Blog: Echo Park School Named Charter School of the Year

Gabriella Charter School, a local, public K-8 school was recently named Charter School of the Year, selected out of 982 charter schools statewide.

Gabriella Charter School, a local, public K-8 school, received the Hart Vision Award for Charter School of the Year last week at the 19th Annual Charter Schools Conference in Sacramento, selected out of 982 charter schools statewide.

Gabriella is co-located at Logan Street Elementary and unfortunately, the school has received significant negative press about the challenges of two schools sharing a campus. The real story here, however, and the one which should be heard and celebrated, is the hope, life, and opportunity the school has created for its student body and the hundreds of other students that have benefited from the school’s dance program.

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 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 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.  To put it simply, their academic performance by any standard is exemplary.

Gabriella is the perfect exemplar of what is plausible in public education when an innovative vision and a culture of high expectations are put into action. For me, as a parent and advocate for great public school options for all students, it is a school I hope the whole community will celebrate.  Check out this video to learn more!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Robert D. Skeels March 14, 2012 at 07:38 AM
The Segregationist Roots of the Charter School Movement http://www.alternet.org/story/154425/the_segregationist_roots_of_the_charter_school_movement?page=entire
Stephanie Widmer March 14, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Corri, Thank you so much for sharing this article! GCS is such a wonderful place for kids, and I'm really happy that you've highlighted it for our neighborhood! Please keep sharing about our amazing schools. All my best, Stephanie
jennifer salazar March 14, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Gabriella Charter School has enriched the lives of many children including my own. My daughter's love going to school everyday and they look forward to the dance program and the educational curriculum. They kids love their school and what it represents. It's a great school.. Sincerely, Jennifer Salazar
Mollie Jones March 14, 2012 at 06:37 PM
My children also attend Gabriella Charter. The quality of education is outstanding; the children benefit so much from the emphasis on arts education. It is such a gift to have it in our community. Mollie Jones
dawn March 14, 2012 at 06:46 PM
My daughter also attends Gabriella. We commute from South Los Angeles to do so because I am an educator who understands the value of not just a quality school but a quality educational environment. The schools in my area may offer good education but not the best learning environments. I remember waiting for phone call in terms of lottery to see if she was accepted for K and she's in 3rd grade now! Go Gabriella!
Ana Lima March 14, 2012 at 07:21 PM
We travel to school my son has been attending the school of some time since kindergaten and he is now in 5th grade this year my daughter will be attending and we cant wait for her education to begin we could not be any happier for therm and the teaching the school provides. Ana Lima, Lester Lima
Grace Castillo March 14, 2012 at 07:27 PM
My daughter attends Gabriella and all I can say is that I admire the dedication of the teachers and staff. Any child that attends Gabriella will be set for success!
Involved Parent March 14, 2012 at 07:57 PM
This article might be true for some charter schools. But it could also be true for some public districts (non-charter) based on the demographics of the district. As usual, one size doesn't fit all. And in the case of Gabriella Charter School, the racial and economic distribution is similar to the distributions seen at the other LAUSD schools in the neighborhood. Although at GCS there is better African-American and Asian representation than at the local public schools. The teachers and administration at GCS are doing a ton of things "right." What strikes me is that EVERY child appears to be happy to be there and to be happy to go to school. At other schools I have seen elementary kids kicking and screaming, not wanting to go, not wanting to be dropped off. GCS has a caring attitude toward the kids and they feel it. And it is so valuable to instilling a lifelong love for learning. Thank you GCS for giving my kids a great start!
