What children do with their time after the closing bell rings can be just as important as what they do during the school day. It’s with that thought in mind that Los Angeles’ new superintendent of schools, former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, has tapped a longtime educator with the system for a new top-level position in charge of overseeing and improving the quality of after-school programs.
John H. Liechty, formerly the assistant superintendent in charge of the district’s schools in the San Fernando Valley, is now the system’s administrator for expanded-day programs. His appointment was expected to be announced officially this week when the district participates in the nationwide Lights On Afterschool event.
The idea for such a position has been around for a few years, said Mr. Liechty, who has worked in the district for more than three decades. But the opportunity to move forward didn’t come until the recent reorganization of the 723,000-student system into 11 local subdistricts.
While many districts have an administrator in charge of community schools, after-school expert Mary Lavo Ford said she did not know of any other districts where after-school programs were under the authority of an assistant superintendent.
“It’s certainly a trend that we welcome,” said Ms. Ford, who is the director of the National Institute on Out-of-School Time in Wellesley, Mass. “It’s not the usual thing in superintendents’ offices to have that much high-level attention to the issue.”
Mr. Liechty said his responsibility will be to make both before- and after-school programs “an integral part of school life.”
Such programs, Mr. Liechty said, meet working parents’ needs for child care and provide children with a safe environment. But they also have the potential to improve children’s performance in the classroom, he said.
“We need to have more connection to what goes on in the school day,” he said.
One of his tasks will be to work with various providers to set performance standards for after- school programs. “We want to set performance objectives so we’re all sort of marching to the same tune,” he said.
A planning committee has been formed that includes those who run programs both on and off school grounds.
Mr. Liechty estimates that 40 to 50 different after-school programs are serving the district’s children, and he added that his first step would be to “find out what we’ve got.”
He said his office could eventually serve as a clearinghouse on the many programs and activities available in Los Angeles.