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Friday, October 30, 2009

Will the first new high school in Boyle Heights in 80 years please stand up?

Boxing legend Oscar de la Hoya on Thursday helped cut a giant red ribbon at the grand opening of the Oscar de la Hoya Ánimo Charter High School, which officials described as the first public high school to be built in Boyle Heights in 80 years. Wait a minute. In September, Los Angeles Unified held a ribbon cutting ceremony for what it called Boyle Height's first new high school in 80 years: the Mendez Learning Center.

After calling the public relations firm handling the Hoya Charter school grand opening, The Eastsider was referred to a press release that says the school has operated in a temporary facility for five years. However, that temporary facility is an office building in downtown Los Angeles - not Boyle Heights. The Eastsider is now awaiting word from LA Unified to see if they will be happy claiming they build the second newest public high school in Boyle Heights in 80 years.

Top left photo by Curbed LA;Top right photo by The Eastsider

Thursday, October 29, 2009

El Sereno students and residents remember a faithful friend

The building of a parking lot usually is not normally cause for celebration. But the completion of a landscaped lot behind tiny Farmdale Elementary school in El Sereno last year was the result of a lengthy community effort to transform what was often a dusty and sometimes muddy lot into a more useful and attractive piece of property. One of the key players in the transformation of that lot was El Sereno resident Robert F. Saunders. School employees remember Saunders as one of Farmdale's most active volunteers and a constant presence on the Eastern Avenue campus. But, last year, following the completion of the parking lot, Saunders passed away unexpectedly, according to school employees.

Earlier this month, Farmdale staff and students, which include one of Saunders' grandchildren, as well as residents honored his contributions by naming the parking lot in his memory: The Robert F. Saunders Parking Grove. Councilman Jose Huizar, who helped secure funding to build the lot, praised Saunders during the dedication of a plaque mounted on a large stone:

"Mr. Saunders, who passed away in 2008, was absolutely instrumental in working with me to pave over a dirt parking lot shared by families of Farmdale students and children who play sports at the adjacent El Sereno Park ... Robert Saunders is proof that one person really can make a difference and we all owe a debt of gratitude to him for never giving up on a dream. "

Bottom photo from Council District 14

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Schools hold fall fundraisers and open houses this weekend

This weekend will see schools in Eagle Rock, Glassell Park and Highland Park holding special events for the public:

* On Saturday, Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts shows off its new Glassell Park school site (pictured above), which will be transformed into Halloween Town. Visitors can come in costume (best to leave that Playboy Bunny suit at home) to explore the building and take advantage of free arts & crafts, games, petting zoo and live folk music.

* Meanwhile, in Highland Park, Good Shepard Lutheran School will hold a Harvest Festival on Saturday featuring pumpkin painting, bake sale, games, prizes and, of course, a haunted house.

* On Sunday, Renaissance Arts Academy, an Eagle Rock charter school, invites residents to visit the Colorado Boulevard school and meet with the staff during the Second Annual Reception and Awards Ceremony, which this year honors resident Carl Matthes.

Friday, October 16, 2009

You better learn some economics before opening a charter school

It seems charter schools are popping up everywhere, leasing space in office parks and sharing classrooms with existing LA Unified schools. Charters will even get a chance to operate dozens of new schools the Los Angeles school district plans to complete in the coming years. But if you are considering getting into the charter school business, prepare yourself for a long and costly challenge. That's what the parents and educators behind the proposed El Rio Charter School have learned as they plan to open a school somewhere in Northeast LA.

Vivian Johnson have banded together to open a Waldorf "inspired" charter school by 2012. Their inspiration is Ocean Charter, a Mar Vista school modeled on the Waldorf style.

"The Waldorf-inspired approach to educating children is practiced in a worldwide network of public and independent Waldorf schools," Johnson said via email. "The comprehensive curriculum incorporates art, music and storytelling, emphasizing the use of the imagination to encourage critical thinking and develop exceptional writing, verbal and problem-solving skills."

No location has been selected but Johnson said the goal is open a K-8 school that will eventually enroll 460 students. But before the El Rio supporters have any chance to opening their Waldorf school they must raise $250,000 in private and state funds, said Johnson. That's way more than the $283 in donations collected at the group's first public meeting in August.

