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By Becky Koppenhaver
A new Boyle Heights charter school that is the most recent venture of former Hollywood power agent Tom Strickler will hold a grand opening celebration on Thursday. Strickler, who is also known as a world traveler and adventurer, serves as chairman of Extera Public School, which operates out of several classrooms at Breed Street Elementary. After stepping down from the Endeavor talent agency in 2009 as it merged with William Morris, Strickler said he was planning to scale the highest peaks of Peru and also start what he described as “a non-profit organization in the field of education,” according to Media Decoder.
Extera opened its doors this fall with 264 students in kindergarten through the third grade and shares the campus with Breed Street Elementary, which is operated by L.A. Unified. The charter will add students each year for a total enrollment of 450 in K-6th.
Jim Kennedy, a veteran educator who previously ran an experimental laboratory school for the University of California, Los Angeles, and is now the principal and CEO of the school, says the purpose of the ribbon–cutting on Thursday morning is to recognize and celebrate Extera educational contribution to Boyle Heights. Supporters of public education from a wide variety of backgrounds are expected to attend the event, and there will be student performances and a short tour of classrooms.
According to Kennedy, Extera’s goal is to serve the normally underserved, primarily Latino students of Boyle Heights. He says Extera offers a rigorous academic program, but the traditional math and reading curriculum is enhanced with an emphasis on science and social studies and a focus on learning about the natural world. “Those subjects tend to left out of elementary schools,” he says, “ and that is really unfortunate because the elementary level is really when learning is happening.”
He says that nature has always been important to Strickland, who now serves as the board chairman, and he sought a way to provide that same experience to the children of Boyle Heights.
A posting on Extera’s Facebook wall describes the school in these words:
Imagine a school where students learn that the systems that organize and regulate all living things – human societies, ecosystems, planetary systems and more – offer an empowering opportunity for all children to understand that they make a difference in the world, have impact, and have meaning as part of a larger, inter-connected system.
“Don’t think students stand around hugging trees,’ says Kennedy. He says the integrated, project-based curriculum is meant to give students experiences outside the classroom, away from the indoors and the prevalent electronic media culture. He says our city’s diverse geographical landscape of the desert and the ocean provides an abundance of opportunity for learning.
The Extera grand opening celebration will take place at 10:45 a.m.