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For those of you who may not know, my kids are fortunate to have attended an incredible elementary school, Los Penasquitos Elementary. This school was the first "No Excuses University" and was featured in the book Whatever It Takes: How Professional Learning Communities Respond When Kids Don't Learn. Los Pen, as we fondly call it, wasn't always a successful school. In fact, when we moved to this area, we were told repeatedly, "Don't enroll your kids there." Wondering what all the negativity was about, I scheduled a meeting with the principal before enrolling my kindergartener. I asked him about the school's reputation, and he told me that it had once been earned, and then explained in detail everything that had been done and was being done to improve the culture of learning at the school.
After two hours with him, looking at reports, touring the school, and visiting classrooms, I was sold. I enrolled my son and never looked back. Within a couple of months, I became the president of the PTA. I volunteered in classrooms. I tutored kids. I saw firsthand exactly why this very diverse school with a large non-English-speaking population and federal Title 1 status (meaning more than 40% of its kids qualify for free or reduced lunch) was becoming such a success. In the years since then, Los Pen has become a model of success which other schools seek to emulate. It consistently ranks among the best schools in the state, despite its demographics.
One of the key components of Los Pen's success is a unique "school within a school" called The Los Pen Academy. Kids in this program have a longer school day, longer school year, and a remarkable culture of accountability for both parents and kids. The program is open to all Los Pen students from third through fifth grade, and for students of other schools in the district in fourth and fifth grade. Every year there is a lottery for spaces, and every year there is a long, long waiting list. Parents and students alike recognize the value of this program. The program costs approximately $1000 per child, per year, in addition to regular school funding. Parents are not required to pay tuition as part of this program, and children are never evaluated for admission based on parents' ability to pay.
Although the program is a model for many other schools and has frequent visitors from around the world, it has never had permanent funding. Every year, the task of raising money to fund the Academy falls on a small group of dedicated parents. In prior years, we have been fortunate to receive grants from several different organizations, as well as many private donations from parents and supporters. This year, unfortunately, we were unable to raise enough money to cover the full costs of the Academy. As a result, the Academy is now running on a modified schedule with shorter days and a shorter school year.
Due to California's budget crisis, our school district's funding has been cut to the bone. Grants have become almost nonexistent, and a private fundraising drive failed to raise a significant amount of money due to the current economy. The Academy has not raised enough money to operate next year and faces the likelihood of closing its doors. This would be a tragedy; this is a program that works for kids--all kids, no matter their home situation, ethnic background, or income level.
The Los Pen Academy has just learned that it is in the running for a $50,000 grant from Pepsi which would allow it to operate next year. To get this grant, we need people to VOTE for us! It costs you nothing to vote, but you must register your email address at the Pepsi website. You can vote once a day for the month of April. On April 30, voting will be closed and the idea with the most votes will win the grant. Please, please help us save our school! Click this link and go vote. Vote every day; ask your contacts to vote, or link to this blog post to get the word out.
Thanks for your help!
Click here to save the Academy!