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Granada Hills Charter Wins 8th Academic Decathlon Championship

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Granada Hills Charter Decathlon
Photo Courtesy of Granada Hills Charter

Granada Hills Charter High School captured its eighth United States Academic Decathlon championship on Saturday.

The team scored 52,656.7 points out of a possible 60,0000 to claim the title, according to the school.

“Like last year, this competition was a big shift for everyone involved,” said team coach Alina Lee. “It was important to focus on maintaining our momentum without our normal face-to-face interactions. Our program is built on teamwork and accountability so keeping the sense of connection among our students was a top priority. I am really impressed how well everyone responded, and I’m very excited for our team.”

This year’s winning team of students is Dwaipayan Chanda, Eunice Choi, Joshua Choi, Rachel Heo (alternate), Chloe Hyun, Aroa Kim (alternate), Justin Kim, Hirusha Liyanage, Anthony Mercado (alternate), Jasdeep Sidhu, and Zorex Villadelgado, Jr. The coaches are Alina Lee, Linda Kang and Amy Contreras.

The theme of this year’s Academic Decathlon season was “The Cold War,” requiring students to study subjects within that context. Students compete in seven subject areas including science, literature, art, music, social science, economics and mathematics. 

Topics included the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union, music from the era and a focus on Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. The competition includes multiple-choice exams in each subject, as well as essays, interviews and speeches.

As part of the competition, each school enters a field of students from the following GPA categories, – “A” students (honors), – “B” students (scholastic), and – “C or below” (varsity). GHC decathletes placed within the top three in the highest individual scores in all categories: Jasdeep Sidhu (1st overall honors) and Dwaipayan Chanda (3rd overall honors); Zorex Villadelgado, Jr. (1st overall scholastic) and Hirusha Liyanage (2nd overall scholastic); and Joshua Choi (1st overall varsity) and Justin Kim (2nd overall varsity).

“I know everyone on the team worked very hard under extremely trying conditions to prepare for the competitions, so we all are excited for their success,” said Brian Bauer, executive director of Granada Hills Charter. “In a normal year, the unexpected challenges of Academic Decathlon go beyond learning about the topics and honing skills for the 10 different events. There are challenges of making time for all the preparations, of staying focused and determined and facing odds that can feel daunting. This year’s team again demonstrated the perseverance needed to compete at such a high level, and they deserve this victory.”

Next year’s competition will focus on a topic very familiar to Californians: water. The science subject will focus on marine biology and the art area will look into watercolor painting and water as a subject of art.

“I’m always amazed by how much the students learn and how dedicated our coaches are,” Bauer said. “I’m sure all the students will take what they’ve learned with them as they go on to college or enter the workforce – or come back to finish their high school experience with us next year.”

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Education

CSUN Receives Largest Donation In University History From MacKenzie Scott

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CSUN Cal State Northridge

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) announced Tuesday that philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott and her husband Dan Jewett donated $40 million, the largest gift from a single donor in the institution’s history.

Scott, the former partner of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has donated a total of $2.74 billion to organizations that focus on the arts and combating racial discrimination.

“Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity, so we looked for 2- and 4-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved,” Scott wrote in a post announcing the billions in donations.

The gift to CSUN, which is designated to support presidential priorities, comes at an especially advantageous time for the university.

Erika D. Beck, who assumed the presidency of CSUN in January of this year, recently issued a report on what she heard during an intensive listening tour during her first 100 days. The report is the first step to a university-wide process starting this fall to create a roadmap for the future.

“This transformative gift provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance our future as leaders in equity-centered student success to provide a brighter and more equitable future for our students, their families and the communities we are so proud to serve,” said Beck.

Among the priorities identified in the Listening Tour Report, are the elimination of equity gaps, accelerating the work in diversifying the faculty, academic excellence, holistic student support and facilitating CSUN students’ educational goals and intellectual promise.

“While one-time dollars cannot be used to support long-term expenses in perpetuity, with a mix of focused spending and investment, we can, and will, use these dollars to transform our campus for generations to come,” Beck added.

