Parents at Melrose Avenue Elementary pooled their entertainment industry talents to create a video that drives home a point: Schools need money.
"When your company does well do you fire your best employees?" That's one of the questions asked in the above public service announcement about education funding produced by parents at Melrose Avenue Elementary, a science, technology, engineering, and math magnet school in Los Angeles. Almost 70 percent of the school's 339 students are children of color and another 70 percent receive reduced or free lunch—and in 2010 the school improved 124 points on the State of California's Academic Performance Index, the biggest gains of any public school in the state.
Despite that record of achievement, due to budget cuts, Melrose was set to lose four teachers, the math and technology coaches, and all arts programs. The school embarked on a fundraising campaign to save the positions, but parent Meredith Gullion decided that educating the general public about school funding was the most important priority.
She used her background in public relations and advertising and "poured my heart into a script that I felt really struck a chord." Since one in six Los Angeles residents work in the entertainment industry, Gullion tapped the school community—the director, editor, and production crew members are all related to children at the school and donated their time to the project. (Full disclosure: I know some of the people who worked on the film.) Director Dominic DiSaia says he has always "felt that kids are the key to a successful society rich in character, creativity, and financial stability. So I jumped at the opportunity to create something that might help share this view."
After a month of work, the team finished the final cut of the video last week. Ironically, on Saturday the local teachers union, UTLA, announced that its members had voted to accept a temporary pay cut in order to keep 5,000 teachers from layoffs. But Gullion says the video isn't just about this year's budget crisis. Without the general public's commitment to education, schools across Los Angeles will be in the same boat next year, facing thousands of layoffs and program cuts, and will once again be left to scramble to save teaching positions and programs. Despite that fact, Melrose principal Bernadette Lucas says the video is "phenomenal" and she's proud that "parents in the community stepped up to shed light on an issue that impacts all schools."