We didn’t set out to make history. We just wanted to save our school and the students who were counting on us.
Sixteen years ago, Pacoima Elementary School ranked as one of the worst schools in California. Our score on the Academic Performance Index, the scorecard the state used for schools, was 398, far below the minimum target of 800. On the statewide measure comparing schools with similar student demographics, we earned a 1 out of 10.
The staff, which was supposed to be creating a strong, supportive and healthy school culture, had mostly given up.
Today, the same elementary school is among the highest performing in the northeast San Fernando Valley. On the state similar schools ranking, we leaped from 1 to 8. Seventy percent of our students scored proficient or advanced on the most recent state science assessment. With an in-house doctor, psychologist and two social workers, we’re able to care for our kids’ social-emotional needs.
Our teachers and staff are committed. Our kids are learning and thriving.
Yet, we’re in the same buildings. We’ve got the same yard. We are still located on the same campus.
So what changed?
We went charter.
The spark that ignited our transformation was the school’s new principal, Irene Smerigan, who took over in 1999. Fed up but still determined, Irene told me something I’ll never forget: We need to take our destiny into our own hands. She said we needed to go charter.
In 2003, we became a charter school. Since that time we have continually grown and improved our school. We welcome you to explore the other sections of our webpage and see for yourself.
(To see Mrs. Fajardo's full article featured on the Los Angeles Daily News, please click here)