Saturday, July 31, 2010

By Diana L. Chapman
Six small learning communities called “houses” and an entirely new schedule will welcome students this fall when they return to San Pedro High School – as part of a swath of changes the new principal hammered out with her staff.
The alterations are expected to potentially transform the beleaguered school – long layered with issues such as poor accreditation, entrenched staff, overcrowding  and low test scores – in a matter of a few years and help students forge closer relationships with their teachers and friends in their communities.
School officials also expect the changes to prep students for college and their futures.
Los Angeles School Board Member Richard Vladovic, who oversees the San Pedro 
community, said:  "I am thrilled that the San Pedro High School educational 
community came together and agreed upon a framework for student success.  
I have no doubt that great strides will be made at Pedro in the next few years.  
They have set a course for excellence and have a great Captain of the ship.”
In late spring, the school also received another year of accreditation, but will come under close scrutiny over the next several years due to its drop in test scores which prompted the Los Angeles Unified school board to place the campus under its controversial “public school choice,” opening it to being run by outside operators.
Upper LAUSD administrators have wholeheartedly endorsed the proposals pulled together by new principal Jeanette Stevens and her faculty, calling her a bright spot among school principals for her keen collaborative skills.
“Jeannette Stevens is an outstanding instructional leader,” said Mike Romero,
 the local superintendent of the region and Steven’s boss.  “The professional
 development focus is on teaching and learning the California Content Standards 
every day, in every classroom. 

“The San Pedro High School faculty has had an opportunity to express
concerns and different ways to approach the work.  Ms. Stevens has
listened with an empathetic ear and has made mid-course corrections.
However, she is fearless in moving ahead with implementing contiguous
space to solidify smaller learning communities and has demonstrated the
importance of modifying bell schedule to provide enhanced interventions.”

Stevens, 41, who was plucked from John Leichty Middle School in the Pico Union area, was selected for the post after the high school suffered a stormy sea of revolving-door-leadership prior to her arrival. In the past year, she has achieved popularity in the community by attending public meetings, making herself accessible and has received accolades from many, but not all teachers.
One teacher said she was excited after Steven’s arrival because it was the first time 
in years she had spotted school administrators walking around the school.
The accreditation committee also was pleased by the improvement it witnessed
 at its last review, Romero said. The staff had improved its vision – and did 
so quickly -- after offering more consistency among its different departments
 so that “SPHS students have a better understanding of course content and access 
to learning," Romero explained. 
Beside the most stringent staff planning to pull together six new small learning communities, they will physically be placed in “contiguous spaces,” Stevens said, meaning the student houses will be geographically in the same area – a decision to help ensure  students are on their instructors’ radar and not falling through the cracks.
Along with two existing magnets – the Police Academy and Marine Magnet, the six houses include:
·        PEDRO ACTION: Dedicated to public service, such as fire fighters, lawyers, public clerks and child care; the program will be housed in the main building directly off 14th Street.

·        CREATIVE EXPRESSIONS: Performing arts,  fine arts and visual arts, which will include drama, photography, advertising and journalism, will be located in the Industrial Arts buildings off Leland Avenue and adjacent to the auditorium.

·        COMMUNICATIONS: Devoted to film making, public relations and business relations, this learning community will be placed in the former English building in the center of the school behind the main office.

·        BUSINESS:  Studying accounting , advertising and how the world of business revolves around sociology and psychology. This community will be located in the lower floor of the Science Building near 17th Street.

·        GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL:  Studies extensively the operations of the Port of Los Angeles and other marine-related careers using ITEP, the International Trade Education Programs that connects the marine business to schools. This house will be located on the north side of the campus in bungalows.

·        PHYSICAL FITNESS:  Embraces programs around sports, recreation and health, including nutrition, sports therapy, nursing and the scientific study of the body. This program will be in the bungalows off 14th Street.

Both magnet programs will be located in bungalows near the Parent Center on the corner of 15th Street and Leland Avenue.
Stevens made it clear that forming the houses into a contiguous space, while imperative for the bonding and prepping students for college and their futures – was both tedious and arduous task for her staff. The staff, however, agreed to the changes  and made preparations for moving at the end of  June to “increase and improve the learning environment for their students.”
Moving into contiguous space was a challenging decision for our staff,” Stevens said. “Many staff members had been in their rooms over a decade. Hallway relationships had been formed, lesson plans passed along in hallways, lunch clubs established and even exercise partnerships created.

“Teachers boxed, carried, rolled, pushed, and juggled all of their belongings to their new rooms at the end of June. We already see teachers creating new connections and making use of the common spaces that are readily available for the students they will have in common this fall.”

Along with those changes, comes a block schedule. School will starts at 8:06 am Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. on Fridays. Every day, students will get out at 3:08.
Most classes will be taught in three 100 block minutes a day, ending with a 7th period. Friday’s, however, will include all seven periods for 38 minutes.
On Monday and Wednesday, periods 1,3,5,7 will meet. On Tuesday and Thursday, 2,4,6 and 7th period will meet.
Other changes include:
·        The ability for parents to access their children’s grades online at anytime
·        Rebuilding the defunct drama program by hiring former Dana Middle School drama teacher, Tami Marino, who will hold auditions Aug. 17 in Room 253 at  10 a.m.
·        Future meetings with parents to determine how they can help San Pedro High.