Scott and Jewett’s gifts to higher education have focused on institutions that have higher proportions of students from historically underserved communities and excel at supporting their success. 

With multiple programs ranked nationally for their quality and excellence, CSUN was recently ranked 4th in the nation on CollegeNet’s Social Mobility Index, which measures a college’s success at moving students up the social and economic ladder.

Other Southern California colleges and organizations also received donations from the couple, including Pasadena City College and the  L.A. Arts Endowment Fund.

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LAUSD, Teachers Union Reach Tentative Agreement To Fully Reopen Classrooms In Fall

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Classroom LA County School Reopening

United Teachers Los Angeles (ULTA) announced Thursday the union reached a deal to fully reopen classrooms in the fall with safety measures in place.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent Austin Beutner announced plans in May to fully reopen for in-person instruction for the 2021-22 school year with a remote learning option.

In the fall, students are expected to be on campus five days a week. Middle school and high school students will switch classrooms for each class period, according to the LAUSD superintendent.

A major element of the tentative agreement includes maintaining concrete and enforceable COVID-19 protocols, according to the union.

Those protocols include increased testing, daily symptom screening, cleaning and paid leave for those required to quarantine, according to the agreement.

In addition, the deal required continued ability for high-risk staff to request reasonable accommodations in the online program.

The education groups also agreed to not displace any UTLA-represented staff for the 2021-2022 school year. Those educators who have been in danger of displacement will now be able to remain at the school for the 2021-2022 school year, according to the union.

As part of the tentative agreement, the LAUSD must make every effort to avoid combo classes. Those required to teach a combo class will receive a $1,200 stipend for the extra work.

ULTA officials also said the agreement includes an increased training pay rate, from $25 to $50 an hour, permanently.

The plan includes an expanded online-only independent study program following the City of Angels model and using a mix of daily live synchronous learning and independent work.

The tentative agreement is set to be voted on by members. Dates and details of the ratification vote will be announced early next week, according to the UTLA.

If approved, the new policies and conditions are expected to go into effect on June 23.

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Education

LAUSD Board Passes Resolution Supporting Student Mothers

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LAUSD_Graduate-photo (1)

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education adopted a resolution Tuesday that creates more support for teenage mothers, helping help them navigate parenthood while achieving academic success.

Proposed by Student Board Member Kamarie Brown, the “Mommy, Daddy and Me” resolution calls on Los Angeles Unified to work with teen mothers in creating a “comprehensive student maternity support system.”

The resolution seeks to prevent students from dropping out of school because of pregnancy or parenthood by creating spaces on school campuses for daycare, and a designated lactation area.

“I’m very proud to put forth this resolution, with the support of our Board Members, to ensure that students receive the necessary resources and support to reach their full potential, facilitate their academic success, and support their holistic growth,” Student Board Member Kamarie Brown said. “This resolution serves to create a more robust and comprehensive support system for pregnant and expecting students, and I’m so honored by the student mothers and fathers who shared their experiences with me. Their thoughts and experiences were the foundation of this resolution.”

The resolution also calls on Los Angeles Unified to create a curriculum on prenatal care and child development for all students.

“I’m proud to co-sponsor Ms. Brown’s resolution to support our parenting students,” Board President Kelly Gonez said. “Expanding our support systems to provide more access to parenting resources, care, and accommodations benefits everyone. Parenting students can focus on graduating, pursuing their goals and better provide for their children. These are changes we can make now that create a lasting, positive impact.”

In addition, the measure requests funding for a full-time position, or at minimum provide specialized training to an existing staff person, to ensure there is a person on campus focused on providing supports to student mothers in finding child care and support resources.

“We must recognize that most of our pregnant and parenting teens do not have, or don’t feel they have, the support they need to stay in school,” Board Member Jackie Goldberg said. “This resolution not only provides practical ideas and resources, but also conveys our commitment to helping our students succeed in school and in life. Student moms have been invisible for too long.  Thanks to Board Member Brown for truly seeing them.”

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