By Becky Koppenhaver
If you are a Silver Lake parent who lives near Micheltorena Elementary School but are planning to send your child to a charter, magnet or private school, a group of Micheltorena parents want to change your mind.
Rebecca Feldman, whose daughter will attend Micheltorena next year, says the essential message is this: take another look and see what the small neighborhood school off Sunset Boulevard has to offer. Feldman says all the components of what make up a good school are to be found at Micheltorena, contrary to popular belief among parents in the neighborhood. She thinks the schools reputation hasn’t caught up to the reality of what it actually is today. “The school is a perfectly functioning little school, where children are enjoying learning, parents are involved, and the staff is happy and have been there for years,” says Feldman.
She says most Silver Lake area parents don’t realize the many things the school has to offer – including a new library, two science labs, a Mac-based computer lab and learning garden as well as several after-school classes, including a chess club, a ceramics class, and a “Crazy Cooking,” class. Also in the works is a partnership with the Silver Lake-based Blue Palm Arts Education to design a comprehensive arts program for the school.
Rebecca Crane, who heads the PTA and the “Friends of Micheltorena,” says that parents who research Micheltorena online are undoubtedly turned off by the school’s API score of 693. The low API score is deceiving, Crane said, and is a result of the fact that 25% of the pupils are special needs students whose test scores are included in the API as a whole. When those scores are separated from the remaining 75% of the school, the API is raised to 844.
Both Feldman and Crane believe that Principal Susanna Furfari should be credited with making the school what it is today. Crane says that Principal Furfari has been open to new ideas and accessible to everyone.
“She is respectful and supportive of teachers and has taken a strong interest in professional development along with an interest in new, intergraded methods of teaching,” Crane said. Feldman added: “Principals like Furfari should be encouraged and celebrated by all schools as they struggle though tough times.”
Yes, the school is still subject to the uncertainties of brutal budget cuts and layoffs by the Los Angeles Unified School District, acknowledges Feldman. But she and other Micheltorena parents are part of a quickly growing group of parents troubled by what they see as the desertion of public schools by middle class parents who have the very resources that schools need now more than ever.
Calling on parents to reconsider public schools, Micheltorena parent Catherine Borek has written an article – titled “The Public School Option. A Case for Micheltorena School” – that will soon appear in the Los Feliz Ledger. She hosted a gathering at her home last month in hopes of attracting new parents – particularly the resource-rich, gentrified population of Silver Lake -to Micheltorena in the future. She says that about 30 parents showed up, some who were committed to Micheltorena and others who were skeptical but still interested.
Crane was at the gathering to share her three years of experience as a parent of two Micheltorena students. “My children have never had a bad day at Micheltorena,” said Crane, “thanks to the warm, caring atmosphere on campus and a much-loved teaching staff. The teachers care for the students as young people, not just as students, everyone knows everyone’s name and they look out for each other.”
Another major point to all of this is to mend the disconnect that many kids feel in their neighborhoods, Borek said.
“Parents feel obligated to ship their kids out to various charters, magnets, and private schools, and then kids come home to neighbors they don’t know. We want our kids to be well educated, no doubt, but we also want them to know the kid next door, to feel connected to their surroundings, and to have the creative adventures that come from this.”