SCHOOL OFFICIALS HOLD FIRST PUBLIC MEETING TO REFORM SAN PEDRO HIGH AND GATHER IDEAS; ALSO, DISCOVERY SCIENCE CENTER HAS A FREE TREAT FOR EDUCATORS
By Diana L. Chapman
About 200 people converged on San Pedro High School this week in the first official “focus” meeting to help restore the beleaguered campus back to its glory days and remove it from the Los Angeles School district’s list of campuses that need urgent transformation.
Otherwise, outside operators – charters or non-profits – could take over the school of 3,300 students.
LAUSD Superintendent of Region 8, Linda Del Cueto, and Janette Stevens, the new principal sought after to refuel and restore the ailing campus, explained to those attending that this was the first of many meetings before the school must submit a transformation plan by Jan. 8.
The next meeting will be Nov. 9 in San Pedro High School’s auditorium.
While the evening became more of a fact gathering session – rather than learning new information about how to fix the troubled campus – it might have been a first in the Harbor Area community’s history where every principal from each elementary school and two local middle schools were in attendance as well as many high school staff members.
Del Cueto urged all her principals in the area to attend as a strong display to support for the only public high school in the community. She assured the audience that she planned for all schools’ teachers and staff in the area to participate in sharing information to improve academics on a much larger scale.
“We need to work together as a family,” Del Cueto urged the staff and those in attendance, which included parents, students and interested community
members.“And it starts from pre-K. It starts at our feeder schools. We will bring teachers together at all levels to talk about instruction and support.
“I know you are here because you care about San Pedro High.”
The school currently has accreditation through 2010 and will improve as quickly as possible to keep out potential outside operators that might want to take over the Harbor Area campus. San Pedro High has suffered may woes, including a frequent turnover of top administrators, poor test scores, overcrowding and a dismal rating in its accreditation – that some educators compare to a D.
The Los Angeles school board approved outside operators to come in and make a bid on 11 other ailing schools and 24 brand new campuses this past August – a first in the history of the school district.
It means – should any other operators step forward, such as Green Dot charters – the LAUSD staff will have to compete against the other entity to keep running San Pedro High.
The intent to provide a plan is due by Nov. 15 and a final plan is due Jan. 8. School board members will vote on which plan suits the school best in February 2010, guided by Los Angeles Superintendent Ramon Cortines.
At last Monday’s meeting, school officials broke all the those attending into groups to provide questions and ideas toward a restructure. Several people complained, arguing that the debate should be held in the auditorium for all to hear.
However, Del Cueto, in a later interview, said students revealed they would not participate in the auditorium’s cavernous setting – and preferred the classroom.
School officials honored their requests.
“The small group setting allowed for genuine input from SPHS st
udents,” Del Cueto emailed. “More than one student reported they would have been reticent to participate in the auditorium. Interestingly, youngsters we would
assume to be main stream and "with-it" revealed they are struggling as
much the Latino and African-American students.
It was a powerful lesson in not "judging a book by its cover."
Stevens, who has only held the post since August, said she was thrilled with the number of people who came and that parents must be “integrally” part of the school’s renovation.
“I know we received amazing input and that people are very interested in making sure that San Pedro High School focuses on improving student achievement,” Stevens said. “A wide breadth of ideas and suggestions were obtained, covering topics such as building motivation for learning to improving communication via advanced technological structures.”
At this point, school officials say, no other agency has entered a proposal, but the deadline to turn in such a bid is Nov. 15.
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