By Dan Jahns | Brentwood News/WestsideToday.com
May 24, 2010 - Palisades High School, affectionately called 'Pali High', has a lot to be proud of. In 1993 it was approved as a financially independent Charter school by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), in 2005 it was recognized as a California Distinguished School, and in 2006 it was acknowledged by Newsweek Magazine as among the top 1% of American high schools.
But one of the biggest sources of pride for the Dolphins is its diverse student body with Hispanic, African American and Asian students totaling over 50% according to the school’s website. However, Pali High is now in jeopardy of losing its ethnic diversity.
Due to budget cuts for education in the State of California the LAUSD has announced that it will no longer be able to fund the transportation of Pali High’s students which means that many minorities may not be able to finish
out their high school years there since many of these students are transported to and from school each day through a program subsidized by the LAUSD.
According to Nancy Babcock, a member of the Brentwood Community Council representing Educational Institutions (Public Schools) who has a child at Pali High, about 1,000 of Pali High’s 2,700 students take the bus to school, many of them traveling over an hour each way.
Incoming 9th graders and their families have already been notified that transportation will not be covered for them or future freshman classes, but Executive Director Amy Dresser Held and her staff are hoping to be able to provide continued transportation services for current students through their graduation year.
They have negotiated successfully with LAUSD to pay for the transportation of the 12th grade students during the 2010-2011 school year and the parents of some of next year’s traveling 10th and 11th graders have agreed to pay $120,000 out of their own pockets. But that still leaves a shortfall of $600,000 according to a Pali High document on the transportation issue.
In an effort to help defray the remainder of the transportation costs for the current students Pali High is turning its 2nd annual Spirit Awards event into a fundraiser. The Spirit Awards, honoring those who have contributed positively to the Pali High community, will be held Sunday, June 6 from 4 – 7 p.m., at the home of former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan. For more information about the Pali Spirit Awards fundraiser and how you can contribute please call 310-454-9033.
Even if Pali High is able to fund this project fully that only protects the diversity of the student body for the next few years. Held acknowledges that the decision by the LAUSD is a “devastating blow to ensuring [Pali High] remains integrated” and sees the task ahead as a “huge challenge.”
She is hopeful that the reputation the school has already built for attracting minority students will result in continued ethnic diversity (among the wealthier minorities who can afford to pay for transportation), but fears that what will be lost will be the socio-economic diversity that has been a hallmark of the school for years.