Saturday, December 13, 2008


By Diana L. Chapman

All I can say is Hallelujah and I know I’m going to get nailed for it. Hopefully, I’ll be alive after this column and I’ll be able to continue writing my novel which is about three-quarters of the way done.

But I can’t help but be enthused about the 800-seat campus the Los Angeles School Board voted for this week proposed for completion at Angel’s Gate in 2012 on nearly 23 acres of scrubby coastal land that has virtually gone unused for years except for a handful of small programs.

Not only do I perceive it as a dream school – a place tucked above the Pacific Ocean where white caps and red-tailed hawks can be spotted daily -- there’s no question in my mind – if the community plays it right – more than just students will experience this gem.

While we have a whirlwind of opposition – with arguments regarding traffic woes and disturbing the serenity of the area, the fact is that high school students need it desperately to reduce the intense overcrowding at San Pedro High School. That is the truth.

Everyone’s truth is different. But I can assure you here and now that it’s bad at San Pedro with the overcrowding and if we don’t do something, we will be raising a lot more criminals here than students who want to go off to college. The school has 3,500 students when it was built for 2,000. Our test scores are abysmal, our math in particular dropping to 657, not much higher than many inner-city schools.

And sadly, many high school students explain that their freshman year starts out crushed with students, but by the end of their years, about 50 percent of the students who they started with have vanished. They dropped out. Even with that, the school is still intensely overcrowded with about 17 teachers having to roam from room to room.

Out of scale of 0-100, reports that San Pedro High school in the state of California falls in the bottom of the ladder as 34. That’s heartbreaking and its embarrassing, especially when so many people here haveacollege degrees and are brilliant, highly educated people.

Our community can’t have it both ways. We believe the children in our village should be good, smart and respectful. They shouldn’t act like they are ghetto children. They shouldn’t do drugs, commit crimes, or become pregnant. But you know the old adage: you get out what you put in. It appears to me our town hasn’t invested much in our kids.

To do so, you start with the second home they are at – their school, no matter what level, elementary, junior high or otherwise. If I’m a student, I’m looking at every time the community gets completely riled and fights against every location for a new school. The message becomes clear to kids: maybe they don’t want us.

So I’d like for everyone to take a deep breath – and rather than fighting the district against this – work with them to make sure this proposed $102.5 million beauty will help all of us. For instance, if you live in the area, and want to use the pool, then perhaps it’s good time sit down – as a community – to put on the pressure to ensure that happens.

The district has already said it’s willing to make it a joint use with the city of Los Angeles, but if we want to have access to the facilities there, such as soccer fields, baseball fields and use rooms for meetings the time to focus on that is now. We can’t let down our guard on this, or this too will fall by the wayside.

Down the road, residents I truly believe will see this as a good thing – especially when more of our children march through the awesome educational marvels that already exist there -- the Marine Mammal Care Center, The Fort MacArthur Museum, the International Bird Rescue Center and the unbelievable flourishing art colony.

Imagine for just a moment using those tools in a child’s education and what our kids could receive.

--With this location, elementary and junior high students from all over San Pedro will probably undergo many field trips at any one of those gems I’ve named above and if all goes well, the high school students will be their teachers. These type of facilities make once boring lessons come to life – and that is why Debra Hetrick with Los Angeles Unified School District’s after school program -- worked exceptionally hard to build an outdoor education center there. That center will break ground this January and elementary children from all over the district will be able to stay for a week studying geology, biologyand spot the wild creatures from foxes to raccoons at the site. School officials said the new campus and the outdoor education center will be a boon for each other and they will share their resources.

--With this awesome state-of-the-art green building (meaning this facility will have vegetation on the roof top and wind turbines for energy), San Pedro High could build such an educational resource site that it would gain a good reputation throughout Los Angeles. Where there is a good reputation for schools, property values go up. It seems to me that White Point Elementary School has an excellent reputation and has long been considered one of the top in town. Home values have remained high, despite the morning and afternoon crowds for pick-up and drop-off.
You are going to argue that this is different because these are high school kids. I'd like to invite you to meet some of these students. You might be surprised by what you see.

--The students likely will come from the Marine Magnet and the Police Academy at San Pedro High. While at first I was worried that all the students in San Pedro wouldn’t get a shot at using this facility, I felt much better when I talked with Sandy Alvarenga, San Pedro High’s coordinator for both mini-schools, who assured me that she would be open to many schools coming in for field trips. Calling the new school location “optimal” for education, she added: “It’s just the natural history of the marine magnet to work with schools from all over. Our kids already do ‘Back Pack Science’ with Point Fermin Elementary school.

For those who disagree with the new campus, I’d love you to take classes for one week at San Pedro High School so you can see first hand what the students live with. I’ve long thought we had a powder keg for a high school – especially due to the overcrowding. I was so worried, I sent my son to Port of Los Angeles High Charter School.

Here is our chance – as a village – to make sure we sit on the district and get what we want from this sparkling gem that – if we do it right – will spread it’s rays across all the kids of San Pedro and perhaps to even us, the adults.


M Richards said...


