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Sunday, August 14, 2016
“It Ain’t All Roses”
I send much love and good wishes as you embark on a new school year. It has been my distinct honor to serve as a Principal and Instructional Leader with the local school district, in the Altadena community since 2012. I have had the pleasure of collaborating and working with your public school community, law enforcement and local business friends; capping a personal twenty-five year career in public schools. I never worked harder, and I never had such dedicated colleagues.
I want to share some positive things going on in your public schools and to say farewell to this beautiful community. I hope that in some small way I have contributed by laying a foundation of dignity, respect and admiration for public schools, educators, parents, and for all who work with children and contribute positive lessons to children every day, in and out of the classroom. Our work is vital to the health and well being of the entire community.
With the respect and trust of both staffs, we led a focused and collaborative effort to improve the academic offerings and achievement of our neighborhood children at Eliot Arts Magnet Academy and it’s neighboring sister school, Altadena Elementary. The Eliot school community reported a vastly improved school climate, after the first year. The second year of my tenure, we were awarded a coveted federally funded Magnet Schools Grant that we worked tirelessly to create, design, and write. Eliot Arts began its transition to being a Visual and Performing Arts Magnet Academy.
We oversaw a multimillion dollar remodeling of the 700+ seat Art Deco designed auditorium at Eliot to serve the community; along with the addition of a breathtaking community mural, designed and painted with student assistants by Amber Plummer, (artist and one of many talented teachers at Eliot).
Space was repurposed to add a state of the art Mac Lab, Maker Space, dance studio, recording studio, art studio (staffed with resident artists), community garden/outdoor learning area and the extraordinary new Charles White Art Gallery at the school entrance; all giving a renewed sense of purpose and hope for the school community.
When I was chosen from a panel of community members and teachers last year to continue my work at Altadena Elementary, I was excited to serve at our feeder school, just two blocks away. As a veteran elementary teacher and mother of three, I have an intimate view of the vital importance of a strong elementary academic foundation for future success. I also understand well the outcome for students who are not provided a high quality education. This is why I do what I do. And, though “It ain’t all Roses” as shared by a staff member and life long resident of this beautiful city. We must stay hopeful, and work intentionally and collaboratively in order to provide a high quality education to every student in our care.
With commitment and diligence, Altadena teachers are doing it. This past school year, teachers designed an art program intended to connect and prepare our students to enter Eliot Arts. We also piloted a full inclusion program, integrating our students with special needs into every classroom. The leadership team includes an outstanding core of veteran teachers and community members, (Regina Major, Hermelina Brown-Bolton, Lita Haido-Mayer, Dr. Dana Hill, Lila Schob, Yiotta Regopoulous, Victoria Camargo).
Pasadena School Board President, Kim Kenne has been a strong supporter of the work and our school’s efforts to improve the academic achievement for all children. She served with me on the Site Council’s of both schools, and encouraged me to seek partnerships and serve with The Huntington Library and Altadena Library. Mrs. Kenne and several courageous parent and teacher leaders have embraced their responsibility and led a renewed sense of urgency as the work continues in local control funding collaboration and parent engagement. I have been very inspired by their work.
Regrettably, after serious injuries from an assault and a fall, I am unable to continue my work and was non-reelected by PUSD as a Principal, when I refused to resign. I want my students, especially, to know, I would never give up on them. As I take a leave and continue my recovery, I challenge the local community to get involved with your public schools in a meaningful way.
A shout out and gratitude to the 100 African American Men Role Models who have pledged to show up on the first day of school, to cheer on our local students and to remind them “We have your back!” Also, to the Pasadena and Altadena Public Libraries and their continued efforts to offer relevant and necessary services to support our school community. They never say no to a good collaborative idea! It is this type of grassroots gesture of solidarity and goodwill that will ultimately have positive and peaceful effect in our children’s hearts, igniting their excitement of learning and affecting their families and our community for good.
Still, there is much work ahead; the new Principal, teachers, staff, students and families need your support. Your continued, presence and oversight, will be so important for the fruition of the community’s vision for serving our neighborhood children. Altadena Elementary grew by more than sixty students last year; that guarantees the school two more teachers, plus. (appx. $300,000.00 for the school’s academic programs) It is important to be mindful of the importance and vital responsibility for the entire community as it continues to grow.
With respectful transparency: by CA State Standards, Altadena Elementary and Eliot Arts are still among the lowest achieving in PUSD and the State. Research shows that schools need up to six years of strong support to sustain improvements made in order to get out of state mandated school improvement programs. Some students don’t have a choice in schools. As teachers and educators, we do have a choice. Anyone can work in a high achieving school. Not everyone has the courage or is up for the challenge of working and volunteering in high poverty, low achieving schools.
With a stable and skilled teaching staff that has embraced the challenge, relevant and continual support, and continued stakeholder collaboration and vigilance, I’m confident that Altadena Elementary and Eliot Arts Magnet Academy are poised for much success. The community of Altadena deserves no less.
I wish a productive and wonderful school year to all children in the Pasadena Community; especially to the students, faculty and staff of Altadena Elementary and Eliot Arts Magnet Academy.
In solidarity and with much respect,
Ms. Lorena Martínez, M.Ed.
Proud Former Principal, Eliot Arts Magnet Academy and Altadena Elementary