Meet Edison’s new principal

imageThe title is officially new, but Pedro Garcia is no stranger to students, parents or teachers at Edison Middle School. He has been the school’s Assistant Principal for the past five years, in charge of curriculum and instruction.

As of November 28, he is officially the school’s new principal, replacing Coleen Kaiwi, who retired in August of this year.

“It’s been a good transition,” says Garcia. “I know there will be some challenges, but I feel like I can make a difference. I have high expectations for the teachers here – as well as for myself. You have to lead by example in order to get positive results.”

Edison Middle School currently has 1,175 students – 97 percent of them are Latino. Less than 3 percent are African-American. Among the biggest challenges Garcia faces is a 20 percent transiency rate.

“Two out of 10 students are checking in and out of the school in a semester, because parents usually need to move to cheaper housing, often far from the school,” he explains.

In spite of this, Garcia is particularly proud that his school has a 97 percent attendance rate. He partially attributes it to having very involved staff in the attendance office that are always checking with parents if any students miss school. No one is left off the hook.

imageWhile he was Assistant Principal, Garcia was known to walk the hallways and pop in to classrooms to check in on students and teachers to see their progress and provide feedback.

“My priority is to get these kids to learn and to feel safe here.” Garcia emphasizes that throughout the years, he’s worked hard to nurture students and create a safe environment for them at the school.

As principal, with an average 10 hour work day that involves overseeing all aspects of the school’s operations, from payroll and budget development to teacher evaluations to supervision of building maintenance, it’s getting harder for him to visit the classrooms as often as he’d like.

“I try to make a presence every day, because a good principal always knows what’s going on in the classrooms. But with the mountains of paperwork I have to deal with in my new role, it’s a challenge,” he says.

During his tenure as Assistant Principal, Garcia focused on planning and implementing professional development for the teachers, supervising classroom instruction and overseeing testing and periodic performance assessment. He also insisted on maintaining a low student to teacher ratio.

Edison currently has a ratio of 23 students per teacher in 7th grade and 22 students per teacher in 8th grade.

One of his goals for the near future is to add 6th grade to Edison Middle School, so students can have a better transition into 7th grade and improve academic performance in the long run.

“Giving more personalized attention makes a great difference in student achievement.”

Edison Middle School receives facelift during day of service

imageAn estimated 1,000 volunteers gathered at Thomas A. Edison Middle School to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by participating in City Year Los Angeles’ day of service.

The hallways of Thomas A. Edison Middle School were lined with volunteers wearing white t-shirts and singing and laughing as they worked. Each person was hard at work with paintbrushes in one hand and paint buckets in another, paying meticulous attention to painting inside the lines.

“I’m here to make a difference,” Jamie Cabrera, a student volunteer said. “You hear it a lot, but I really do want to help. Painting a couple of things doesn’t seem like a lot, but I’m sure the people at this school are going to be thankful for it. When they painted my school, I thought it was cool because I thought people really do care.”

Similar scenes could be seen across the school’s campus.

Volunteers were broken up into about thirty teams and were responsible for painting different scenes in different areas throughout the school. The largest indoor project was the painting of the portraits of all the United States presidents on both sides of the halls. Student volunteers were hard at work painting college logos to be put up around campus. Teams of outdoor volunteers painted different murals of musical notes, geometric shapes, sports symbols, and Thomas A. Edison Middle School’s logo.

Watch a slideshow of photographs from the event:

City Year corps members said it was extra-memorable serving on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

City Year’s Los Angeles branch launched in 2007 and has recorded 552,500 hours of service to the Los Angeles community. It is the fourth year City Year Los Angeles is participating in Martin Luther King Jr. Day of service.

“The significance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, particularly for our organization, is something we really cherish, said Daniel Foley,the Program Manager at Gompers Middle School in Watts/South LA.

“Our organization is based solely on the diversity of young people coming together from different backgrounds and different places and on Martin Luther King Day, the day that celebrates our country coming together and trying to unify itself as one, its very clear to us why we serve.”

City Year is a non-profit organization devoted to service in schools and around the community. It seeks to help students stay in school and stay on track to graduate.

imageThe bigger message is that of “community.” Building, creating, and connecting a community, a message that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also preached.

“He spoke a lot about creating the beloved community,” Sarah Bouchereau, a City Year corps member said, “and the idea that everyone can serve.

“And everyone can be great because they can serve. So we do this on this day on all of our sites across the country to commemorate his word. It means a lot, I feel like I’m part of something larger.”

Monday’s event also marked the beginning of City Year Los Angeles’ Heroes Program. One hundred middle school and 100 high school students kicked off their six-month participation in service to the community.

“It’s special for us to have our opening day on Martin Luther King Day,” Alexis Hernandez, a student volunteer said. “Because we are his dream that he had, we’re fulfilling his dream.”

Many of the City Year corps members were inspired by the turn out at this year’s service day. They hope that their program will make a difference in rallying a community behind its youth to increase the high school graduation rate.

“I grew up in similar communities,” Mario Fedelin, Program Director of City Year Los Angeles said. “And I know and understand what it’s like to go to a school that doesn’t have. I know what it’s like to be in a community where everyone isn’t connected.

“I think for me, personally, to be a part of a group like this keeps me going. It gives me hope that our young people are part of the solution not always part of the problem.”