I hope you don't feel like you will get hammered for your happiness over the approval for the new campus.

I would however, like to respond with some facts so everyone's joy will be tempered with the truth and not the hype marketed by L.A.U.S.D. with the project.

First, you and all folks should know that the new campus will not be built to ease classroom overcrowding. What this means is that the student to teacher ration at both campuses will not get lowered because of the new classrooms built. This fact has been uttered by the likes of the Board of Education member for this area.

Second, where does anyone get the fiction that a new swimming pool will definetely be built on the new campus?

I have been dealing with SRSH 14 and SRHS 15 for years and I have to report that other than in the project description and with only one conceptual illustration, is a swimming pool even considered.

If you look at the illustrations of the building site, you will NOT find a swimming pool illustrated.

You can see only one blue-colored area on one illustration and every other illustration does not contain any reference to any swimming pool, anywhere.

Sure, a swimming pool has been needed at S.P.H.S. for generations, but do not hold your breath for one to get built on the SRHS 15 site.

Here is another fact. During the time the classes of 1972, 1973, and 1974 were attending S.P.H.S., it had far fewer temporary classrooms and bungalows than there are now.

The 2,953 students who crammed into the halls at S.P.H.S. in 1971-1972 actually found fewer square feet per student than is currently found at S.P.H.S. in 2008.

Please remember everyone, that the 'overcrowding' people seek to ease, with the spending of at least 108 Million Dollars is for easing the crowding in the halls, lockers, cafeteria, and non-classroom areas and NOT classroom attendance.

The new campus will allow teachers to have their own rooms, but it may also mean that students will be forced to travel between the two sites during the day and buses still use diesel engines.

I am a very big supporter of the Outdoor Education Center that will be redeveloped on the Upper Reservation of Fort MacArthur.

It will provide at least 13,000 L.A.U.S.D. students with residential experiences akin to the two other Outdoor Education Centers the District owns.

Of course, the other two Centers will never have a high school built directly next to them.

Did I happen to mention that 5th Graders will be spending from Monday afternoon until Friday morning at the Outdoor Education Center, enjoying a non-fenced in area for outdoor studies and experiences.

If you look at the traffic pattern suggest for the new campus, you will see that one of the main routes to the new high school campus goes 3/4 the way around the outdoor areas of the Outdoor Education Center.

I do not wish to even imagine what could happen when 5th graders walk around the Center and to the Marine Mammal rescue center and other places at Angel's Gate at the same time students late for classes at the high school speed up the hill and around the Outdoor Education Center attempting to get to class.

I don't live in the area where SRHS 15 has been approved for. I live in an area that has an L.A.U.S.D. elementary school. Home values tend to go up when located near elementary schools and DOWN when located close to high schools. That information is from several real estate agents I know.

SRHS 15 is probably needed and I do grant that the suggested overcrowding of the common areas at S.P.H.S. can be a problem.

However, there are other places in San Pedro that could provide much better access to students, faculty, staff, and visitors than close to Alma Street and Barlow-Saxton Road.

One alternative to ease suggest overcrowding at S.P.H.S. is to build a new classroom building on that campus. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Dr. Vladovic has not glammed onto my suggestion of building a new classroom building on the old campus. Of course this was figured out by Dr. Vladovic that he could do it once he knew approval of SRHS 15 on the Upper Reservation of Fort MacArthur was a 'done deal'.

Diana, I strongly believe that the Point Fermin Outdoor Education Center could have become the real gem in the crown of L.A.U.S.D. Unfortunately, now that it will have to be directly next to a senior high school make that hope slide more into oblivion. I feel it would be so much better for our community to provide the best Outdoor Education Center possible and have the new high school campus built somewhere else.

I am sure you also know that admission to a Magnet Program is based on a points system and you might find that system not fair to everyone who wishes to attend SRHS 15.

This Village, OUR community can do so much better by providing 13,000 students with the best possible educational experiences each year than what could be if a new high school is built where it has been approved for.

Placing SRHS 15 somewhere else will provide better access for all and a beter learning environment for the Outdoor Education Center's participants.

Having a annex campus may actually provide not one but two powder kegs because of the kids still attending the main campus (the have-nots) and the annex (the haves)especially when the new annex is placed at such a pristine location compared to everywhere else in San Pedro.

Diana and everyone else should also know that she is among the majority of folks living in OUR community with her support of the new campus at that location. The majority was able to remain silent in these endeavours and they got what they wanted.

I just hope the majority has no regrets in the future.

M Richards said...

Sorry, I missed a fact.

The campus of San Pedro High School is 22.9 acres in size.

The space where SRHS 15 is going to be built will use 28.5 acres of land.

The 'annex' will be larger than the main campus.

It may be more like 'have space' and 'have less space', instead of 'have' and 'have not'.

The students attendind the 'annex' will be provided with a brand new campus that would be larger than the main campus. The student enrollment at the main (smaller) campus would still be over 2,000 students while the student enrollment of the annex (larger) campus initially would probably have more like about 1,200 students when the classroom student to teacher ration is taken into account.

I just thought facts should be provided to counter the hype provided by L.A.U.S.D. on the matters.