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Zimmer, board members open the first day of school across district

Mike Szymanski | August 18, 2015

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Steve Zimmer introduces new principal Kurt Lowry at Vine Street Elementary School

In the first effort of its kind, LA Unified staged a whirlwind of events for the first day of school today, with board members fanning out across the district, each visiting schools and other sites to welcome back staff, students and district employees.

At 9 o’clock this morning, board president Steve Zimmer greeted students at Vine Street Elementary School, not far from his house. But that was nearly four hours after his day began, meeting district employees at a bus yard and visiting the MiSiS computer center at district headquarters to make sure that everything was running smoothly.

At Vine Street, Zimmer introduced the new principal, Kurt Lowry, to a standing-room-only crowd of about 80 parents in the Parent Center complex, where there are about 580 students K-6th grade. Both Zimmer and Lowry spoke in English and Spanish (more in Spanish). One parent remarked how well Zimmer spoke in Spanish, while Lowry stopped occasionally and asked for grammar corrections from the mostly-Latino audience.

Zimmer said, “Your participation, your involvement, your communication with teachers and staff, that is what is going to make a difference. I have dreams today for the school that your children will have the same success as anywhere in the district.”

Lowry, most recently the principal at Crescent Heights Language Arts/Social Justice Magnet School, was also the principal of one of the first LA Promise schools, which was getting iPads into the hands of every student. He told the parents at Vine Street that his daughter is entering the fourth grade in the San Fernando Valley, where she lives with her mother, and that he lives nearby the school in Hollywood. He said his parents were both teachers, as well as his brother, and he welcomed parent involvement at the school.

“I will do what I can to help your child become whatever they want in life,” Lowry said. “You need to remain in your children’s life and education.”

Among the other events, school board member Mónica García was at El Sereno Middle School and Magnet Center; board member George McKenna helped with the first annual Backpack Giveaway at Manchester Elementary School and Local District South Superintendent Christopher Downing talked about transitional Kindergarten expansion at 186th Street Elementary School in Gardena.

School board member Ref Rodriguez planned to discuss garden and water conservation efforts at schools at the Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academy, and board member Scott Schmerelson planned to tour the Grover Cleveland Charter High School humanities program in Reseda.

Also, the district scheduled an afternoon MiSiS tour at the LAUSD Headquarters.

Some of the events began as early as 5:30 a.m. Donald Wilkes, the district’s Transportation Director, and Max Arias, Executive Director of Local 99, the school support staff union, joined Zimmer and transportation workers and bus drivers at the Gardena Bus Yard as Zimmer’s first stop of the day.

His last stop was scheduled for 4:30 at Mosk Elementary in Gardena, where he was scheduled to join the district’s Beyond the Bell Director Alvaro Cortés and Eric Gurna, President and CEO of LA’s Best, an after-school program.



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