Mothers from the MOMS Club West Adams noticed that as their children began school, everyone headed in different directions. Because of districting, children were traveling to far off schools and even close neighbors found themselves at different locations.
"What we needed was an elementary school for West Adams that would continue to bond us as a community and offer another great option for this neighborhood we all love so much," said one of the mothers, Mia Marano.
Mia Marano approached other mothers, Jenna Flexner, Jennifer Kurek, Maisha Closson, Deanna Goodwin, Stephanie Gisondi-Little, Skye Peyton and Jennifer Johnsonabout starting a school and together they began researching and planning one that would reflect the diversity of West Adams. After touring schools like Larchmont, Franklin Magnet and Multi-Cultural Learning Center and amassing research that showed huge brain benefits to a 90/10 dual language immersion program and project- based curricula, they began to think that if they merged these ideas in one school it could make a significant contribution to West Adams, a community high in native Spanish speakers.
They were able to connect with Dvora Inwood, a well-respected and experienced educator who had written the charter for other high-performing charter schools, and she agreed to write the charter for the City Charter Elementary School West Adams.
After over a year of development, this band of moms had the first official open house for the community on August 28, 2012. No one knew how many people would attend and everyone was stunned when over a hundred people showed up in Jennifer Johnson's backyard. "We were losing quality time with our kids when they have an hour and a half commute to school every day. It was time to stop exporting our diversity and our resources,” said Johnson.
However, there was quite a hurdle ahead. LAUSD requires any future charter school to raise $250,000 before it can submit a charter for approval. "We are a community where the median income is $28,000," says Marano. "There was no one who could write a blank check." A community of modest means perhaps, but not modest ambition, energy or commitment. Johnson’s strategic planning and amazing gift for organizing families and fundraising launched the group's efforts. There were garage sales almost every weekend, cupcake and lemonade stands at USC games, local businesses were solicited to contribute, fundraisers were organized at restaurants, there were book sales and bingo tournaments, computers and batteries were recycled for cash, change was collected and families made and sold dinners, West Adams t-shirts and even Thanksgiving pies. Parents donated and reached out to family, friends and anyone on their Facebook pages.
Whenever possible, any fundraiser also became an opportunity for the school's other huge priority, outreach to the community. Flyers about the school were posted all over West Adams, sign-up sheets for interested parents were at all events and everywhere were committed parents spreading the word. The goal for the school was for the student body to be socio-economically and racially diverse, just like West Adams. In less than nine months, forty families raised over $300,000 one glass of lemonade at a time. Each family contributed 250 hours of work, many going well over that, and in the process created a network of support, trust and friendship.
The charter was approved in the spring of 2013, and, in an amazing act of educational serendipity, Raul Alarcon, bilingual himself and an educator in a famed dual language immersion constructivist school, came on as the principal of City Charter Elementary West Adams.
For more information about how to enroll, please call 323-839-2307. There are a couple of spaces still available in Kindergarten and 2nd grade for this year.