THE OUTPOURING OF INTEREST FROM THE RESIDENTS GREATLY ENCOURAGES STAFF WHO’VE SEEN LITTLE INPUT FROM THE COMMUNITY IN THE PAST
DON’T MISS THIS SATURDAY (Jan.30) MORNING AT 9 A.M.: YMCA BASKETBALL GIVES YOUNGSTERS A SHOT AT THE BIG TIME
By Diana L. Chapman
Besotted with good humor to an overflowing auditorium, San Pedro High School officials promoted their finalized reform package Thursday to turn the overcrowded campus into a more personalized institution using a block schedule and seven learning communities.
Some 700 plus residents -- a mixture of students, parents and community leaders –packed the auditorium to the gills, a rarity for years at a school which has gone downward in test scores, but upward in population. In the past, the school has rarely attracted this much attention except for football games.
Dozens of people stood next to the doors, unable to find seats, or on the floor in front of the first row. It was a titanic explosion of interest unprecedented from the community in more than a decade.
“This is fantastic,” said a beaming David Kooper, chief of staff to Los Angeles school board member, Richard Vladovic. “This is exactly what we envisioned. Honestly, I had no doubt that this school would move forward, but it surpasses all of our expectations.
“I’m floored by this.”
The Los Angeles school board targeted San Pedro High as an under performing school, which allowed the board to put it out to bid to charters and non-profits for a possible takeover. Eleven other schools were also listed, including Gardena High.
No other organization bid on any of the 12 campuses, but outside organzations can apply again next year for any school’s the board continues to red flag as under performing.
School Principal Jeanette Stevens, however, told the audience she believed in the the plan -- a package her team has worked on diligently for the past three months.
“We all care about the outcome and more importantly, about the students,” Stevens said to a respectful and friendly audience.
The reform, she explained, entails curtailing the number of absences, building seven small campuses on the site and adding a block schedule. It, however, must face another obstacle course before heading off to the school board for final aproval.
Community members, primarily students, teachers and parents, will be allowed to vote on the plan on Feb. 2 in the school auditorium from 7 to 10 a.m. and again from 3 to 7 p.m. Voters will have another shot to record their voice at the ballot box on Feb. 6, a Saturday, from 9 to noon, also in the school auditorium.
Stevens, who also was flabbergasted and pleased by the large crowd, said the new block schedule -- where most classes will be 100 minutes each and a total of four classes a day -- allows teachers time to bond better with their students. It also gives instructors time to help struggling students and to up the ante for high performing students.
In brief, the changes include:
· A block schedule proposed to run four days a week, Monday through Thursday. Friday will include all class meetings. A 7th period will be held all five days that runs around 50 minutes
· Seven learning communities in which each house will have classes geographically close together, allowing students more time to know each other and their instructors and eliminating wasted time to scramble to classes across the sprawling campus
· Advanced placement (AP) classes offered for tenth graders – something that was once only provided to juniors and seniors
· Starting this spring semester, only allowing five days of absence instead of ten
· Enabling high achieving students to attend college on and off campus
· Building after school programs using community efforts that will run every day after school from 3 to 6 p.m. at the school site
· Creating more hands on approach to lessons rather than straight lectures
· Giving professional training to teachers to help invigorate their lessons and keep students interested
· Students will be given time in the longer classes to work on homework
To ease the anxiety of the crowd, English teacher Tony Saavedra, dressed in shorts, a plaid shirt, sneakers and carried a backpack. He acted out the day-in-the-upcoming life of San Pedro student forcing much giggles and laughter from the audience as he pretended to march off to his next class, chatting on his cell phone, and getting ready to work on a video project that he was doing in all three classes on a block schedule.
Students clapped and hooted along with parents. While no comments were taken from the audience – since the team held many community meetings already – school officials did take questions that mostly focused on the block schedule.
One question, which appeared to come from a student, asked: “Why don’t we wear uniforms?” The entire student audience groaned when they heard the question.
Again, Saavedra received loud claps when he explained: “We feel our student body is mature enough to handle it and dress appropriately. We have never considered uniforms. And we have no intention of going anywhere next the subject.”
On the staff’s side of the fence, several teachers said they were enthralled by scores of people who showed up at the meeting and that they felt energized to move forward with the plan.
“To be honest, they (the changes,) we’re a bit shocking,” said Steve Gerhart, who heads the English. “But I’m really encouraged…especially with the community stepping forward.”
Kathy Carcamo, a long time teacher whose daughter attends the school, added that she believed the changes will rejuvenate the school overall.
“I have a feeling it’s going to be a change for the good and that the kids will have pride like it was ten years ago,” Carcamo explained. “We had lost our spark.”
At least two students after the meeting weren’t too excited, however.
Senior Jerry Ciolino, who has already been accepted to two state colleges, said he was irritated that in his senior year, he won’t be allowed more than five absences and contended that it was unfair.
“I don’t like it,” Ciolino said. “We (also) didn’t get the chance to have AP courses in tenth grade. “
Another student argued that his concerns about the longer class time was his trouble with focus.
“It’s hard for me to concentrate for an hour, and now it’s going to be two,” explained Cole Bender, a tenth grade football player.
San Pedro High, which has 3,300 students, far above the 2,000 it was built for, has been riddled with problems from overcrowding and poor test scores to nearly losing its accreditation, especially in regards to the “lack of rigor,” offered to students.
The school now has two years to prove itself.
YMCA OFFERS HOOPS EVENT FOR YOUTH AGES 9 to 14
Children, ages 9 to 14, can participate this Saturday in a hoop contest at the local YMCA. The top champions from regional competitions will be offered the chance to go to other regional competions held in NBA arenas.
They also have a shot at winning NBA tickets. First place winners in the regional competions can advance to the National Finals and win a trip to Orlando, Fla., according to a YMCA flier.
Youths who want to show their stuff can showcase their skills in a “time-based, half court obstacle course.”
The event begins at 9 a.m. at the San Pedro & Peninsula YMCA, 301 S.Bandini Street. For more information and an entry form, contact Angela Johnson at (310) 832-4211 ext. 7032 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org