Jessica Eguizabal March 15, 2012 at 01:32 AM
I have not been able to find WORDS TO EXPRESS HOW HAPPY AND SATISFIED I AM OF Gabriella Charter School, My daughter went to a very small Primary Center for Pre-k and Kinder and the First year was Fine, but once Kinder started even-thought the school was in the corner of the school it was a constant struggle just to be able to take her to school. Once she started Gabriella three years ago she never complains about getting to school, she is so happy and <3 the school. One day I asked my daughter why we struggle so much in Kinder and she told me that the kids will tease her and did not want to be friendly, which is the complete opposite of what GCS TEACHES! I have a baby that is currently four years old and as long as I can remember since the baby notice that in her big sister school (Gabriellla) they dance, play the piano and also have art exhibitions she has been asking me when is she going to be able to start the school with her big sister.The school is STRICT, and it has an EXCELLENT TEACHING SKILLS AND REINFORCEMENT.....GO GCS!!!!!! Carla and Sasha Sanchez-Eguizabal Jessica Eguizabal
Rosa March 15, 2012 at 06:33 AM
I have lived in Echopark for over 20 yrs and I have never seen a school so dedicated and commited to a childs education.GCS has had big improvements in our community which makes me a proud parent of two attending students. Thank you GCS staff for making a difference in my child's education. Mrs.Coyle
Lisa Robinson March 15, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Hi Robert, Thank you for bringing a charter school counterpoint to this conversation. I would say that the article actually supports the celebration of unique charters like Gabriella, which is serving a diverse community and student body. I think what sets Gabriella apart is its progressive model for education. They don’t just offer dance classes in addition to the core curriculum. It is kinetic, body and mind - they incorporate movement with academics, socialization and creativity which elevates the learning. As we reflect on improving our education system, we should heed the past as the article you referred suggests (and to be mindful of charlatans), but we must also look into the future. We need to challenge the educational conventions of what really fosters learning, for example considering the body not just the mind. Grateful and Proud GCS parent
Ms. Rodriguez March 15, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Mr. Rodriguez Both of my son's go to Gabriela Charter School. This school is such a wonderful place to have your children in they have EXCELLENT TEACHERS who really do care about our children education. THANKS GCS FOR GIVING MY BOYS A GREAT START IN THEIR EDUCATION! :) I GREATLY APPRECIATE
German Barrero March 19, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Whatever it takes!.... Congratulations Don't let the monopoly holders of public education steer you away from FREE PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS.... many people are just learning that they ARE in fact FREE and PUBLIC! What people also find when they experience a CHARTER school, is a POSITIVE CULTURE in the school among staff, teachers and parents. For that reason alone, I'm surprised we haven't seen MORE schools convert to CHARTER SCHOOLS. Wait until the rest of the community, stuck in failing schools, figures what they are missing!!!!
houston March 20, 2012 at 12:29 AM
how old are your kids and where do they go to school?
German Barrero March 20, 2012 at 04:39 AM
A simple search will make evident that CHARTER schools are FREE and open to ALL STUDENTS (the PUBLIC) as required by California State law. http://www.publiccharters.org/About-Charter-Schools/What-are-Charter-Schools003F.aspx Why are some people so afraid of FREE to the PUBLIC alternatives (like CHARTER schools) to kids that the traditional schools are failing? ..... You've got to wonder.... As some know, CHARTER schools are EXEMPT from school district collective bargaining agreements.... So the hundreds of pages in the teacher's contract that protects and gives full benefits (even life-long PENSIONS) to an ABUSIVE TEACHER sitting in jail, does NOT exist at a charter school. .....COULD THIS BE THE REASON WHY SOME within the system ARE SO UPSET? The positive change free charter schools are bringing to students, parents and teachers should make people wonder why WE DON'T HAVE MORE CHARTERS!