"One of the challenges we are presently in is raising the necessary seed money to get the charter and start the school," Johnson said. "The founders are a grassroots team, not professionals, and we're learning as we go. We're doing our best to get the word out about the school to the Northeast Los Angeles community."

But the founders of El Rio won't be able to relax once and if the school opens. "We will need to continue to fund raise year after year to keep the school up and running," said Johnson.

If you are up for the challenge, Johnson and the El Rio founders are holding a meeting about their school on Saturday afternoon at the Audubon Center in Montecito Heights.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why a shot in the arm will inject some money into Mt. Washington Elementary

It looks like the PTA at Mt. Washington Elementary has found a way to turn fear of the flu into a fundraiser. The group has teamed up with a private firm to sell flu vaccinations at the school. The school gets $1 for every $25 flu shot administered on Tuesday, Oct. 27. But the PTA needs at least 70 people signed up for shots by this Monday to bring the clinic to the school, said parents Natasha Stanton Kathryn McGuire. So, roll up your sleeve for a good cause.

Photo alvi2047/flickr

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Eastside API high school scores improve but still fall short

Eastern Group News took a closer look at the 2009 Academic Performance Index or API scores for several high schools serving Eastside students and found some interesting results:

* The API for Roosevelt High in Boyle Heights came in at 577 while arch rival Garfield High in East Los Angeles posted a score of 594. Garfield ended up on a list of troubled schools that L.A. Unified will make available to outside operators. The district's list of schools available for takeover included those with API scores that had fallen or failed to show any increase. Despite scoring higher than Roosevelt, Garfield's API actually fell 3 points from the previous year while Roosevelt's API climbed 28 points.

* Belmont High, which serves Echo Park and Silver Lake, showed the biggest increase among Eastside schools, with its API jumping 78 points to 618.

* Eagle Rock High came in with the highest API score in the area, 717.

* None of the Eastside high schools came close to reaching the statewide API target score of 800.

Read more about the results at EGP News.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A new school prepares to hop into Playboy's Glassell Park playground

The thought of Hugh Hefner arriving with Miss October for a Show-and-Tell session with a bunch of second graders might unsettle more than a few parents. That's why officials with the Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts were concerned when they discovered that the Glassell Park office complex they were considering for a new campus was also home to Playboy Enterprises. "Of course the red flags went up," said Kevin Mulcahy, an architect who is working with the charter school on their new home. That set off a closer look at the school site and Playboy's dumpsters.


The charter school, now located in a temporary site in Hollywood, had looked at about a dozen locations for a permanent home before it settled on a large vacant building in a Glassell Park office complex near San Fernando Road and the 2 Freeway, Mulcahy told the Los Feliz Ledger. The 47,000-square-foot building needs some renovation, and the school still needs to obtain a special city permit to use the structure. Still, the building on Media Center Drive seemed ideal for the open classroom style the school favors, Mulcahy said. Then a quick review of the tenant roster turned up the name Playboy. The adult entertainment company has maintained offices here since 2002, when it began moving staff out of its pricey Beverly Hills offices into a low-cost office and industrial park located behind what is now Super King market.

Playboy does not produce any videos at the site and its offices are located in a separate building about 1,500 feet away from the structure that will contain the Los Feliz charter school. Still, the school was not taking any chances before it agreed to sign a lease. Mulcahy toured Playboys' offices to make sure no content was produced on the site and even inquired how magazines and other materials were disposed of (everything is shredded). "It's strictly [offices] and no content development," Mulcahy said of Playboy's offices.

Convinced that their kids and parents would be isolated from Playboy's activities, the school leaders went ahead and signed a lease. But the idea of a school located near Playboy still raises a few eyebrows. Even Councilman Ed Reyes, in a meeting with school officials, raised the subject, Mulcahy said. "People are aware of this." The architect said the school quickly contacted the Los Feliz Ledger when its story about the school's new home gave the wrong address on Media Center Drive to make sure no one confused it with Playboy's building. Despite Playboy's notoriety, the school is looking forward to the move.

"They are apparently good neighbors," Mulcahy said of Playboy, and their offices "are really nice."