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February 28, 2012

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release

Contact: Vicky Waters, CCSA
(415) 505-7575 vwaters@calcharters.org

SACRAMENTO, California.--A unique approach grounded in academic rigor and high expectations infused with dance has shown incredible results for Gabriella Charter School, in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Gabriella Charter School was honored today at the 19th Annual Charter Schools Conference with the Hart Vision Award for Charter School of the Year.

"I am so proud of our incredible teachers and students," said Liza Bercovici, executive director of Gabriella. "We started out with just a small after-school dance program based on a simple idea - we wanted to provide students in low-income communities what their peers in affluent communities had. We wanted to give students exposure to the arts, but also to teach them to hold themselves to the highest expectations not only in the dance studio, but in the classroom. Amazingly, it worked."

Gabriella Charter School, which opened in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in 2005, runs a K-8 program which couples rigorous academics with daily dance instruction. The school was opened in the memory of, and named after, the founder's daughter, Gabriella Axelrad, who died at the age of 13 in 1999 in a tragic accident. Gabriella was a dancer, and her mother founded the school as an opportunity to give other kids what her daughter had.

"Gabriella is a charter school that embodies the best of the charter school movement. They are not only innovative in their approach, but they have shown tremendous success, opening up educational opportunities to students," said Jed Wallace, president and CEO, CCSA.

"I am extremely proud to be part of an organization that, along with the other amazing charters in Los Angeles, helps support the notion that all students can and will achieve, if given the right opportunities," said Lisa Rooney, Principal, Gabriella Charter. "Our families, students, and staff are incredibly committed, hold each other to high standards, and operate with the understanding that together, we determine our students' success."

Gabriella Charter uses dance to create a culture of high expectations and discipline that also translates into academic success. They currently hold an Academic Performance Index (API) score of 875, and serve a diverse population of students, with 91% qualifying for Free and Reduced Priced Lunch, and more than 50% English Language Learners.

"Our job here is to enhance academics through art and dance, inspire students to be well-rounded and explore every side of themselves, and to believe in themselves," added Bercovici.

Past Hart Vision School of the Year recipients include Dr. Olga Mohan High School in Los Angeles and KIPP Bridge Charter School in Oakland (2011); Renaissance Arts Academy in Los Angeles and Life Learning Academy in San Francisco (2010); and Our Community School in Los Angeles and Oakland Charter Academy in Oakland (2009).

The Hart Vision Awards were established in 1995 in honor of Gary K. Hart, retired California State Senator and former California Secretary of Education. While serving as state senator, Hart sponsored the legislation that established California charter schools. The goals of the Hart Vision Awards are to recognize and honor annually individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in education.

The California Charters Schools Association has hosted the Charter Schools Conference for 19 years, offering resources, guidance, and advocacy support to a membership that has grown exponentially.

The California Charter Schools Conference will officially run from Monday, February 27 to Thursday, March 1, 2012. View a detailed schedule of sessions and events.

This year's Conference theme is "You are the Charter School Movement."

About the California Charter Schools Association

The California Charter Schools Association is the membership and professional organization serving 982 charter public schools and more than 412,000 students in the state of California. The Vision of the California Charter Schools Association is to usher in a new era in public education so all students attend independent, innovative, accountable schools of choice. The Mission of the California Charter Schools Association is to influence the legislative and policy environments, leverage collective advocacy, and provide resources to support our members in developing and operating high quality, charter schools reflective of California's student population. For more information, please visit www.calcharters.org.

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