Principal tries to sell parents on Elysian Heights school

Among the many skills required of a public school principal, perhaps one of the most important these days is salesmanship. That’s what Veronica Herrera, principal of Elysian Heights Elementary, is learning as she competes with charter and private schools for students. Enrollment – now slightly below 300 – has been relatively stable after falling steeply in recent years. But budget cuts and the Elysian Heights’ small size prompted the district to eliminate one of the school’s two kindergarten classes beginning next semester. That will mean fewer students moving into higher grades in the year ahead. So, Herrera, who came to Elysian Heights last year, is campaigning to win over Elysian Heights and Echo Park parents and their kids. “We want our neighborhood kids to come to our school,” said Herrera.

Herrera is not the only neighborhood principal who is out selling the merits of their school. The principals of Clifford and Logan elementary schools have attended the Echo Park Chamber of Commerce meetings as they seek greater community support. And, like any good sales person, these educators are not shy about promoting their school’s accomplishments. Clifford, for example, recently held an afternoon-long celebration for receiving a National Blue Ribbon Award for academic excellence.

Back at Elysian Heights Elementary, Herrera said boosting enrollment means more money and special programs.More students will also give her a stronger case to revive the second kindergarten class. While Elysian Heights’ most recent API score fell to 815 from 831 the year before, the widely watched measure of school performance still remains above the statewide average and more than 300 points over where it stood a decade ago. Herrera is also quick to point out the school’s arts and enrichment programs, computer lab as well as as plans for a new outdoor play area. Local parents and residents have also been involved with a school garden and fundraisers, including a Snow Day (bottom photo) held earlier this year and a Dodger Night coming up June 9.

Herrera – who attended Placencia Elementary, Virgil Middle School and Belmont High – also touts the convenience of a neighborhood school versus a more distant campus. “For me, some of the happiest moments of my life was walking with my father to my school.”

Parents interested in checking out the school can arrange for a “prospective parent tour” with Herrera. She done four so far this year and ready to do more. “If we have more people bring their children here … I think we can do a lot more work in terms of what programs we can offer to our students.”

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Top image from Elysian Heights Elementary website; bottom photos courtesy Veronica Herrera

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