German Barrero March 20, 2012 at 04:44 AM
Why Public Charter Schools? http://www.publiccharters.org/About-Charter-Schools/Why-Charter-Schools003F.aspx
Robert D. Skeels March 20, 2012 at 05:30 AM
@German Barrero You post links from the deep pocketed charter trade association NAPCS and expect to be taken seriously? That's akin to posting an article from Philip Morris on the "health benefits" of smoking, or from Americans for Prosperity on the value of industrial pollution. The vile NAPCS is essentially the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for the lucrative charter-voucher industry, which has consistently placed profits above people. The reality based community understands that court rulings, which are concerned with precise definitions of words rather than marketing speak, are the final arbiter on whether charters are public or not. Who agrees with the teabagging Mr. Barrero? Well reactionary extremists and ALEC supporters including names like Walton, DeVos, Broad, Bradley, Gates, Koch, Hastings, Dell, Powell-Jobs, Scaife, Tilson, et al. Charter schools are also supported by all the right-wing think-tanks including Hoover, AEI, Cato, Heritage, Heartland, Manhattan, et al. Moreover, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) stand with Mr. Barrero in support of charter schools: http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/2012/01/kkk-endorses-charter-schools-bc-of.html
Robert D. Skeels March 20, 2012 at 05:30 AM
@German Barrero Aside from being racist and classist bastions of discrimination, charter schools, with rare exceptions like the Chime Institute, also discriminate against most vulnerable. http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2012/02/charter-schools-and-students-with.html Of all people, one would think that study would cause you pause from your free market cheerleading, but it seems you have issues with educators or the public commons, or just normal human interactions. In other words, Mr. Berrero, you are entitled to your own opinion -- no matter how vile, but not to your your own facts.
Robert D. Skeels March 20, 2012 at 05:31 AM
@German Barrero As for Mr. Berrero's erroneous assertion that charter schools are public schools, let's look at the facts. Despite all the marketing hype promulgated by deep pocketed trade associations like the California Charter Schools Association, charter schools are not public schools. Instead charters are privately managed entities whose only claim to the word public is the fact that they drain public funds. Dozens of court cases have ruled that charter schools are not “public entities.” Two well known examples include the following: The California Court of Appeals (2007-01-10) which ruled that charter-voucher schools are NOT “public agents.” http://j.mp/wGmLtB The 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals (2010-01-04) which ruled that charter-voucher schools are NOT “public actors.” http://j.mp/x4Y9KT Moreover, the US Census Department expressed difficulty in obtaining information from charters because they are NOT public entities. http://j.mp/ytdtYv Why is this important? Every time a student, parent, educator, or community member has tried to seek legal remedies against charters when they've discriminated, broken the ed code, violated labor and safety laws, or anything else, the courts have ruled that charters are NOT public entities, absolving them of the kind of accountability the public institutions are subject to. Please Mr. Barrero, further demonstrate your epic ignorance and small mindedness by saying the Courts and Census Department are wrong.
Kissy Kissbear March 20, 2012 at 05:39 AM
Maybe he thinks that since charters take public money, that that somehow makes them public. The murderous Blackwater/Xe takes public funds, are we to understand that they are a public institution as well?
German Barrero March 20, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Right out of the California Department of Education.. "In 1992, California became the second state in the nation to adopt PUBLIC charter school legislation. Currently, about 982 active charter schools and eight all-charter districts are operating in California." http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cs/re/cefcharterschools.asp NOTICE HOW there are some trying to CONFUSE the public. LOOK how "voucher" got conveniently pulled into the conversation. Don't be fooled by these people trying to take you down their path that keeps TEACHER UNION priorities ABOVE KIDS.
German Barrero March 20, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Let's see what else the STATE of CALIFORNIA says: What is a Charter School? A charter school is a public school, and it may provide instruction in any of grades K-12. A charter school is usually created or organized by a group of teachers, parents and community leaders or a community-based organization, and it is usually sponsored by an existing local public school board or county board of education. Specific goals and operating procedures for the charter school are detailed in an agreement (or "charter") between the sponsoring board and charter organizers. A charter school is generally exempt from most laws governing school districts, except where specifically noted in the law. California public charter schools are required to participate in the statewide assessment test, called the STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) program. The law also requires that a public charter school be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations and prohibits the conversion of a private school to a charter school. Public charter schools may not charge tuition and may not discriminate against any pupil on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, or disability. http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cs/re/csabout.asp
Robert D. Skeels March 20, 2012 at 06:38 PM
So citing CDE somehow makes you more authoritative than the panel of judges on the California Court of Appeals? You don't seem very bright, so it wouldn't surprise me that you wouldn't know that the job of the courts is to interpret the language of the law. Charters are one in the same with the private 501C3s running them. Here is an excerpt from the California court case cited above: "The Court determined the charter schools did not qualify as "public entities" under the CFCA. (Id. at p. 1203, 48 Cal.Rptr.3d 108, 141 P.3d 225.) Because they competed with the traditional schools for students and funding, neither did the Court find them to be "governmental entities" exempt from the UCL's restrictions on their competitive practices." The language is unambiguous. You're obtuse. Charter charlatans have created a lucrative quasi-public market niche. The schools are public so long as they can garner public funds and cash in on lucrative real estate deals. However, as soon as a family, community member, educator, or other persons outside of those profiting form charters need to seek legal or civil remedies against the charter school sector, then they are conveniently NOT public entities. Charters. No oversight, no democratic controls, but lots of opportunities for swindlers to make boatloads of cash. Good luck with trying to "teach the controversy" though.
