Friday, November 05, 2010


Construction is ongoing at High School 15 slated to open 2012 as an annex to San Pedro High School
By Diana L. Chapman

Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry.

Because that’s exactly what I did when opening the newspaper Wednesday morning to find that the soon-to-open, $13 million-state-of-art high school at Angels Gate was up for grabs to outside bidders despite numerous promises from officials that would never happen.

What? I started making calls.

Just to put it into perspective, this school – called South Region High No. School 15 -- triggered much animosity in our community. Residents living nearby fought hard against the construction of the new campus on the Upper Reservation of Fort MacArthur despite the intensive overcrowding at San Pedro High. Most locals know the area as Angels Gate.

To sooth the uproar, school officials made many concessions and one was this: Los Angeles Unified agreed the campus would be run by the district. 

Unfortunately a press release was mistakenly issued Tuesday stating the new 820 seat school was up for “public school choice option” where apparently the left side didn’t consult with the right. That means other agencies outside LAUSD, including charters, could have taken over the school.

“It was a chain of events and at the time we made these decisions under a different superintendent,” said David Kooper, the chief of staff for Los Angeles School Board Member Richard Vladovic who oversees the region.

“It’s been rectified,” Kooper added who spent his day trying to fix the misinformation and tackling phone calls.

I sure hope it’s been rectified. LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines immediately sent out a release assuring the residents here that he would stand by the past promises made by David Brewer III, the district’s former superintendent.

In addition, San Pedro High’s Principal Jeanette Stevens, who had been told repeatedly that she would be responsible for High School 15 as an annex, said she wasn’t fazed when she saw the story.

“It is an annex,” said Stevens. “It’s not public school choice. I know what it is and what it isn’t so I wasn’t upset.”

Thank goodness. No neighborhood needs another storm of brutal battles that nearly pitted neighbor against neighbor. Those who were for the school were often too scared to speak up, fearing they’d lose long-time friendships, especially with their next door neighbors. 

Critics of the new campus, which can be easily spotted along Alma Street, south of 25 Street, cited issues against the project such as intense traffic, destruction of the neighborhood’s tranquility and the decimation of the area’s foxes. But the Los Angeles school board – desperate to ease the intense crowding at San Pedro High – approved its construction in 2008. 

This wasn’t in time to cure San Pedro High’s dire issues, which shortly after would sweep  the campus into a restructure when the LAUSD school board opted for “public school choice” in 2009. This was how its new principal, Jeanette Stevens, was greeted when she walked in the door. San Pedro was placed on a list (just as the annex was mistakenly done this past week) as one that non-profits and charters could submit proposals to run.

But no charter or profit applied to take over beleaguered San Pedro High. Prior to Stevens walking in the door, the school had poor accreditation and a revolving door of principals.

 Kooper said that because no one opted for the main campus and the annex fell within its realm, that's where it will stay.
Stevens has gradually been leading the San Pedro High campus reformation to yank it out of its state of dreary test scores and poor accreditation ratings. She planned out several small learning communities with her staff and accreditation officials have been pleased with the “benchmarks,” she said.

“We are in the emerging stages and we are strong and competitive,” she said.
As far as the annex, Cortines issued a new release Wednesday saying he removed the school from the list.

“It’s important that the district keep its commitment to the San Pedro community regarding the future status of South Region High School #15,” Cortines stated in the release. “I look forward to this new high school surpassing all academic expectations under San Pedro High School’s Public Choice plan.”

Recent construction of the school shows what a gem the campus will be. When I stopped by on Alma Street to look it over, I decided I was ready to go there myself. 

With just the framework up, the campus has a view overlooking the Pacific Ocean and many educational opportunities that are near the site: the Marine Mammal Care Center, the International Bird Rescue and the Fort MacArthur Museum, which focuses on history.

At the moment, school officials are fairly determined to put San Pedro High school’s Marine Magnet and Police Academy at the annex slated to open in 2012. If there are any seats remaining, school officials are still determining who will fill those slots.

That could provoke another battle because many residents want their children to attend there.

We’ll have to wait and see.