Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Bernstein High Faces Challenges and Meets Them

Principal Angela Hewlett-Bloch shares her Hollywood school's successes and the difficulties her students and staff face from budget cuts.

By Lindsey Baguio | Hollywood Patch |

March 30, 2011 - Every day thousands of drivers on Sunset Boulevard pass by the Helen Bernstein Complex in Hollywood, but most of them probably don't know much about the 3-year-old campus.

<<Helen Bernstein High School Principal Angela Hewlett-Bloch Credit Lindsey Baguio

Like students at many schools these days, the 1,400 at Bernstein's three schools are coping with nebulous budget cuts.

At Bernstein High, Principal Angela Hewlett-Bloch has overseen the improvements around campus and helped her staff adjust to the district budget cuts this year.

Hewlett-Bloch, who stepped into the post in July, spoke to Hollywood Patch about the recent changes and achievements.

Hollywood Patch: Which accomplishments are you most proud of at Bernstein High this school year?

Angela Hewlett-Bloch: First about our staff, we have an excellent group of teachers willing to take up the challenge at a very difficult time. They come to the table ready to work. We had to do schedule changes midyear. Some of the teachers picked up additional courses to help balance our programs and make sure we were able to reduce class size appropriately and they did it. I’m ever thankful to them. It’s tough when the teachers only have one free period in an eight period schedule, it gets very stressful. I have to say they are holding up really well.

We have great students, I think our students have risen to the challenge. We are asking them to do some different things around campus: help us with the cleanup effort, travel different routes around campus—as teenagers do, they always have another way they prefer to do things—but they are going along with the program. When I go into classrooms I see students who are engaged, which speaks a lot to what the teachers are doing and also speaks to the nature of the student attitude. I think we’ve made some great improvements and we’re also looking at improving the look of the campus.

Patch: What are some of the improvements taking place?

Hewlett-Bloch: There are a few items still to be completed from the original construction that my local district superintendent Dr. Vigil and the central office have been very supportive in helping me get done. We have a marquee for the school that’s going up. We have a scoreboard that's going up on the oustide. They have helped me in making sure we get some safety fencing along the open stairwells. They helped us get extra support to clean up certain areas of the campus and get things repaired in an efficient manner so that we can maintain this really lovely state-of-the-art site we have here. It’s just really beautiful.

We’re very visible. We’re right on the corner of Sunset, right by Channel 5. They can look down from the tower!

Patch: How is Bernstein affected by the budget cuts?

Hewlett-Bloch: At this point we’re doing budget planning. We know that we have quite a bit less than we did last year. The school received money from the stimulus fund. Well, that ends this year and for us that amounts to close to a $1 million. The primary expense with that money was to purchase additional teachers to lower class size. We get other categorical funds so now we have to look to these funds to figure out how we can utilize those to do the same thing, which means there are other resources you lose.

The district is not paying for a librarian this year. We have to figure out how to pay for a librarian or close this amazing library with 20 computers. How do we keep that open if we don’t have a librarian?

A college counselor, we have to figure out how to pay for that. The district doesn’t provide that, that was an expense the school paid for on its own. Now with less money we have to find a way to pay for that.

And a lot of people are getting cut. I don’t know where we are as far as furloughs are concerned.

Some of our staff has received notices—I’ve received mine. Not that I would be laid off, but depending on what kind of bumping there is as it comes down from folks who are in positions higher than me who have return rights as a principal, I could get bumped back to my last position where I have tenure as an assistant principal.

It’s a scary and uncomfortable time for everybody because we don’t know where all of us are going to land. The teachers are hanging tough and they know that a third of them are going to be gone, possibly, as a result of the RIF (Reduction in Force) notices. So we’re figuring out how to make it work.

Patch: What do you think the community should know about Bernstein?

Hewlett-Bloch: They should know the complex offers three options for schools, but almost four little schools are here with the different small learning communities.

We have the arts, music and entertainment program; the business technology labor relations program; we have the STEM academy—for science, technology,  engineering and medicine; and we have APEX—the Academic Performance Excellence program. And with that, because when  you think about a small school, you don’t think about having the resources of a comprehensive high school. They have four choices in essence and all the benefits of a comprehensive high school. We have a full range of sports activities. We have a beautiful swimming pool, a beautiful soccer field. If students have some idea or no idea about what they want to do as a career, they can come and dabble. They can at least have an opportunity to get a taste of it. We’re looking forward to the installation of our broadcast studio. That’s going to be exciting.



Hollywood High a Great Place to Work, Principal Says

Two years in, Jaime Morales explains what has contributed to the campus' recent standardized test score improvements and the "work in progress" of its parental involvement.

By Andrew Kersey | Hollywood Patch |


Hollywood High boasts an impressive list of more than 500 notable alumni—including celebrities and luminaries from Cher and Brandy to Norman Chandler and the late Warren Christopher.

Today it has a diverse student body of about 1,750 students. Since taking over in September 2008, Principal Jaime Morales has watched his school's Academic Performance Index (API) score jump an eye-catching 117 points.

