Stray Dogs, Saints, and Saviors: Fighting for the Soul of America???s Toughest High School


Stray Dogs, Saints, and Saviors coverIn
2008, Steve Barr’s Green Dot charter-school network took over the
illustrious, dangerous, and historically under-achieving Alain Leroy
Locke High School in South Central Los Angeles. In this in-depth
qualitative look at the takeover, Alexander Russo discounts rhetoric
both from those who exaggerate and those who belittle Locke’s recent
success. As Russo points out, Locke’s transformation has been a long
slog, not an unmitigated success, and has been possible only through the
grit and perseverance of dedicated teachers and administrators. Russo
reports teachers with blood-shot eyes, exasperated with their efforts,
puking before starting class in the mornings, or crying quietly in the
bathroom after a long day with the students. He chronicles powerful
stories—both positive and negative—that have helped to shape Locke over
the past three years. Among them: The tale of Keron, a football player
who was pepper-sprayed by a rogue security officer after being caught
gambling at school and one of Miss K., who battled to keep David, a
defiant upperclassman filled with potential, in the school through
graduation. This honest on-the-ground portrayal reminds us: School
turnarounds are a hard business, indeed.

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Click to listen to an interview with Russo from the Education Next Book Club podcast


Alexander Russo, Stray Dogs, Saints, and Saviors: Fighting for the Soul of America’s Toughest High School, (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011).