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Woodland Hills School District sees incidents down, graduation rates up

NEW PITTSBURGH COURIER — In 2017 and 2018, the Woodland Hills School District was frequently in the news—mostly for the wrong reasons. This year, things are a little different—and Superintendent James Harris likes it that way.

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By Christian Morrow

In 2017 and 2018, the Woodland Hills School District was frequently in the news—mostly for the wrong reasons. This year, things are a little different—and Superintendent James Harris likes it that way.

“Oh we’re still in the news, but it’s for good stuff,” he told the New Pittsburgh Courier in a June 10 interview. “I had a visit from the juvenile probation officer the other day, and he says, ‘What’s going on over here? We haven’t referred anyone from Woodland Hills to probation this year.’ He told me the officer they had specifically assigned to the school has been reassigned.”

It would be argued that Harris—who was hired in August after a civil rights lawsuit against the district saw the exit of the previous superintendent, the high school principal and the school board president—is responsible for the positive changes. While he won’t argue that, he does credit staff, new High School Principal Phillip K. Woods, new Assistant Principal Eric Graf, parents, teachers and partners for buying into the creation of a new culture of respect.

“It really is about respect for everyone. With the culture prior to our coming here, there wasn’t respect given to anyone,” said Harris. “Since all three of us were new, we just treated everyone that way automatically. The culture is now more student-centric, and we’re listening to families.”

The result: write-ups for discipline are down 75 percent at the high school and 50 percent at the intermediate school.

“Our graduation rate is up to 95 percent, that’s up from 85.8 percent last year. There have been no expulsions, we are closing the ‘alternative school,’ and the police haven’t been called here once,” he said.

Harris added that the high school’s Black Student Union has reduced tensions by giving students a voice and revealing the root causes of some behaviors that allowed resources to be allocated to address them.

Academically, challenges remain, Harris said, but two major ones have already been addressed and are yielding results.

“When we got here we found several gaps. The first was social promotions—kids were being passed without meeting course requirements—so we stopped that,” he said. “Then there was the school calendar. If you were a sophomore and failed a math class, there was no way for you to recoup that. Students knew they couldn’t graduate and dropped out. It was set up for students to fail. Now, we have a schedule that allows a student to double up or take credit recovery in the summer.”

In October, Harris said Woods showed him a list of students who were in danger of not graduating, and the two administrators went to work.

“We went to them. We were proactive—we brought them ‘kicking and screaming’ down to the lab, but it worked,” he said. “And last week, there were kids with smiling faces on that graduation stage who wouldn’t have been before, because they thought people had given up on them.”

The district is also moving the seventh- and eighth-graders out of the high school back to the intermediate school and giving it a STEAM focus. Harris said the bulk of the past disciplinary problems at the high school were related to the immaturity of those seventh- and eighth-grade students in a high school setting. The district will also introduce foreign languages in the elementary schools.

“All in all, So far so good,” Harris said. “We’re shocked at how many resources were actually available here. So we’re happy about that and about how responsive people have been—teachers, the union, parents, everyone. We didn’t do it by ourselves.”

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This article originally appeared in the New Pittsburgh Courier.

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Activism

Moms 4 Housing Hold Sit-in Demanding County Supervisors Extend Eviction Protections

All formerly unhoused mothers, the Moms are risking arrest to demand that newly elected Supervisor Lena Tam uphold a previous vote for a strong package of permanent tenant protections for renters in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County as the end of the COVID Eviction Moratorium looms. Participants in the sit-in, are calling on all supporters to come to the 5th floor of 1221 Oak Street or outside the county building immediately to support the protest.

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Participants in the sit-in, which began Tuesday afternoon, are calling on all supporters to come to the 5th floor of 1221 Oak Street or outside the county building immediately to support the protest.
The Moms are prepared to hold this sit-in for 60 hours — for the 60,000 tenants who need these protections, which are set to expire.

By Post Staff

Moms 4 Housing held a sit-in in the nonviolent civil disobedience tradition of Martin Luther King Jr., to demand that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors uphold their original vote to pass permanent Just Cause eviction protections for the 60,000 tenants living in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County.

The Moms are prepared to hold this sit-in for 60 hours — for the 60,000 tenants who need these protections, which are set to expire.

All formerly unhoused mothers, the Moms are risking arrest to demand that newly elected Supervisor Lena Tam uphold a previous vote for a strong package of permanent tenant protections for renters in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County as the end of the COVID Eviction Moratorium looms.

