partnership to aid 7 local schools

BY VINCE ECHAVARIA

Seven schools in the Westchester and Playa del Rey area will receive financial assistance and various services to help improve their academic performance under a new partnership between Loyola Marymount University (LMU) and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

LMU and LAUSD announced a five-year partnership Thursday, September 21st, that education officials said will provide a support and resource network to increase community engagement, educational reform and student achievement at Westchester area public schools.

Through the partnership, LMU will provide financial assistance, professional development and support services, instruction improvements, men- toring programs for staff and faculty, and also help develop Small Learning Communities, education officials said.

The university will also offer assistance in math and science instruction, special education, English Language Learners, school counseling, psychology and other educational programs.

Education officials said the partnership is also expected to facilitate further collaboration with the business community.

Under the alliance, LAUSD has committed to provide $50,000 a year and LMU will provide $150,000 for the first year, education officials said.

“This partnership brings together parents, community groups and educational leaders who all share the same goal — providing the best possible educational environment to local students,” LAUSD board of education president Marlene Canter said. “I am thrilled to partner with LMU and the grassroots organizations that continue to put our kids first.”

The seven schools to be benefited by the partnership are Westchester High, Orville Wright Middle, Cowan Avenue Elementary, Kentwood Elementary, Loyola Village Elementary and Westport Heights Elementary Schools in Westchester, as well as Paseo del Rey Elementary School in Playa del Rey.

The schools have a combined enrollment of about 6,000 students.

LMU officials said the idea for the partnership began when members of the Westchester/ Playa Education Foundation — a community-based organization founded by Westchester parents and families — approached the university earlier this summer in an effort to improve academic achievement and graduation rates in community schools.

With their partnership idea coming to fruition only months later, Education Foundation members said they were overwhelmed by how much the two educational institutions have decided to contribute.

“I asked for the moon and they gave me the moon and the solar system,” said Westchester/ Playa Education Foundation president Kelly Kane, referring to the many services that will be provided to the schools.

The schools will be given not only funding and grants, but teacher development services and a variety of curriculum assessments, Kane said.

“This is a big deal,” she said. “Nothing like this has ever happened in Westchester.”

The Education Foundation, which started with only five parents, approached the LMU School of Education about the partnership as a way to improve academic performance and also increase community participation, Kane said.

“We thought that a great way to bring them to the neighborhood and the neighborhood to them was to partner with them,” she said.

LMU School of Education dean Shane Martin said the partnership is “unique” because it brings together several different groups, including the university, the school district, business and community leaders and parents.

“I think that this is a very important partnership because it focuses on the academic achievement of over 6,000 public school children in the local area,” Martin said. “This is the right thing to do for the students and our community.”

LMU officials were interested in joining in the partnership because it allows the university to provide resources to local schools in need and “it’s a way to build a bridge between the university and the community,” Martin said.

The effort is also in line with the university’s mission and goals to allow LMU student teachers the opportunity to work in community schools, he said.

“This only makes us better because it allows us to have real-world applications,” Martin said.

Kane said a main benefit of the partnership is having teacher aids help out in the schools. There will also be an opportunity for more field trips for the students through the grants that are provided, she said.

“This opens up whole new avenues for other programs,” she said. “It’s a whole new way of intriguing kids.”

Martin added that the local partnership can be used as a model for other communities across the country.

“I see this as being a model of how universities, local public schools and the community can come together in helping to improve local schools,” Martin said.

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