THE BLOG
12/16/2014 05:46 pm ET Updated Feb 15, 2015

Should Altadena Pasadena Olin Academy Be Given a Chance to Formally Establish in Northwest Pasadena?

The debate continues. What is the best choice: public education schools, private school, or charter schools?

This is a particular important issue within Pasadena and Altadena, especially since Olin Charter founders want to establish the Altadena Pasadena Olin Academy in Northwest Pasadena. This school will initially serve kindergarten through 5th grade students. Hopefully it will expand to include middle and high school students.

I can speak about public education, not just because I attended K-12 public schools, but because I am also a public school teacher. I know firsthand the realities of being in the trenches of the classrooms. I have not taught at a private school or at a charter school.

But I am willing to give some charter schools the benefit of the doubt. And I hope that their intentions are not just to educate our students through memorization, but to also empower them through knowledge and independent thinking.

We need a shake-up in public education. And what has helped is the competition from private schools and mushrooming of charters schools. Public school districts now have to rethink how to better educate and retain students.

And the reality is that many charter schools are making inroads in poor communities since many parents and students do not feel that they are obtaining a quality public education.

One major accomplishment of our educational systems would be to include a mandatory class focused on civil society -- focused on the role and duties students should be required to perform in order to have a thriving and respectful society.

Altadena Pasadena Olin Academy can offer such a course and also include ethnic studies courses where Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) is lagging.

And some parents are already saying "Give Altadena Pasadena Olin Academy a chance."

We need Altadena Pasadena Olin Academy to prove itself since Altadena and Pasadena are tough political towns. Some Altadena parents have even expressed interest in breaking away from PUSD since Altadena is known to think independently.

The truth of the matter is that Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) needs all the help that it can get and instead of perceiving Altadena Pasadena Olin Academy as a threat, it should be perceived as an asset and an ally.

I know that charter schools rattle and anger people -- especially since some are funded by obscure millionaires and billionaires -- but the truth of the matter is that parents should be given the ultimate choice of where to enroll their children, whether in a PUSD public school or a charter school such as Altadena Pasadena Olin Academy.

Come on, we know that most low-income parents cannot afford to enroll their children into private schools, therefore they are only left with the choice of public schools and charter schools.

If the PUSD board of education votes in favor of allowing Altadena Pasadena Olin Academy, then the community, especially parents, will have more options of where to enroll their children. Especially since PUSD continues to consider closing down certain public schools due to low enrollment numbers.

The traditional structure of teaching in a classroom is changing. No longer do classrooms have chalk boards. Now they are white boards. Some teachers use modern overhead projectors to teach various lessons/subjects and other technology tools.

Altadena Pasadena Olin Academy will provide a blended learning environment where 75 percent will be face-to-face classroom instruction, with a 25 percent interactive academically-focused technology-based instruction.

Many students have a low attention span; therefore partaking in hands-on, technology-based interactive learning will help to maintain student's attention, through interactive engagement.
Whether we like it or not, technology-based teaching continues to grow.

Altadena Pasadena Olin Academy can make a monumental leap forward by becoming similar to Khan Academy, which has been featured on 60 Minutes. Millions of students now have access to Khan Academy, on a free basis.

We need for all students to learn the fundamentals in reading, writing, math, science, and other technical skills. But most importantly to become active participants and respectful members of our society -- through a civil society course and ethnic study courses.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has done us a favor since we saw that offering free Apple iPads to students is not enough. Many students will simply watch music videos, play video games, and use it as a tool for social networking and taking pictures to post on Instagram.

Altadena Pasadena Olin Academy will offer free tools such as a lab top. Olin Academy teachers must develop relationships with the parents in order to also engage them in their children's learning process.

Olin Academy has an opportunity to prove itself in Northwest Pasadena. If it is given a chance by the PUSD school board members, then Olin Academy has an opportunity to become like Khan Academy at the local level -- through face-to-face classroom instruction and online tutoring help.

When it comes to education and political issues, Pasadena and Altadena are boot camps. There is no time to be messing around.

Olin Academy will have to be ready to teach and empower students from day one. They will have to prove themselves with effective pre- and post-testing. Ultimately, when students take standards tests, we will see how they perform.

Our Northwest Pasadena and Altadena students deserve a top-notch, quality education whether it is a private, public, or charter school.

No more excuses or pointing the finger in regards to whose responsibility it is to effectively teach our students.

Time to get to work -- to teach and empower our Pasadena and Altadena students. As the Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes song says, wake up everybody -- no more sleeping in bed.

Randy Jurado Ertll is author of the newly released novel The Lives and Times of El Cipitio. He is also a public school teacher. Visit his web-site: WWW.RANDYJURADOERTLL.COM