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School's in for L.A. Unified students


School opened today for the majority of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, including thousands attending new schools built with voter-approved bond money.

The openings included two of the highest-profile sites in L.A. Unified's sprawling universe -- a new performing arts school at 450 N. Grand Ave., and two new elementary schools on the spot once occupied by the storied Ambassador Hotel.

"We're very excited," said a beaming Rex Patton, the executive director of the $232-million arts high school, still known only as Central High School #9 for the Visual and Performing Arts."We're all feeling very anticipatory and excited about everything that's happening."

The arts school had a difficult birth, with years of debate over who would attend and how they would be selected, and nearly a year of false starts before an administration team could be put in place in May. All that was set aside this morning as students streamed onto the campus, an architectural centerpiece that occupies the site of the former district headquarters on a promontory overlooking the 101 Freeway.

"So far, we love it," said Zara Akopyan, who brought her son from Glendale to begin ninth grade. He is a pianist. "Look at this," she said, squeezing her arm. "Goosebumps."

The two schools opening at the Ambassador site were the first of several planned for the property on Wilshire Boulevard just west of downtown. The UCLA Community School will be run as part of a partnership with UCLA, and the the New Open World Academy will focus on global awareness and social action. Both are opening as kindergarten-to-fifth-grade schools this year but will eventually go through 12th grade.

The entire 24-acre site is being developed by the school district at a cost of over $500 million and will eventually hold about 4,000 students.

Rajib Mazumder liked what he saw as he brought his daughter, Joyeta, to her first day of kindergarten at the UCLA Community School.

"She's been waiting for school a long time," he said.

He said he liked the school because of the link with UCLA and because "I actually heard they are trying to teach two or three languages." (The school will have a Spanish-English dual-language immersion.) Plus, he said, "This is a lovely environment."

Today was the first day for all L.A. Unified schools that are on a traditional calendar -- all but about 80 of the district's nearly 900 schools. The rest are on year-round schedules.

Other new schools opening today were:

  • Young Oak Kim Academy, a middle school in Koreatown
  • William R. Anton Elementary School in City Terrace
  • Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center, a high school in Boyle Heights that is part of a portfolio of schools run by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
  • Sun Valley High School
  • Valley Region Early Education Center #1 in Panorama City
  • Sara Coughlin Elementary School in Pacoima

-- Mitchell Landsberg at Central High #9 and Howard Blume at the former Ambassador site

Photo: Students arrive for their first day of school at the new Central High #9 for the visual and performing arts downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (15)

My daughter is a sophomore and is starting school at Central High School #9 for the Visual and Performing Arts today. I dropped her off and she was super excited!! I am glad that she's given the oppty to attend an amazing school like this...what more can a parent ask for?!
Last week we had parent/student orientation and they gave a tour of the school, it is sick!!! They have so many amazing teachers on board and their curriculum is awesome.

I am a happy angelino!

These facilities will be trashed with grafitti and etchings before Christmas.

Interesting contrast in a time of financial constraints to see these buildings.

i used to live n cali

Just wonderin how many illegals my tax dollars will be paying for this year in LA Unified. Keep up that 50% graduation rate!!! And oh yeah some teachers told me they are not makin enough money, or was that just a CTA thug.

This is a really nice project. But have we forgotten the existing LA Unified Schools who has over crowded classes and outdated books with missing pages? And we wonder why test scores are low? Nice to have new schools with new technologies but we should also improve our existing schools and fix their on going problems.

Old Potemkin had a village, e-i-e-i-o...

How many art and music programs at other schools could have been funded with that all that money? Why did we 'need' to build a big (and ugly) new performing arts school when we could have promoted performing arts for ALL Los Angeles students?

Central High School #9 for the Visual and Performing Arts or more commonly nicknamed on the web: Buck Rogers High School...on the hill...with the slide.

Once again stupid people commenting about things that don't have any relevance to the story. You know who you are.

@ Michelle: I entirely agree. The high school I work at opened today without fanfare and without needed supplies. One of my co-workers was assigned a homeroom class in a room with NO desks. Other co-workers had forty students and thirty five desks. We're still not sure if we have enough textbooks for distribution next week...

