My Old School: Still Learning At Ramona Elementary

RamonaNearly 27 years after I graduated from Ramona Elementary School, I discovered I’m still learning there.

On Thursday I met with new Ramona principal Jim Hum, as part of my continuous implementation of the EHNC’s East Hollywood Junior Neighborhood Council program (described here in a previous post), as well as our Community Curriculum program to educate 1st and 3rd graders about community through instructional visits to the schools.

This was a meeting over three months in the making, emerging from constantly-unanswered phone calls to email exchanges until I finally just decided to pop into the office last week and say “Hi” (In my experience the most effective way to get in touch with school staff/administration!). I introduced myself, asked for a meeting, and 12:15 p.m. on Thursday the 21st it was. Great, finally!

It was a rush of a day, since I bolted here right after my meeting with Hel-Mel businesses. And I had to wait a while as the principal met with a teacher. But finally the door opened and “Mr. Trinidad” was let in his office. Mind you, I wasn’t the type of kid who was sent to the Principal’s Office due to bad behavior back in the day, so I didn’t have any issues with this action.

I made sure to let him know I was an alum from the get-go. Credibility and connections speak volumes. I also had to do the “This is what neighborhood councils are” lecture, and having done it for some nine years in various versions, I think I can almost do it while asleep. But hey, it’s a necessary step.

Then I showed him the printout of our Power Point presentation on the Youth & Education programs. He was fascinated by the neighborhood map with all the schools, which naturally gives perspective. To cut a long story short, he loved the Jr. Neighborhood Council and Community curriculum projects, and was eager to implement them, especially as a way to help the kids.

Eventually I realized that I was still getting an education from this school. Not writing, math, science or even Mr. White the animal guy who came over every Wednesday and showed us various animals, but the realities of running a school and student performance. And it wasn’t very good…but it definitely was eye-opening.

Back in the mid- 70s to early ’80s, life was simple. School was simple. The world was simple. Things are much different now.

Some of the things I learned from our meeting:

– Schools are ranked according whether they make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which is closely tied to testing scores. Those that don’t, get labeled. Ramona is one of them, labeled as a “P.I.” or Program Improvement school. It’s all part of the whole “No Child Left Behind” California state education requirements.  Schools that make the least AYP get taken over by the school district.

– Students also deal with greater issues at home that affect their academic performance: From family integrity/structure to economics to native language comprehension (i.e. students who speak a foreign language at home don’t even read/speak that language properly), and of course, lack of recreational facilities in the neighborhood (the principal mentioned Ramona kids “Taking the subway themselves to LA City College just to play baseball.”

– Students take field trips on weekends! They go on Saturdays and even Sundays! The Ramona kids still have field trips to Barnsdall Art Park — but they don’t walk there, they’re bused there!

– Teachers of a certain grade level have one-hour meetings once a week with school administration called “Assigned Times.” During those periods, students at Ramona engage in physical learning activities — not P.E. per se, but physical activities that are more lesson-based. Mr. Hum recommended that these Assigned Times can be used for our Community Curriculum visits.

– The LAUSD expects schools to engage with nonprofit organizations, which is rarely done by most schools. Mr. Hum said that our programs, especially the Community Curriculum, can provide that link.

– Though Ramona has been operating as a K-5 grade school for over a decade, the LAUSD is currently voting on whether to revert elementary schools back to K-6, provided they have the available capacity for it. Mr. Hum explained that 6th graders aren’t mature enough to deal with middle school issues. As someone who went here in the K-6 era, I agree. I have friends who are LAUSD teachers that have vaguely mentioned this issue, now it’s a little more clear to me.

– Not only would Ramona become a K-6 school, but it would be a Pre-K to 6th grade campus. They have a Pre-K classroom now. Times have changed!

– The proposed ADA ramp planned for the auditorium has been canceled, mainly because there are no students with disabilities attending Ramona, and thus no need for it. The principal also mentioned that the ramp as planned would be awkwardly-designed due to the nature of the highly-elevated-but-narrow structure. He said an ADA elevator would make more sense than a ramp.

– Ramona has an active Student Council, consisting of 9 students on the actual council, who do things like run the school assemblies, the flag presentations and cleanups. In addition, there are also about 30 other students who are involved in Student Council activities. I explained that it parallels the neighborhood council — with us having a governing board, and a larger associated set of stakeholders who participate as well.

Speaking of which, Mr. Hum recommended the school select members from the Student Council to be Ramona’s representatives on the Jr. Neighborhood Council. Originally there would be a larger application.selection process, but it sounds like from the school’s end that selecting/recommending students will mean less work for either party and a faster implementation of the EHJNC. He also talked about recommending not necessarily the “brightest” students as representatives, but students who display interest and who can best benefit from it, which I wholeheartedly agree.

At some point I told the principal, upon learning about all these revelations to me about how the school is run today, “It hurts me as an alum” to hear about how things are going at my elementary school. I’d have to say that the fondest memories of going to school at any level – from nursery school to USC – was my 6th grade class at Ramona. The ethnic diversity in that class helped define my worldview, and most of all for me, it was the only time ever in my life where I felt like I truly belonged on an equal footing with everyone else.  So even though it’s been three decades since I roamed these halls, I used to be one of these kids, and it just pains me to see that they’re not given the same opportunities I had in my time.

All of that put more focus and perspective on my Youth & Education endeavors. Perhaps even more should be done, even outside the realm of the neighborhood council.  I had recently gotten in touch with a lot of my Ramona classmates on Facebook, maybe it’s time to organize some sort of alumni association that supports the school somehow.

When I got home, I checked my Facebook messages and found a new one from- guess who – an old Ramona classmate. He informed me that he had just made contact on Facebook with another classmate of ours (We previously agreed to hunt down as many classmates from our 6th grade gifted class as possible and organize an informal reunion).

Yep, it’s a sign.

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3 comments to My Old School: Still Learning At Ramona Elementary

  • IM GOING TO RAMONA ITS A GREAT SCHOOL I WAS WOUNDERING IF WE CAN TALK ABOUT HOW MY SCHOOL WAS BACK THEN

  • Hi Luis! What do you want to know?

    The school is much bigger now than when I went there as a kid. I had classmates of all different races and nationalities, but everyone was great.

    When I was in the 2nd grade, the school district started the Year-Round program because the school was overcrowded back then.

    After they built the new school a few blocks away (Kingsley Elementary) then they stopped the year-round school schedule at Ramona. There used to be a bowling alley and a mini-market where the other school is now, I used to go there every day after school and play arcade video games with my friends!

  • vivian

    What do you mean when you said “But finally the door opened and “Mr. Trinidad” was let in his office”. Mr.Trinidad? I’m going crazy trying to figure it out.

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