Thursday, October 23, 2008


Principal is on the Hunt for a Gym for Her Basket Ball Players and a Track for the School’s Cross Country Team After Harbor College Would No Longer Allow the Use of Their Facilities without Higher Costs

By Diana L. Chapman

As principal of a hard-core, academic high school – which was recently nominated for a national blue ribbon award for the “No Child Left Behind Act” -- Mattie Adams realizes hitting the books hard without giving students a way to let off steam can be a detriment to their success.

As principal of Harbor Teacher’s Preparatory Academy, a Los Angeles Unified School District High school based at Harbor Community College, she’s responsible for the accelerated education of 362 students – with this year’s incoming freshman being the largest ever – 130.

Having opened in 2002 – with the concept of having its students prep for teaching and leave with either a two year Associate’s Degree or at least 30 college credits before going onto university, Mattie can tout that she’s already been able to host three successful graduations.

It’s what she doesn’t have that’s bothering her – a gym for her 30 some basketball players, a team that has ranked third or above in the Crosstown Division the last several years. The Cross Country team, made up of about ten students, also lost the chance to use the track. The students feel deflated and discouraged by the upset.

The struggle to support, what the principal considers imperative to help student development, stems from the original contract which allowed the high school to use the college’s facilities, but the Los Angeles unified school was not allowed to use any athletic space at the college, said David Kooper, Chief of staff for LAUSD Board Member, Richard Vladovic.

Last year, the college officials approached the principal with their concerns that it was too high of a risk to have the students playing in the gym or running the course – without college personnel being hired to watch over them.

The school district was only able to renegotiate the contract with the college – without any clause to support an atheletic’s program, said Linda Del Cueto, head superintendent of the district’s Region 7, which encompasses the campus.

“We were only able to negotiate the contract without athletics,” Linda explained via email. “In the meantime, I'm working closely with Principal Adams and she was able to secure the Wilmington Boys and Girls Club for girls basketball practice and games. I'm now working on use of some of our middle schools for the boys.”

When the issue arose last year, it left the principal scrambling to search for new location; the discrepancy forced the basketball players out of college’s gym and runners off its track. Ever since, the principal has been on a hunt for new space. Last year, she was able to work a deal with Los Angeles’s Recreation and Parks to use Peck and Victoria’ parks – but then the parks wanted a much bigger payment then the small school could afford this year.

The teams are homeless again. Parents are angry. And the students are disappointed.

“We just can’t afford to pay what a large school does,” the principal explained, while readily admitting that even these academicians need sports for their growth. Currently, high school officials have asked for a discounted rate for use of the two park’s facilities, but still have not heard, even though it’s the middle of fall, whether they can use them.

“The parks have decided they want more and more money,” she said.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who was unaware of the matter, said through a spokeswoman that her staff will look into the issue to offer help.

"We are going to contact the school, LAUSD and Rec and Parks to see how we can help," explained Courtney Chesla Torres, chief of staff for the councilwoman.

In the meantime, all this spells out a lot of grumpy students – who can’t wait to get back to their sport and compete.

“All I want, is the same rights as any other high school in this area,” explained one student who asked not to be named. “… the right to be educated and compete in sports without worrying about where we play next....or if our team can play at all."

School officials are working to cut a deal with other school campuses within the district to ensure that the students of Harbor Teacher’s Prep will be allowed to continue in their sports activities.

“The district has been very helpful, but it can take time,” the principal said. “We’re working on it.”

For now, however, the students are still homeless when it comes to sports.