Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Response to LA Weekly Article

I am where I am today because of MSA. I definitely would have never applied to schools outside of California had it not been for the Marine Science Academy. Through my four years there, I grew up to be the person I am today, a person devoted to fixing the system currently in place. I spent four years trying to create change on campus and I feel that I did so, with the help of my peers, during my senior year. We knew something had to be done and we acted. Through Sherman, Merritt, and Ichiroku, I learned so much more than I thought I was going to learn. This academy wasn't just a facade put on by the district to "teach" students about environmental policy. Alongside the other MSA staff-the Mais, Fuchs, Dutton, and the other former MSAers-they devised an academy that taught us about the importance about environmental policy WHILE learning strategies for getting into college. Through Ichiroku's senior seminar, we were FORCED to apply to college, FORCED to apply for scholarships. She never let us slack off. Because of this, many of us are currently at places we didn't foresee ever attending.

The protests/walkout at the end of last year (http://www.allbusiness.com/education-training/education-administration-school-boards/14646077-1.html) are a testament to this. Through the plethora of college lessons, talks about the environment, stress about completing grade checks, anger about having to miss lunch to go to talks that benefited us in the end, and most importantly, harsh love, we reacted in a way not expected: we lawfully walked out of class. There were no injuries. There was no site damage. There were no threats to administrators (on behalf of the students at least. District personnel on the otherhand...). We wanted to show how important the teachers were to us. We wanted to show everyone that we were a school of students who cares deeply about their education. These protests lasted all week long and extended to the following week when they decided to put Merritt on administrative leave. What ended up happening? SHE WAS BROUGHT BACK THE FOLLOWING WEEK. What does this show you? It shows that the district is vindictive. They do not care about the well being of the students. We fought so many times to change the system and they simply shot us down. Comments made by members indicated they had no expectations of anything positive coming from us.

To the member of the Class of '09, sorry that Sherman's harsh love was detrimental to your well being. You stated that the facts in the article are false. Let's clarify:

"Erik Tamayo who went to MIT was kicked out of the Marine Science Academy and told that he was not going to succeed in life"

I'm sure no one in the academy would've told someone like Erik Tamayo that he wasn't going to succeed. He was obviously a brilliant student who went through things in high school that should not be published online without his consent. Be courteous.

"Sherman... or the Sherman-ator was someone who belittled her students into a submission and shouldnt be praised for the way in which she frequently made her students cry by making them feel inferior. "

Ask most students today and they'll agree that her harsh love pushed them to continue with their education, pushed them to not give up, pushed them to graduate (sometimes the first in their families). Pain isn't always a negative thing; it helps us work harder and accomplish things we never thought we could accomplish. Trust me, I had many of those talks with Sherman and I am very glad that I did.

"Also the fact about 90% of their 125 being accepted to 4 year universities is false... as, in total, there were barely ever 125 students that walked the stage in 2009. "

Lawndale had a graduation rate of 89.8% in 2008. If the class of 2009 had a class size of, let's say, 250 (class of 2010 had a class size of about 290), then that amounts to about 225 graduating seniors. Make sure you do some research before making very false claims (the above claims are rough estimates).

"The act is... as a student of this High School I can personally tell you that this program did one thing... it created a social elite at the school under which many students were put down, belittled, and treated as they did not have a future."

The whole point of the academy was to get kids who "did not have a future" and give them a future. Are you sure you are talking about Lawndale High in Lawndale, CA and not a different one? The teachers in the academy spent countless hours-tutoring, grade checks, the "talks"-trying to push and motivate these students to succeed.

"For those who were chosen to by the teachers, they were given special treatments beyond belief, often including things such as private tutors and special advantages such as a special college coach which the school provided for the top 4 students in the school. "

The top four students in the school? I was ranked number 3 or 4 (I don't remember) in my class and number 1 in MSA. I can definitely tell you I had no special treatment. If anything, they were harder on me because I began slacking off and they didn't want me to fail. Other students can attest to this fact, students that weren't ranked in the top portion of the class. I had no private tutoring, no special coaching, or any of the above mentioned privileges. They had no time for that; they had to fight the district the entire time.

Please ensure that before you defame the academy and its staff you do adequate research.

And Maldonaldo, the facts are obviously not false or incomplete. You may believe them to be false because you're new to the school, haven't experienced the real MSA, and because you know what you know about MSA because of what the district told you about it. Also, everything he said about you was in quotes. Alongside that, students were quoted in the article. Don't tell me you're going to be like the rest of the district and refuse to give credit to the students to thinking on their own...

The MSA did a lot for me and my peers. We grew up to be people who can read the law and act without the aid of teachers. We grew up to be adults creating change in the real world. We grew up to understand the bureaucracy in place and what is needed to change it to benefit all students. Only time will tell what happens to this academy. If it continues to fail and does not offer students what they were promised when they signed the letter to join the academy, it should either cease to exist or the name should change; the image of the successful academy shouldn't be destroyed because of today's efforts.

On a side note, Congratulations to the Class of 2011! Create the change in the world you want to see. Use what you learned and make everyone proud!