By Becky Koppenhaver
Micheltorena School in Silver Lake will celebrate the opening its new school library Friday morning in the school auditorium. The 9:45 a.m. opening is called called the “Hollywood Premiere,” and attendees are asked to dress as their favorite celebrity.
The library, which includes new computers, media equipment, a mini-amphitheatre, and, an updated book collection donated by the Friends of Silver Lake Library, is a gleaming example and a testament to what can happen when a lot of positive forces come together to bring new resources to a public school that like most L.A. Unified schools, has felt the endless pinching of a shrinking budget.
A grant from the Wonder of Reading Foundation, a literacy organization in Los Angeles that seeks to improve literacy rates in school children by improving libraries, made the new library possible. But it was the parents, a dedicated principal, and the many supporting organizations that made it happen.
The school can thank The Micheltorena School Library Committee, Friends of Micheltorena Street School, and The Micheltorena PTA for the fundraising needed to obtain the matching grant. Community donors and supporters of the Adopt-the-Library fundraising program include L.A. Unified Board member Yolie Flores, City Councilman Tom LaBonge, the Lakers Foundation, and Silver Lake resident, alumna Roella Louie.
A few years ago, the school was suffering from low test scores and a poor overall reputation. Many middle-class parents that lived only a few blocks up the hill wouldn’t consider the school, whose students were primarily low-income and ESL, as an option. According to Dorit Dowler-Guerrero, who has been a Micheltorena parent since 2005, the school has always had great parents, staff, and community support, but she credits the recent improved success of the school to the dedication and leadership of school principal, Susanna Furfari, and to the schools PTA, headed by parent, Rebecca Crane, who Dowler-Guerrero says has an “amazing ability to get L.A. Unified to support the school.”
Dowler- Guerrero says that when Furfari and Crane started a public out-reach program things really started to happen. Friends of Micheltorena and the school’s PTA is a 501© 3 which is key to it’s fundraising abilities. In addition to the outside money the school has raised, it also receives about $500,000 in funds from the district for being a Title One school, meaning the school has a large percentage of kids from low-income families, and funds for it’s English Learner program and Gifted students program. Dowler-Guerrero says the combination has given the school the opportunity to fund a music program, a gifted program, a PE teacher, and small learning groups for gifted students. For the kids of Micheltorena, it makes a real difference, quite an achievement for a little school making big strides.
Becky Koppenhaver is a freelance writer who lives in Echo Park.
Photos courtesy Dorit Dowler-Guerrero