Participants in the sit-in, are calling on all supporters to come to the 5th floor of 1221 Oak Street or outside the county building immediately to support the protest.

The Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), ACCE and EBHO, along with other local activists, are mobilizing outside of the Alameda County Administration Building to stand in solidarity with Moms 4 Housing, an organization focused on uniting mothers, neighbors, and friends to reclaim housing for the Oakland community from the big banks and real estate speculators.

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Bay Area

Season 15 Winner of America’s Got Talent Set to Teach Class at Delta College

According to Delta College officials, Leake was previously an academic advisor at the college and will now teach Digital Media 31.

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San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, Calif. logo. (Photo courtesy of San Joaquin Delta College)
San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, Calif. logo. (Photo courtesy of San Joaquin Delta College)

By Victoria Franco | Bay City News Foundation

Brandon Leake, the season 15 winner of the reality TV show “America’s Got Talent” and a Stockton native, will begin teaching an evening digital media class next Monday at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton.

Leake debuted on the show in 2020 by reading a poem that was an ode to his sister and was the first and only spoken word poet to win the competition.

According to Delta College officials, Leake was previously an academic advisor at the college and will now teach Digital Media 31.

The class is a media performance class and lab focused on individual speech improvement, through the study and practice of voice control and manipulation, proper breathing and diction.

Students enrolled in the class will complete a digital media portfolio and the class is transferable in the California State University system.

The class will meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. Students wanting to add the class to the schedule can visit their MyDelta portal.

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Activism

Following More Mass Shootings Democrats Introduce Assault Weapons Ban

On January 22, a gunman opened fire on a crowd celebrating the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, killing 11 and wounding 9. The Democrats’ proposed Age 21 Act would make it illegal to sell or buy an assault weapon to anybody under 21, bringing it in line with the legal age for purchasing handguns. President Joe Biden has publicly stated his support for the legislation.

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The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans
The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans.

By Stacy M. Brown,NNPA Newswire

Two proposals aimed at curbing the spread of assault rifles were submitted today by Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein of California, and Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

The Assault Weapons Ban seeks to prohibit the commercialization, distribution, production, and importation of assault rifles and other firearms designed for use in military operations, as well as high-capacity magazines and similar devices.

On January 22, a gunman opened fire on a crowd celebrating the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, killing 11 and wounding 9.

The Democrats’ proposed Age 21 Act would make it illegal to sell or buy an assault weapon to anybody under 21, bringing it in line with the legal age for purchasing handguns.

President Joe Biden has publicly stated his support for the legislation.

Biden said that the number of mass shootings declined during the decade that the Assault Weapons Ban was in effect.

“In the 10 years that the Assault Weapons Ban was on the books, mass shootings went down,” Biden remarked.

“After Republicans let the law expire in 2004 and those weapons were allowed to be sold again, mass shootings tripled,” he declared.

Both houses of Congress were urged to take quick action by the president.

According to Biden, “the majority of American people agree with this rational measure.”

“There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our children, our communities and our nation,” he insisted.

In the House of Representatives, Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline said he plans to introduce a companion bill to the Senate’s Assault Weapons Ban.

Feinstein said assault rifles “seem to be the unifying denominator in the seemingly endless number of horrific shootings.”

“Because these firearms were created for maximum efficiency in mass murder,” the senator noted.

“They have no place in our society or educational institutions. It’s time to take a stand against the gun lobby and do something about getting these lethal weapons off the streets, or at the absolute least, out of the hands of our youth.”

Blumenthal added, as the gunman at the Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park demonstrated just days ago, assault weapons are designed for one and one purpose only: to murder or hurt human beings.

“These military-style combat weapons – built for the battlefield and designed to maximize death and destruction – have brought bloodshed and carnage to our streets and continue to be the weapon of choice in countless mass shootings,” Blumenthal said.

“Guns don’t respect state boundaries, which is why we need a national solution to restricting the ownership and use of assault weapons. Now is the time to honor gun violence victims and survivors with this commonsense action.”

Rep. Ciciline argued that it is long past due to reinstate an assault weapon ban and remove these “weapons of war” from civilian areas.

The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans,” Ciciline noted.

“We need to come together to enact this commonsense, effective, and proven policy to reduce gun violence and save lives. I thank Senator Feinstein for her partnership in this fight and look forward to introducing the House companion bill in the coming weeks.”

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