Liang (left, foreground) and his students on the Great Wall of China
Venice High School

Venice Mandarin program saved, fight for other staff members continues

Liang (left, foreground) and his students on the Great Wall of China
Liang (left, foreground) and his students on the Great Wall of China

On their last day of school, current Venice High students in Mandarin found out some exciting news: their teacher, Mr. Liang, will be kept at the school. This announcement culminates a wave of uncertainty and stress for students in Mandarin about the upcoming school year.

On June 4, Timothy Liang was informed that his job at Venice High and the school’s Mandarin program would be saved. The condition is that Liang would also become a staff member at Mark Twain Middle School, replacing the retiring Mandarin teacher Julie Huang.

Liang will teach three periods of Mandarin classes at Venice High, with a combined Mandarin 3 and 4 class, and then teach two periods of Mandarin at Mark Twain Middle School. Liang will no longer teach Geometry at Venice High.

Students were relieved and eager to celebrate the announcement. But there is still tremendous uncertainty about what will happen to other staff members up for displacement, including graphic arts teacher Art W. Lindauer and college counselor Nilou Pourmoussa.

Liang gives credit to the effort of his students and their families for being able to keep his job at Venice. Many of them called LAUSD superintendent Ramon Cortines and wrote to district 4 board member Steve Zimmer. A few others met and spoke to Zimmer at a school board meeting hosted at Venice High, after delivering a petition with over 500 signatures. These students and parents demonstrated their love and loyalty for Liang through their hard work.

Liang says that he hopes Venice students and parents can now direct that energy towards saving other staff members. The loss of these staff members will still have a dramatic impact on the school, including the loss of the highest ranked graphic arts shop in the district and chaos during the next college application period.

The issue at Venice High speaks to a larger issue throughout LAUSD and perhaps throughout the country. Public school teachers and staff are not seen as valuable, blamed for a decline in quality of education, only to face increased job insecurity and further cuts to the programs they need to be successful.

Public education is essential to the prosperity of a country, and our country is undoubtedly falling behind the rest of the world. That issue is not going to be solved by cutting staff members and valuable programs. In the long run, students benefit from being able to learn Mandarin, the most widely spoken language in the world. Students benefit from being able to learn graphic arts skills, essential to success in an economy that is increasingly media driven. Students benefit from being able to consult a college counselor, gaining expert guidance during a stressful time, particularly when they are the first in their family to go to college.

It’s time to understand the powerful difference a single teacher can have on the lives of many students, how passionate a group of students became over the possible loss of just one teacher, and the negative impact on students from cuts to staff. Our country would do well to learn a lesson from this story and to begin understanding and appreciating our educators.