By Melissa Pamer Staff Writer – Daily Breeze | http://bit.ly/hmlp6j
Fifth grade students at Chapman Elementary School in Gardena are being prepared, and encouraged, for their continuing education. Peary Middle School principal Dr. Gail Garrett speaks to the students about moving on to the middle school next year. (Steve McCrank / Staff Photographer)
11 Dec 2010 - Local Los Angeles Unified administrators say they are serious about their plan to unite the 13 campuses in Gardena into a one big family this year.
They're not only pitching their vision to parents and teachers - who have been collaborating across the elementary-middle school divide - but also to students.
On Friday, a few dozen fifth-graders at Chapman Elementary School got a visit from the principals of both Peary Middle School and Gardena High School.
"I'm your other mother when you get there," said Peary Principal Gail Garrett. "When you come in, you'll get all of my love."
It was part of a program designed to keep Gardena students enrolled at LAUSD campuses in the city. Troubled Gardena High, in particular, loses many students to Torrance schools.
Fifth grade students at Chapman Elementary School in Gardena are being prepared, and encouraged, for their continuing education. The students are given exercises that start them thinking about attending college and what they need to do so in high school. (Steve McCrank / Staff Photographer)
But there's a turnaround in the works. At least, that's the hope of Walter Flores, a director with Gardena-based Local District 8. Flores oversees the newly christened, so-called Gardena Family of Schools.
This year, officials are trying to get a jump-start with Gardena fifth-graders. Instead of waiting until the end of the school year, representatives from Peary and Gardena High are visiting each elementary campus, talking to kids about the secondary schools.
"We don't want to wait. We're still going to have traditional outreach," Flores said. "But we wanted to reach out sooner."
Flores said administrators are trying early to "defuse anxiety" about moving on to schools with older kids.
On Friday, the secondary school representatives presented to the fifth-graders at the end of a special event focused on the requirements they'll need to fulfill to get into college.
Garrett told the fifth-graders about the "sixth grade house" that awaits them on the north side of the Peary campus. At the end of their first year there, they'll celebrate the "March of the Huskies" over to the side of campus where the bigger kids take classes, she told them.
"Everybody here is going to ... ?" Garrett said, waiting for their reply.
"College," came the quiet, hesitant response.
Rudy Mendoza, principal of Gardena High, was there, clad in an emerald Panthers polo shirt. His ninth-grade principal, Sheila Sanders, came too, likewise wearing school colors.
"We look forward to seeing you guys, in about three years, wearing that green, white and black, and being proud to go to Gardena High School," Mendoza told the students, adding that he was very impressed by the students' "college thinking."
Flores said seeing the leaders of the secondary schools in person is designed to make an impression on the young students.
"Every school has a principal, but this is the actual principal. It personalizes it," Flores said.
The students are given exercises that start them thinking about attending college and what they need to do so in high school. December 10, 2010. Photo by Steve McCrank/Daily Breeze (Steve McCrank / Staff Photographer)
Audre Lopez-King, mother of two children at Chapman, said she was encouraged by the direction that LAUSD officials are taking with the Gardena Family of Schools. She walked around Chapman's cafeteria on Friday, snapping pictures of wide-eyed fifth-graders listening to the administrators.
"It's about time," said Lopez-King, who is opening a parent center at the elementary school. "It's a necessary thing."
Her daughter, fifth-grader Collette King, said she wasn't sure if she'd go to Gardena High or to Peary.
But she rattled off a list of course requirements she'd need to get to her goal: UCLA.