Saturday, July 09, 2011

ROOSEVELT HIGH SCHOOL ENDS ‘SINGLE-SCHOOL’, SINGLE-PRINCIPAL ERA: Class of 2011 joins the ranks of Rough Rider alumni.

By Gloria Angelina Castillo,EGP Staff Writer | Eastern Group Publications |

July 7, 2011 @ 11:38 am In East Los Angeles (LA City) - When Sofia Freire walked onto Roosevelt High School’s campus for the first time four-years ago, she was scared, anxious and excited—just like the cap-and-gown clad students were in their freshman year, she said during the Rough Riders’ commencement ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium on June 30.

“Just as today is your last day as a student at Roosevelt High School, today is my last day as the principal of Roosevelt High School,” Freire said.

Freire has the distinction of becoming the last campus-wide principal at Roosevelt, ending the school’s almost 90-year-old governance structure following the school’s transformation to a multi-school model.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Roosevelt Concluye la Tradición de un Solo Director para Toda la Escuela [1]

While Freire leaves Roosevelt, she will continue to work with the school as the director of the Partnership for LA Schools’ Instructional Team, according to Partnership spokesperson Luz Maria Castellanos.

“As I complete my fourth year as principal of Roosevelt High School, I feel fortunate to have served such an amazing school. I have had the pleasure of interacting with the best students in the district and the privilege of meeting the most committed alumni, both of whom have enriched my experience as a principal, taught me so much about the power of the human sprit and demonstrated unrelenting commitment to the Rough Rider legacy,” Freire said.

With the graduation of the Class of 2011, Roosevelt completes its transformation to a campus with multiple schools on a single campus, a model adopted by the Los Angeles Unified School District which is aimed at increasing academic achievement and reducing dropout rates.

<<All smiles, Rough Riders graduates were eager to reach the stage and receive their high school diplomas. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

The Partnership for LA Schools (PLAS), under the leadership of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former LAUSD Superintendent David L. Brewer III, was launched in 2007 to take over the management of several high schools, including Roosevelt, and some of their feeder schools.

Although the campus already had Small Learning Communities (SLCs), the theme-based academic programs were not autonomous until sometime after they joined the Partnership, according to Lizette Patron of InnerCity Struggle. InnerCity Struggles supported Roosevelt’s incorporation into the Partnership and campaigned in 2007 to get Roosevelt, Stevenson and Hollenbeck Middle School parents, teachers and students on board with the reform plan.

Roosevelt has seven small schools, each with its own principal.

Earlier this year, one of the schools, the Academy of Environmental & Social Policy, was thrust into the spotlight when a car ran a red light and hit a school bus carrying students. An elderly pedestrian died in the collision and students had varying degrees of injuries.

Jhoana Ascencion, valedictorian for the Academy of Environmental & Social Policy (ESP), was one of the students riding the bus that day. Ascencion had previously told EGP she enjoyed the small-school environment of Roosevelt’s ESP. The academy is located at the East LA Skills Center in Lincoln Heights—a remnant of previous overcrowding at Roosevelt. In 2009, Roosevelt was relieved of overcrowding with the opening of the Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center.

Reminiscing, Roosevelt’s Class of 2011 President Edgar Orozco said he and his peers went through a lot from Freshmen- to Senior-year, not the least of which was the school’s transition during their sophomore year.

“Not only were we losing students (to Mendez High School), but we were also breaking up into seven small schools,” Orozco said. “Traditional calendar, design teams, complex-wide—all terms that were quickly shoved into our  school lives. While this transition brought uncertainty, it did it not override the enthusiasm that we felt,” he said about his junior-year, unlike any other in Roosevelt’s history.

The partnership encompasses 21 schools across LAUSD. Roosevelt stakeholders voted to become part of the Partnership for five years; the alliance will be up for reconsideration during the 2012-2013 school year, according to Patrick Sinclair, spokesperson for the Partnership for LA Schools.

While Roosevelt and other Partnership schools have undergone changes, so have other schools in LAUSD, which has simultaneously carried out reforms, like Public School Choice that allows traditional campuses and outside groups to compete to run new and underperforming schools.

The 2011 Roosevelt Valedictorian is Jesus Hernandez. Brian Salazar is the Salutatorian. Each of the small schools has its own valedictorian. They are Magdalena Ceja (Law and Government), Miriam B. Gonzalez (Communication, New Media and Technology), Jessica J. Marquez (Humanitas Art School); Jhoana Ascencion (Environmental and Social Policy); Jesus Hernandez (Math, Science and Technology Magnet); Maira Solis (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and Perla Guadalupe Gama (Academy of Medical and Health Sciences).

Brenda Valadez-Romero was recognized for perfect attendance from kindergarten to 12th grade.

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