Birmingham Community Charter High School Grand Opening

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karenpacker110BY KAREN PACKER

The band played, cheerleaders cheered, and a stadium full of students and staff joined in the celebration under early morning gray skies as Birmingham High School began the 2009-2010 school year August 19 with its new charter status and a new name: Birmingham Community Charter High School (BCCHS).

Birmingham cheerleaders

Birmingham cheerleaders

From a podium on the fifty yard-line, Principal/CEO Marsha Coates welcomed the crowd, and student body president Melissa Alvarez introduced the roster of speakers. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Congressman Brad Sherman, Tamar Galatzan (who serves as both Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney and LAUSD school board member and is currently campaigning for City Council District 2), and keynote speaker Jack O’Connell, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, each took turns presenting certificates, proclamations and other tokens of acknowledgement.

Congressman Brad Sherman, Princiapl Marsha Coates and Student Body President

Congressman Brad Sherman, Principal/CEO Marsha Coates and Student Body President Melissa Alvarez.

“This is a school that really does meet the new R’s in public education: rigor, relevance, and relationships,” commended O’Connell who was once a school teacher.

The crowd broke into applause when Congressman Sherman handed Coates and Alvarez an American flag flown over the capitol during the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

LAUSD Board Member Tamar Galatzan,

LAUSD Board Member Tamar Galatzan,

The speakers also expressed their anticipation of community collaboration and their expectations of high student achievement. Blue and gold balloons surrounded her and swirled overhead as Galatzan spoke of her involvement with the charter conversion process of her alma mater and issued a challenge to the students.

“There’s a part of me that’s a little sad to say goodbye to Birmingham High School, but there’s a bigger part of me that’s so excited about the undertaking that you guys are about to start on,” said Galatzan. “The process by which this [new charter] school started was not an easy one. I want you to promise me that you will prove all of those naysayers wrong.”

L.A. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky

L.A. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky

It was April 2008 when the original charter petition was filed, and July 2009 when it was approved by the LAUSD School Board. The five year charter improves flexibility in academic, professional and budgetary decisions and gives students, faculty, parents, and community members more control over school governance.

Some students are still uncertain of the changes coming their way.  Nataja Jennings, a junior, expressed her concern over the controversy surrounding the conversion process which caused a split between the new charter school and the Daniel Pearl journalism program that shares the same campus but opted out of the charter. “It’s really confusing to me. I don’t understand how the school will change,” she said.

Jack O'Connell

Jack O'Connell, State Superintendent of Public Instruction

One anticipated change has already taken place. The August 19 start date of the fall semester is three weeks earlier than usual and will allow students to finish the semester and finals before the December holidays.

Students watch from bleachers.

Students watch from bleachers.

Roslyn Riboh, a counselor in the Social Justice Academy is certain more positive changes are coming. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the entire community to collaborate more effectively. Now we all have a voice.”

Karen Packer is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, but now calls the San Fernando Valley home. She has spent the last 15 years working as a freelance writer, teacher, and publicist.


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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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