The cornerstone of California's Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999, the index measures the academic growth of schools—by grade and subject—using assorted criteria. Patch asked Morales what was behind these gains and what are the school's biggest challenges  moving forward.

Hollywood Patch: What makes your school unique, setting it apart from others in town?

Jaime Morales: We have an incredible faculty. We analyze data all of the time and try to address the academic and social/emotional needs of the students. We encourage a school climate of respect to all regardless of our diversity. We have an incredible system of intervention for those students that need the extra support or the extra push to succeed.

Patch: How would you describe your philosophical approach to education?

Morales: All students can learn—if they are provided the right environment to do so. That's what we strive for at Hollywood.

Patch: Describe the level of parental involvement at your school.

Morales: It is a work in progress. Even though we would like to see more parents involved at the school, on the other hand the majority of the parents are happy with the level of education that their children are getting here. And that is why they attend parent conferences, but not much more after that.

Patch: What is behind your school's impressive 117-point rise in its API score in the last couple of years? Describe any programs or initiatives that may have had bearing on the improvements.

Morales: Besides the above-cited great teachers and staff and a dynamic intervention program, we also have a QEIA (Quality Education Investment Act) Grant. This grant provides $1,000 per student to lower class size into the lower 20s; allows us to buy extra counselors (300:1) and out-of-classroom support personnel to follow up on student attendance issues; monitoring of students in danger of failing, etc. There are many reasons why we have made progress, but these are the main ones.

Patch: What has been your proudest achievement or fondest memory since becoming principal of Hollywood High? What about your biggest disappointment?

Morales: There are so many that I can quote. Nevertheless, as a school, it was our last year API growth of 89 points, the second highest growth in the state for a high school. Also, my first high school graduation as a principal.

I can't really cite any major disappointments; there have been some low moments like the death of one of our students last year. Overall, I love being at Hollywood. This is a great place to work.

Patch: What will be the biggest challenge for you and the school going forward?

Morales: To keep the upward trend. To have a plan when our grant runs out and confront the possibility of losing many teachers and staff.


Valley View's New Principal Outlines Big Future for Little School

Susan Kim replaces Harold Klein after parent/teacher group handpicks her.

By Mike Szymanski | Hollywood Patch |

Susan Kim is the new principal at Valley View Elementary School. Credit Mike Szymanski Susan Kim's first day as the new principal at Valley View Elementary School.Credit Mike Szymanski Miss Kim's first day at school, starting Pledge of Allegiance.Credit Valley View PTA

Susan Kim is going to have a test in three months. That’s how much time she’s giving herself to know the name of every student at Valley View Elementary School — about 262 names.

“I’m learning them pretty quickly, I have trouble with a few of them, but eventually I will know every one of the students by name,” she said, sitting in her new office after the first week taking over as principal of one of the smallest schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Valley View is located in the Cahuenga Pass and serves Studio City and the Hollywood Hills.

Kim took over when the district decided not to renew the contract of previous principal Harold Klein. A committee of parents and teachers handpicked Kim, who previously taught third grade at the school. The new principal is aware of the active group of parents at the school, and the questions they have about her taking over.

Her age, according to some PTA members, is one of their biggest questions. She looks so young.

She laughed, “I know, I sometimes still get carded. I’m 36.”

She is stepping into the big shoes of Klein, an 83-year-old principal who has worked in the district longer than she had been alive (54 years). Some of the teachers she has worked with at the school as a peer, but they seem to welcome her with open arms.

“It’s truly the best thing that could happen to the school,” said library aide Carole Cain. “We all hated to see Mr. Klein go, but Susan Kim is going to be a strong dynamic leader, and everyone is pretty excited about her coming in as principal.”

Kim was born in Korea, and became naturalized as a U.S. citizen when her parents moved to the country when she was three months old. She speaks Korean and is unmarried and has no children. She served as an assistant principal at Magnolia Elementary School and Melrose Elementary School.

"It still seems like a dream to me that I'm back at this school and in this capacity," Kim said. "Everyone has made me feel  very comfortable my first few days."

She not only has a strong emphasis on special-needs children and their education, but also with children who are designated gifted.  For that reason, she is considering looking into the application process that could make Valley View an arts and/or technology magnet school.

“We have an outstanding computer lab thanks to the PTA funding new computers, and we have a strong arts community,” said Kim, who is aware that the close proximity to the studios makes Valley View a place where child actors attend while going through the TV audition season. “Unfortunately, we may lose the funding for all of our arts programs in the near future and we will have to find a way to keep it up. Being a magnet school could help us with that.”

Kim’s No. 1 priority for the school is safety, and she is already closing off the playground area which she said she feels is too close to the car drop-off area and isn’t properly supervised. “We need to figure out something better with that set-up, but until then, I don’t want to see children darting in and out of traffic,” she said.

“I am also concerned that all students get the best education,” she said. "I have an open door policy for any teacher, parent and, of course, student, and want to keep it that way."

Meanwhile, she’s brushing up for her big test to learn the names of all the children.

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