Saturday, February 09, 2013


Granada Hills Charter High School wins LAUSD's academic decathlon, again. The school, which has won national titles in the event, beats out 57 other district schools. Ten LAUSD schools go on to state competition.

By Rick Rojas, Los Angeles Times | Academic Decathlon

Angelica Juarez, from left, Ruben Mendez and Vanessa Vasquez from Bell High School celebrate their fifth-place ranking in the LAUSD Academic Decathlon. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times / February 8, 2013)

February 9, 2013 ::  They won nationals. Then they won it again, setting record scores.

And on Friday, the winning streak in the Los Angeles Unified School District's Academic Decathlon continued for Granada Hills Charter High School. The school beat out dozens of Los Angeles campuses in the district-wide competition, it was announced Friday evening at an awards ceremony.

In the 10-subject battle of wits, the competitors — from 58 L.A. Unified schools — faced such subjects as math and science, literature, music and art, as well as gave speeches and were interviewed by judges. Teams can receive up to 60,000 points. Granada Hills placed first with over 56,000 points.

But it was a close competition this year. Granada Hills edged out Marshall High School by fewer than 400 points. Third-place Franklin High and fourth-place El Camino Real Charter both scored over 55,000 points. The fifth-place team, Bell High, scored slightly below 48,000.

Those teams, as well as those from Garfield, Hamilton, Narbonne, Francis Polytechnic and North Hollywood high schools, will continue to the statewide competition, beginning March 15, in Sacramento.

"I'm amazed!" Granada Hills senior Faria Ghori said, a bounty of medals hanging from her neck. "But the scores are so close! State is going to be anyone's game."

The competition — with a highest possible individual score of 10,000 points — is broken into three divisions, for A, B and C students. Marvin Paparisto of Marshall had the highest score for the A-student honors division with 9,252.9 points. Kailin Li of Granada Hills topped the B-level scholastic division with 8,836.4 points. Alex Moreno of Franklin had the highest score of 8,837.9 points in the C-level varsity division.

Three other students in the honors division — Hamidah Mahmud and Jae Kyung Chong of Granada Hills, and Jonathan Yih of El Camino Real — scored higher than 9,000 points.

Rina Kim, a Granada Hills senior, said her team won't take their success for granted because other teams are right on their heels. "We have to be better," she said of the team's motivation for state, "not just be satisfied with what we have."


Granada Hills Charter wins LAUSD's Academic Decathlon


Granada Hills Charter High School claims its trophy for winning LAUSD's Academic Decathlon during a ceremony at Hollywood High School on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

02/08/2013 09:07:16 PM PST  ::  Granada Hills Charter High clinched the top spot in Los Angeles Unified's Academic Decathlon for the third straight year, raising hopes for a three-peat by the school at this year's state and national contests.

The auditorium at Hollywood High echoed with cheers and applause late Friday as Granada was named the district's top-scoring team, racking up 56,805 out of 66,000 possible points.

Marshall, Franklin and El Camino Real Charter also scored more than 50,000 points, with Bell, Garfield, Hamilton, Narbonne, Francis Polytechnic and North Hollywood rounding out the top 10.

They'll join Granada Hills in Sacramento next month, competing for the state title as wild-care entries. The winner of the state competition will travel to Minneapolis in April to vie for the national title.

Granada Hills captured the state and national championships in 2011, and defended its titles last year.

Cliff Ker, the district's decathlon coordinator for the last 13 years, said he was astonished by the students' mastery of the people and culture of Russia, the theme of this year's contest.

"Never in the history of the Academic Decathlon has any team broken 50,000, and we had four of them," said Ker, an unabashed supporter of the program.

"I had a sense this was going to be a historic season, but I didn't think the teams would be this good."

A national championship title by a Los Angeles Unified team would be the 14th for the district since the contest was launched in 1982.

El Camino Real, which converted to a charter this year, has six national titles, the most of any school in the nation. Taft has three while Granada Hills and Marshall have two each.

Moorpark High was crowned national champion four times but didn't have a team entered this year. Westlake High will represent Ventura County in the state contest.

Despite its stellar record, Los Angeles Unified's decathlon program was nearly eliminated this year because of budget cuts. An 11th-hour decision freed up money to cover the costs of study materials for the 500 students from 58 schools who participate in the extracurricular program.

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