When it was time for me to go to high school, all those years ago, Granada Hills High School was my "home" school. It was two blocks away from the home where I lived with my parents, so I should have become a Granada Hills Highlander.
The school had such a terrible reputation at the time, that my mom did everything in her power to send me to a school in a neighboring city, so that I would get a better education and over all experience.
But, my how things change.
Several years ago, when I became a mom, I started taking lots of walks with my newborn in the stroller. I walked so much, that I got to know a lot of my neighbors. Imagine my surprise, when I would hear that these neighbors moved to the area, because and ONLY because, they wanted their teenage kids to go to Granada Hills Charter High School. Some neighbors, who had been in the area for years, and would love to move, are staying through the end of their kid's high school careers, just to keep them at this prestigious school!
What? What was happening here? When did one of the worst school in the area, become one of the most highly sought after?
Shortly after I graduated high school, Granada Hills High School became one of the largest independent charter high schools in the country. They currently have two campuses, the Zelzah campus, which is the main and original campus, as well as the Devonshire campus, which you may know as the former Pinecrest School.
As a new mom who knew nothing about schools, I knew one thing for sure, my kids would attend Granada Hills Charter High School, when the time came. But, what was I going to do for them now? Where would they go? Which schools are good?
Frankly, it's overwhelming.
So, imagine my excitement, when my good friend and neighbor, sent me an email letting me know that Granada Hills Charter High School, is in the process of opening a TK-8th charter school on the Devonshire campus!
What this means is, if all goes according to plan, Granda Hills Charter would now be a TK-12th school. All of the kids would be together for 14 years. There would be no disruption in their academic careers. No middles school trauma!
In order for this to happen, Granada Hills Charter needs our signatures. So, if you are a parent of a child who will be attending TK, K, 1st or 6th grade, in the fall of 2019, you can sign the petition to make this pass.
You can do this by simply stopping by the office at Granada Hills Charter, or by attending one of their informational meetings. You can stay up-to-date on all the developments for Granada Hills Charter by signing up for their newsletter at www.granadahillscharter.com
I was blown away at the meeting that hubby and I attended, and needed to know more. So, the following week, I met with Marilyn Koziatek, Director of Communications and Development, at Granada Hills Charter High School.
Marilyn walked me through the entire process of making this dream a reality. From signatures, to LAUSD votes, and beyond. I enjoyed hearing about the entire journey, but what interested me most, other than, how I would get my kids into this school, was Brian Bauer, the man behind the idea.
Mr. Bauer is the Executive Director at Granada Hills High School. He is a visionary, as well as someone who pushes for real education. Parents, in simple terms, he wants our children to succeed.
I had the opportunity to speak with Brian a couple of weeks ago, and today, I would like to share some of that interview.
What led you to become an educator?
In college, I thought I was going to be a lawyer!
Born and raised in Los Angeles, I moved to Connecticut to attend Yale. In my last year of college, I served as an inner city tutor and that is where my interest in working with kids began.
After graduating, I had a year off, prior to law school. Because I was a dual major in English and Spanish, I secured a fantastic teaching job as a bilingual teacher in east LA.
So I moved back to the west coast and after my first day in the classroom, I knew I had found something for me. I eventually declined law school altogether and completed my teaching credential and a Masters in Education Administration. The mentorship and support I received as a new teacher helped me overcome many challenges and I was able to learn from a variety of experiences, both inside and outside of the classroom.
After teaching for five years in East and South Central Los Angeles, I began my Ph.D. at UCLA and was awarded a Fullbright Scholarship to live in Colombia for three years. When I returned from Colombia, I took an administrative job at two inner city high schools. At age 30, I was selected as Principal of Granada Hills High School, in 2000.
As an educator/administrator, what do you feel is missing from our schools?
At the macro level, parents, teachers, and students desire more “ownership” over their school. Parents, students, and staff need to feel and know they have the autonomy, the resources, and the responsibility to shape their school’s trajectory and destiny. That is one of the main reasons we converted to an independent charter school in 2003, so our community could take ownership of the school.
Many schools neglect to pay the teachers and staff the salaries they deserve for the quality of work they do and so we prioritize fair compensation at our school. We also provide resources for student wellness and safety, both important priorities for any school. I also think the array of academic and emotional supports, visual and performing arts, athletic, and extracurricular activities are missing from many schools. Too often, it is the three “R’s” (reading, writing, and arithmetic) that are emphasized at schools but there is so much more to learn.
A clearly articulated TK-12 road map and instructional program doesn’t exist in our local schools. Schools are broken up into primary, middle and high schools and a cohesive plan between transitions is often lacking. Too many students fall through the cracks with the stop and start and this model isn’t what is best for the learner.
What was the catalyst that sparked the thought of adding the TK-8 grades to the Granada Hills Charter School? How long did it take you to decide to bring the idea to fruition? What were some of your deciding factors?
We’ve always held the belief that there is more to be done to prepare 9th graders before the first day of high school. To accomplish this, we introduced the Summer Transition Academy for incoming freshman over 15 years ago. It started off as two weeks, was at one point four weeks, and now it is three weeks long and it prepares students for the academic, social, and emotional transition to high school.
When we acquired the former Pinecrest School on Devonshire in 2012, we were already thinking about the TK-8 model, hearing from our community that they wanted a model similar to what Porter Ranch Community School was offering its families.
The sense of community that a TK-12 school builds along the way, between the teachers, students, and families, will be a true benefit. Year after year, it will help the teachers take a long view, not the short-term view, of the pathway for a student. This opportunity inspires us and we are eager to move forward.
What were/are some of the biggest challenges along the way?
We recognize that this expansion will be significant for LAUSD since our program will be attractive to many students who otherwise would be attending LAUSD schools. However, our focus will always remain on what is best for students, offering a high-quality education. We are 100% committed to providing that option for families.
One of the past challenges was acquiring the proper city zoning, but thanks to our Neighborhood Councils, the Mayor’s office and, especially, LA City Councilmember Mitch Englander, we were able to secure the proper zoning over three years ago.
There also is the larger challenge of opening a brand new school program and all that it entails. It is not just about building a new building, but designing a space that supports the instructional vision. We are designing a program that promotes collaboration, critical-thinking and problem-solving. How does space look different in a school that has these values? These plans, along with the immense amount of work that goes into staffing a new school, are a big lift but we are fortunate to have the experience and expertise to get us there.
(Since this interview, Mr. Bauer has hired Jana Davenport, the former Principal of Balboa Gift Magnet, to run the new TK-8th program).
Biggest advantages to this program?
The 14-year experience is a big advantage. It allows families the assurance to be a part of the same school: the high-quality, safe, and supportive school environment of Granada Hills Charter.
Another big advantage is the vision for learning. No one can predict what the workforce will look like for today’s children, so we are teaching them critical, exploratory, and application skills that are rich in local and international topics. Beginning in the second grade, students will take language classes with the goal of second-language fluency and later proficiency in a third language. We will also focus on computer science and the arts with all programs moving seamlessly into the high school.
The class schedules will be based around the concept of collaborative, inquiry-based learning that will allow students to pursue a particular interest without interruption, called “Inquiry Blocks”. We also believe in giving teachers the time to work with students based on each student’s individual needs.
Again, at the very center of our plans for expansion is the student. Building a foundation for learning, grade by grade, to help our students - that’s what we’ve always done and now we can do even better.
Help make the vision of your child's future a reality!
Contact email@example.com and sign the petition today!
Stay up-to-date on all the developments for Granada Hills Charter by signing up for their newsletter at www.granadahillscharter.com.