In the past few months I have been busy crossing my fingers and toes and other people’s arms and legs hoping that I could be a part of an amazing movement in the Westside of Los Angeles. Back in May I was invited to a home to hear a woman speak about the founding of a new middle and high school charter school. I was blown away. The women involved in this have previous charter founding experience and the feedback they have received from westside parents was the spark they needed to make this a reality. I left that meeting and came home and talked Aaron’s ear off. The need for more progressive education, but with a focus on critical thinking and still have a diverse student body is the basis for this school. I filled out the information request forms, I signed every interested form I found. I checked the box to be a founding parent, donating 200 hours of my time to make this school happen. And I waited. And I waited.
It was in July when I was on vacation in Hawaii that my cell phone rang and I dashed out of the restaurant to take the call. It was the executive director of the school calling to ask me to be a 2013 founding parent. That’s the year Gunnar will enter 6th grade, so they base the year on that. I was shocked. There were so many more families that I could think of that could offer more to this school, have better connections, more money, more skills. And yet they chose us. The rules for a charter is 10% of the class can be founders. Our grade size is 140 kids per grade, so that means only 14 founding parents per year are allowed. And I get to be one of them. The name of the school is The City School, and it will be 6-12th grade. Starting with 6th and 7th first and adding a grade each year.
The parents that are behind this are truly inspiring. They are not satisfied with the options of middle and high school and want change. And they want it now. In fact, they want to write their own charter and do it now. The leading parents helped found Larchmont Charter and New West which is a great middle school option on the Westside, but it’s harder to get in than Harvard. No seriously, the percentage of possibility to get into New West Charter Middle School is harder than it is to get into Harvard! I learned that this evening at our first Site Committee Meeting. That’s the assignment we received and I think it most definitely has to do with Aaron. My esthetician skills just don’t come in handy when it comes to site locations. But Aaron’s does. I was sitting at a table with 10 others and they all ranged from architects, to commercial real estate owners, commercial real estate managers, real estate lawyers, and then there was me. But I can’t say that Aaron’s skills are any less valuable than those at the table. In fact, most of the parents at the table have kids in the 2-5 year old range. Having an incoming 4th grader was the oldest child of the group.
We are in the phase of getting a location and have our parameters to work with, with a start date of September 2012 looming. We are probably not going to get a permanent space right away, but will take a temporary location so we can get the fundraising kick started and grants and foundations can start investing. Then we can either raise money to buy property or lease a larger space. The hard part is just getting your foot in the door, and with LAUSD working against you, that’s the hardest part. But with several schools’ successes based off this charter, no one is worried our charter will not be passed.
If you know of any property space with a C2 zoning, that ranges from 10,000-20,000 square feet that is available for lease and has a really nice landlord that is passionate about education, let me know. Unfortunately, Culver City will not allow another school in their city. Probably the revenue in taxes cannot compete with restaurants and bars. But we are looking at Santa Monica, Palms, West LA, pretty much anything up until about Robertson area. As I was sitting there I already was ticking through the lease signs I pass by daily and figuring if the size would accommodate 23 classrooms. 23 classes for 280 students to start with, that’s right, that comes to about 12 kids per classroom. That’s our goal. Our other goal is diversity of socio-economics. The reports and tests show how well our children excel when in a diverse setting with children from all neighborhoods, ethnicities, financial backgrounds.
You can tell I’m excited huh? You can read more all about The City School here on their online mission statement. And you can sign up to apply to be a founding parent, or at least an interested parent who can be kept up to date with the school’s progress here. I am not really sure if the numbers for all years are filled but I know for Gunnar’s grade and quite a few others it’s full. I believe they will notify you through email if it is full, but hey, that doesn’t mean your kid can’t come to the school. It will be a lottery like other charter schools to get in. I have been to a few meetings/mixers and have met amazing founding parents from Warner, Westwood Charter, Fairburn, Overland, Community Magnet, to just name a few. I have to say whoever is putting these parents together is choosing them spot on. These parents are the go getters of the schools, so I have my work cut out for me to keep up!
So there’s my exciting news. I’ll keep you up to date if anything new happens, we are wanting to sign a lease by March so we can complete a build out if that is needed, and get the school ready for our kids.