, facilities, finances, governance and human resources. This spring, state auditors told residents that the district’s finances and operations have not significantly improved under the latest administration. 

But local board member D'Artagnan Scorza said that though change has been arriving slowly, he has confidence in Matthew's ability to push the district forward.

"I think this is the first time in a long time that I’ve seen the district move in such a positive and powerful direction," Scorza said.