New principal, new vision for Elysian Heights Elementary


ELYSIAN HEIGHTS — After two months without a principal, Elysian Heights Elementary School welcomed Emilio Garza as its new principal late last year. Garza came to the school that serves Elysian Heights and Echo Park from James A. Foshay Learning Center, a public, LAUSD K-12 school located in the West Adams District.

Garza’s new role as principal comes at the onset of the national Common Core Curriculum. With this educational transformation, comes a leader who is eager to prepare students with the skills needed in the twenty-first century.

“It [Elysian Heights] has highly qualified/passionate teachers, a diverse school population, and a community ready to assist in making Elysian Heights a phenomenal school. This combination of elements will engender a more thoughtful and authentic evolution into the Common Core,” Garza said.

Garza has spent the school year learning about the school’s traditions, students, faculty and community. He’s investigated the possibility of starting a Spanish Dual-Language Program at the school and is preparing for a major fundraiser, Elysian Height’s first annual 5K on Saturday, May 3. The fundraiser inspires a healthier lifestyle and community while raising funds for enrichment activities and modern technology for teachers to enhance their instruction.

Garza believes that his role as an educator is to serve as an advocate for instruction that challenges and engages students through inquiry and project-based learning so that students could apply the knowledge they gained in the classroom to solve twenty-first century challenges.

“Our children will graduate from our school knowledgeable about content, but more importantly, understand how to leverage that content to analyze real world issues confronted by their community. They will have the confidence to research, collaboratively design a solution, execute a plan, and reflect on the work they have completed with the intent of continuing to evolve as learners,” Garza said.

Garza, a graduate of USC who has taught English and social studies,   applied his educational philosophy or global leadership at Foshay. During his seven years as assistant principal, Garza converted Foshay into an International Baccalaureate School. He also helped create a global and interdisciplinary team of teachers to use the UN Millennium Project’s web portal to investigate the 15 global challenges faced by humanity. In addition, he worked in partnership with NetGeneration of Youth, SMART Technologies and the Khanya Project to facilitate the development of a three-year sister site agreement with South Africa’s Oude Molen Academy of Science and Technology.

The first annual Elysian Heights Elementary 5K on Saturday, May 3 is free and open to all residents but the school is accepting donations in return for a souvenir t-shirt, medals and race number bib.

For more than 10 years, Cecilia Padilla Brill has worked as a freelance writer. Her extensive experience combined with a versatile writing style has afforded her the opportunity write general news, health, education and feature stories for print and online publications. She also writes for the entertainment and nonprofit industries as a marketing communications consultant. Cecilia is currently working on her first novel. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas.


  1. Great write-up! Mr. Garza is energized, dynamic. and a real asset to our little school. Come run Saturday morning, or just come and learn more about our community! Donations, big or small, will supplement student activities cut by ongoing state budget reductions for education. Find out what’s happening at historic Elysian Heights Elementary!

  2. Mr. Garza is an asset to Elysian!!! He is a great leader and our school is blessed to have him sharing his talents with our children!!! Elysian Heights has went through its share of principals in the last decade, but Mr Garza is by far the best fit for us. He is a doer and is on a roll putting his ideas in motion and getting our children as well as their families AND the community involved every step of the way. He listens to the parents and takes into consideration everyones feedback on issues that will effect the students. I am grateful to him for all he has done and what is yet to come…..Elysian is having its 5K tomorrow 05/03/2014 at 8am, Please come out and show your support to this amazing school. Thank you mr Garza for putting this event together=)

  3. I am sorry to disagree, but Mr. Garza, is not exactly what it looks, once I tried to talk to him about some safety at school, seemed I was talking to the air, he ignored me, I had meet in the past the last four principals, Ms. Reagh, Ms. Olguin, Ms. Cecilia, but definitely not like Mr. Garza, kids have activities, we don’t receive any news what is going on, as we have received for the last thirty years, I am now a grandmother, my children went to this school. Last week there was an activity only four parents show up why, nobody knew what date and time, lack of communication, the children, teachers and parents needs to interact.
    I hope he review his policy if it is because he wants to save time and money not sending the bulletin news, at least he should say and look for a solution to this.

  4. When Mr. Garza started last November, he took the time to get to know our school – our community of students, families and teachers – so he could help us figure out what’s going to best for our kids and our school. I know there was an unfortunate communication mix up with a performance last week but I think overall, the communication has really improved and there are plans to do more. Currently, we have a regular Monday morning assembly, “Tea with the Principal” every first Thursday of the month, weekly phone calls to keep us updated and now we have a new website! We are starting a language club between the Spanish and English speaking parents to help us connect with one another and communicate more effectively. This past month, the school has raised more money than it has in a few years! Mr. Garza is working with teachers and parents to plan a curriculum and program that will prepare our kids for their best possible future.

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