German Barrero March 20, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Go to the 'SchoolsMatter' site posted above and you find on page 11 of the COPPA document the following - http://www.scribd.com/doc/81406874/Charter-Schools-and-Students-With-Disabilities-Final "With few exceptions, e.g., Colorado and Arizona, charter schools are required by their state laws and/or constitutions to be created as non profit entities." "These publicly funded non-profit entities are, nonetheless, free to contract with a ‘for-profit’ or private non-profit educational management organization (EMO) to oversee school operations and produce measureableoutcomes. Despite being privately managed, charter schools, as PUBLICLY funded schools, must comply with the SAME requirements as traditional PUBLIC schools with respect to non-discrimination in admission, and compliance with federal education laws." Links by the distractors will take you to TEACHER UNION MONOPOLY sites like SHANKER'S.... or toward out of state lawsuits and other distractions. just go here... Charter Schools FAQ - http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cs/re/qandasec1mar04.asp Frequently asked questions regarding general information on charter schools.
Robert D. Skeels March 20, 2012 at 06:46 PM
@German Barrero "Don't be fooled by these people trying to take you down their path that keeps TEACHER UNION priorities ABOVE KIDS" Mr. Berrero, I dare you... no, I defy you to tell everyone exactly what my supposed connection with teacher's unions is. Please, I'm curious to know what kind of convoluted insanity that your little Glen Beck/Rush Limbaugh mind would try to posit. Please, enlighten us with your vile right-wing conspiracy theories about how I'm on the take. I am a student of Paulo Freire. I advocate public education, so it naturally follows that I oppose neoliberalism and privatization. It's clear that you hate educators and teachers, so your are trying to project that on anyone that opposes your free-market nonsense. Oh, and your welcome to make your slanderous accusations to my face anytime instead of hiding in your mom's basement. I'm out in the community all the time, supporting public schools, families, and community.
Robert D. Skeels March 20, 2012 at 06:50 PM
"Out of state lawsuits?" FYI KNAPP v. PALISADES CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL, was held in the State of California, by the California Court of Appeals. Just to quell your unmitigated ignorance, Pacific Palisades is in California.
Robert D. Skeels March 20, 2012 at 06:58 PM
I'm growing tired of you Mr. Barrero. You haven't made a single substantial argument, and you've Ignored the clear language of the court rulings since it doesn't support your Ayn Rand fantasies. I'm also enraged that you are making vile and vacuous accusations that I am employed by unions, or take money from unions, or that I've spent decades of my life as a social justice writer and activist somehow for money. Making those kind of accusations put the onus on you to produce proof, but since none is forthcoming your lies and monstrous accusations are bluster. I will say that you should try to get a job at the CCSA, since they pay mendacious people like you very well to help them build market share at the public's expense.
German Barrero March 20, 2012 at 06:59 PM
To all the parents out there (bet these anti charter bloggers are not even parents)... tell your friends, neighbors, gardeners, coworkers and relatives that there are INDEED..... FREE, PUBLIC SCHOOLS out there called CHARTER SCHOOLS. Like traditional public schools, NOT all charter schools are great. The exception is that it is easier to close a bad charter school than to get rid of ONE BAD PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER! I am signing off to go do the work that is needed. Thank you to the anti-charter bloggers for motivating me. Congratulations to the parents and children of Gabriela Charter School!


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