"As the 8:00 a.m. starting time approached, a stream of nearly 2,500 black and Latino students flowed toward Locke High School from every direction. Off the bus, out of parents' cars, or (mostly) on foot, the throng passed the school's electric marquee and a couple of squad cars and TV news trucks before finally reaching the front gate.
"Not all of the arriving students were allowed to pass inside, however. Several stood in little clusters off to both sides of the gate unbuckling their belts and shoving the tails of their polo shirts down into khaki pants. Once inside, the teens tugged their shirts and rearranged their belongings like airline travelers after going through security.
"Monitoring them was rookie assistant Zeus Cubias, the 34-year-old former Locke math teacher who had been tapped to help oversee the returning Locke students. He had long, wavy brown hair, small hoop earrings in each ear, a closely trimmed goatee, and chunky glasses. A tiny microphone was perched on his lapel, courtesy of the camera crew from Nightline, just one of several media outlets on campus.
"Cubias was willing to go along with Green Dot if it meant making Locke better. He'd gotten his first tattoo, Christ the Redeemer superimposed over the nearby Watts Towers, to commemorate his decision to stay. And if there ever was a movie version of the Locke turnaround story, he wanted Johnny Depp to play him."
This is the first of an occasional series of excerpts from my forthcoming book, Stray Dogs, Saints, And Saviors. You can preview the book here.