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El Camino wins online decathlon; teacher surprised with music room

Craig Clough | May 7, 2015

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decathlonContinuing a stream of major academic wins for LA Unified schools, El Camino Real Charter High School this week won the 2015 national U.S. Academic Decathlon Online competition. The news follows last month’s victory by Granada Hills Charter High students in the 2015 U.S. Academic Decathlon championship.

It’s the fifth year in a row that LA Unified schools have swept the state, national and online academic decathlon events, the district announced in a press release.

“ECR’s win affirms Los Angeles Unified as the nation’s Acadeca powerhouse,” school board member Tamar Galatzan, whose District 3 included the two schools, said in a statement. “I’m so proud of our students, and so grateful to their coaches and families for their hard work and sacrifice.”

El Camino won the overall national championship last year and in 2012. This year’s team members are Mara Abesamis, Jose Apolaya, Alexis Brito, Sarah Kwon, Tracy Levick, Noah Millman, Dmytro Pasikov, Shoshana Reic, Ethan Waldman and coach Stephanie Franklin.

“Not only did Ethan have the highest individual score in the 10-year history of the online competition, ECR had the highest team score,” Cliff Ker, the academic decathlon’s coordinator, said in a statement. “These are remarkable decathletes and an extraordinary coach who deserve all the praise they can get.”

West Athens Elementary surprised with new music room

As part of Teacher Appreciation Week, a teacher at West Athens Elementary hailed for the many hours he volunteers teaching music was surprised by his principal with a brand new music room and instruments.

Aaron Stanley spends countless hours after school giving his students free lessons, according to a LAUSD press release.

“Mr. Stanley does this on his own time without compensation, teaching music to the kids,” principal Ruth Castillo said in a statement. “He plants the seed in their head to possibly continue playing, and children have. They come back and assist with his guitar lessons and with the other kids. I see a maturity level when the children go from fourth grade into fifth grade. It transforms them. Music through the arts can help student achievement and rounds them out as an individual.”

The surprise was made possible by the “Helpful Honda” team, which was approached by Castillo and her assistant principal, Jeffrey Clay, to make Stanely a candidate for its Teacher Appreciation Week gift, according to the district. Helpful Honda reps worked over the weekend to clear out a storage room, fix it up and stock it with new instruments as part of a $5,000 renovation.

“I never did this to be recognized,” Stanely said in a statement, “but it’s always nice when people recognize what’s going on.”

LAUSD all-girls school idea getting nation attention

Whether for good reasons (see above) or bad (think iPads), LAUSD seems to have a knack for turning heads on the national stage pretty frequently. Most recently, the school board’s decision to create an all-girls school focused on STEM skills seems to be turning them — in both directions — as some are applauding the idea, and others are asking tough questions about it.

Today, NBC News posted a story an in-depth and thorough examination of the topic. Whether you are applauding the idea or have questions of your own, it is worth a read.

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