Scenes from Schools: Fenton Avenue Charter School

January 6, 2011

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"Scenes from Schools" is an occasional piece on the CCSA News Blog that offers a glimpse at the tremendous work taking place on charter school campuses across California. Today's "Scenes," actually takes place at the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, not at a school, but reflects the successes of Fenton Avenue Charter School in Lake View Terrace in the words of school Director David Riddick. Riddick offered these remarks as the LAUSD Board considered a Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) reorganization plan, which will give charter schools better options and more flexibility in special education service delivery.

Providing an education and a voice to our community

Good Afternoon. My name is David Riddick. I have spent most of my life involved with improving the academic achievement of schools in the North East San Fernando Valley. I was a student at Fair Avenue Elementary in North Hollywood and Beachy Elementary in Arleta. I was a teacher at Dyer Elementary in Sylmar and now I am the director of Fenton Avenue Charter School in Lake View Terrace.

Prior to becoming a charter school in 1993, Fenton was considered one of the worst elementary schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Our charter status has provided us with the leverage to tackle poor attendance, high student transiency, vandalism, overcrowding, low staff morale, lack of parental involvement, and low student performance. Since original charter approval and conversion, Fenton Avenue Charter School is one of the highest performing schools in the North East San Fernando Valley.

Fenton continues to educate a student population that is clearly reflective of the surrounding community. In July 2007, Fenton Avenue Charter School welcomed the first residents of Hope Gardens, the Union Rescue Mission's interim housing complex for homeless families providing Fenton with over one hundred students. Fenton Avenue Charter School and the Fenton Primary Center have a population of 1,422 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Our ethnic composition consists of 91% Hispanic and 8% African American. Over 87% of our students qualify for free or reduced meals and 10% of our students are identified as having special needs.

Students identified with special needs range from autism, specific learning disability, speech and language impairment, hearing impaired, visually impaired, developmentally delayed, and other health impairments. The special education staff of Fenton includes two special day class teachers, two resource specialist teachers, a full-time school psychologist, a full-time elementary school counselor, a full-time language and speech therapist, adaptive physical education, and an occupational therapist. We spend $650,000 above funds received from AB602 and IDEA, not including administrative and indirect expenses.

Akin to the goal of LAUSD, our goal is to improve the education of all our students. Unfortunately, research has shown schools in the poorest areas have historically struggled with educational attainment. Students with disabilities are dually impacted by their socioeconomic status and challenges with processing new information. We do not see servicing the needs of special education students as a burden, but as a necessity. We are excited to move forward in conjunction with the new LAUSD SELPA reorganization efforts to implement the flexibility and autonomy of our charter that has been so successful in providing an education and a voice to our community.

The mission of Fenton Avenue Charter School is to successfully educate all students through the implementation of a rigorous standards-based curriculum that is infused with technology-enriched instructional strategies and learning opportunities. For more information on Fenton Avenue Charter School, visit the school's website.

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