When is that great philanthropist Eli Broad going to donate the money that was promised to build all the enhancements at Central HS #9 including the cost of the "waterslide" tower.....from what I know, he is all talk and little contribution to education in Los Angeles.

By seeing the above image, I remember the my school days. Whenever I passed from my school, I remember each and every memory of school.

And today, teachers in all subjects, including core curriculum English, Math, Science and History, were faced with classes of 40 - 45 students. You won't see the LA Times in their rampage to tear down teachers report on the effects of that. No, the ill-informed public, the pandering politicians and the "liberal" media think that a "good" teacher can be effective to an infinite number of students, no matter the number that are packed into a classroom. Thank you LAUSD and UTLA for the confidence, but reality would have been more helpful. At the end of the year, you can be sure the Times will deride "bad" teachers when standardized test scores plummet, and political correctness will continue to protect the students and their parents from any accountability.

Privatization is almost a certainty, and it's looking better every day; but is it still a choice, or is it being foisted on us through a concerted, intentional effort to keep LAUSD the on-going disaster that it is?

"So far, we love it," said Zara Akopyan, who brought her son from Glendale to begin ninth grade. He is a pianist. "Look at this," she said, squeezing her arm. "Goosebumps."

Is Glendale part of LAUSD now?

How to Turn Almost ANY “F” or “D” Algebra Student into a “B” or “A” Student!

As a former LAUSD 8th Grade Algebra I supported almost all of Edward Kennedy's social initiatives except his \"No Child Left Behind\" legislation. As in Garrison Keillor's fictitious town of Lake Woebegone where, \" ... all the children are above average\" [a statistical impossibility], No Child Left Behind suffers the same impossibility. It is simply impossible to have 100% of every secondary school student pass 100% of their Mathematic and English courses even though every teacher wishes it were possible. Even as a member of Mensa I earned a “D” in 4th grade English. My parents didn't consider anything less than a C a passing grade.

I taught Algebra-1 in Los Angeles using a 10th grade level book to 8th graders many of whom had a 6th grade math education and counted using their fingers. As a first year math teacher I had all my \"Above Average\" students taken out of all my classes and given to veteran algebra teachers as a Standard Operating Procedure of LAUSD. Now with this recipe for utter disaster and failure I was mandated to pass every child in Algeba-1. What chance would you give me to do this successfully? Conservatively, I thought I had less than 1 chance in 20 or less than 5%.

I was saved by the 7th grade counselor who suggested that to keep my job I should not fail too many kids the Fall semester. I asked how on God's green earth was I to do that. He said, \"easy, just give retests to all the kids who get a D or F and give them the higher grade\". I was desperate after the first test results of mostly F', many D's, some C's No B's and No A's. I also wrote and left on the front blackboard the name of the 1988 movie “Stand and Deliver” starring James Edward Olmos as Jaime Escalante, the legendary Calculus teacher of the Los Angeles inner-city Garfield High School.

Guess what, it worked. At the end of the year I had a normal distribution of grades with 17 A's out of 175 students. I think I had more A's then all my 3 algebra colleagues combined. My only regret is that I did not give C and B students retests and I should have shown “Stand and Deliver” during my first class for inspiration. Sure, I was grading papers all the time but the results speak for themselves.

So my gift to all objective course teachers is this, give your students a second chance to succeed and you will be pleasantly surprised. What I discovered was that in objective courses like math and science children can understand what they didn't know for the first test and quickly learn it. And to all the academics who support “No Child Left Behind” laws, keep believing you live in Garrison Keillor's mythical town of Lake Woebegone where, ”all children can be above average”, which is still an impossibility.

If you are a teacher that is helped by this article please let me know. You can either connect with me via the New York Times reader membership or look at my www.Linkedin.com account under my full name for my contact information.

George William Dole, a former Stephen White Middle School Algebra teacher in Carson City, CA for the Los Angeles Unified School District, now lives and teaches in Moscow, Russia.


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