Deep Dive Into Progress at Monrovia Unified

Teacher of the Year Jennifer Maljian addresses the city during the State of the Schools address recently. – Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

By Susan Motander

Two weeks ago, the Monrovia Unified School Board along with the Superintend of Schools Dr. Katherine Thorossian, and the Teacher of the year Jennifer Maljian, made thorough presentations on the state of the schools in Monrovia; they’re good and getting better all the time. 

Ed Gililland, the president of the Board spoke to the overall goal of the district. These were boiled down to four points: to challenge students, to help students become resourceful and responsible citizens, to increase student success, and to provide graduates with the skills they need to enrich their lives and the lives of others. 

Selene Lockerbie, one of the new board members, discussed Monrovia teachers and the programs and grants the district has obtained to assist teachers in continuing their education. She ran through a list of those grants and how they help teachers improve their teaching skills.

She also discussed Canyon Early Learning Center (CELC). She also briefly outlined the Village Extended School Program that involves 537 students both before and after school at Monroe, Plymouth, Wild Rose elementary schools, and Clifton and Santa Fe middle schools. This program supports the learning that occurs during the school day and offers homework assistance and other educational enrichment activities. The Monrovia Reads Van appears weekly issuing library cards and allowing students to check out books.

The Elementary Schools: Inspiring a Sense of Wonder

It was the other new board member, Maritza Travanti, who made the presentation regarding the elementary schools in Monrovia: Bradoaks, Mayflower, Monroe, Plymouth, and Wild Rose. She said the basis of elementary school education is to promote a growth of mindset with a child centered focus. While a large part of the focus is on reading and other basic skills (the goal is to have every student reading at grade level by third grade), she cited multiple enrichment programs. These enhance learning for children. They include coding and robotics, and dual language immersion (Mandarin at Plymouth, Spanish at Monroe and Wild Rose). There are also vocal and music lessons as well, as theater and dance at the elementary schools. She noted that Wild Rose is now the School of Creative Arts, while Bradoaks has a science specialization. 

Travanti then went on to list some of the more specialized activities such as dance and movement at all the elementary schools. All the students also have a chance to visit nature at Canyon Park with the rangers and explore nature. 

There are also specialty programs at individual schools. At Mayflower and Plymouth there is what is called the “Epic Build Showcase” in which students have an opportunity to “show off” characters they have built in stores and video presentations. Wild Rose will stage its student production of 101 Dalmatians on Nov. 14 and 15 from 6 to 7 p.m.

Bradoaks, Monroe, Mayflower and Wild Rose are all California Gold Ribbon Schools. Mayflower and Plymouth are also on the Campaign for Business and Educational Excellence Honor Roll. There is also the Renaissance Program to help students share a positive culture with their peers.

The Middle Schools: Learning in the Middle Years

The clerk of the Board of Education, Bryan Wong, reviewed what was occurring at the middle schools. Both Clifton and Santa Fe and three year middle schools (housing sixth, seventh and eighth grades). Both middle schools have a strong college bound culture; in addition, Santa Fe is the Computer Science Magnet School. At both schools there is an emphasis on developing varied interests, exploring careers and colleges, and working on developing and attaining personal goals.

Each of the students at Santa Fe has a Chromebook personal computer to help them develop their computer skills and continue to work on coding. Santa Fe is not the only middle school with a strong science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) program. The Clifton Robotics Team, the Hippiebots (they wear tie-dyed t-shirts) went to the First Tech World Challenge last year (one of only three middle-school teams to qualify).

There are all sorts of enrichment programs at both schools including strong marching bands, instrumental and vocal music, and athletics, and a Renaissance Program at both middle schools. Clifton also continues the dual language immersion programs begun at the elementary schools.

Clifton is a Gold Ribbon School and National School to Watch. Both Santa Fe and Clifton are listed on the Honor Roll for the Campaign for Business and Educational Excellence.

Launching in High School: College and Career

Rob Hammond, the vice president of the Board focused on the High Schools as well as the alternative school and adult education. There are two high schools, Monrovia High School (MHS) and Canyon Oaks High. MHS is a standard, four-year high school. Canyon Oaks offers students a more personalized approach to high school. Both they and Mountain Park, the independent pattern of study school, are committed to preparing students to graduate with the skills they need to succeed whether they go on to college or a career.

While Canyon Oaks prepares students for college with University of California approved classes, it also creates career pathways to the arts, media and entertainment, construction and engineering, as well as medical technology to list a few.

Mountain Park School is a kindergarten through 12th grade program that offers a more flexible schedule to personalize, and in many cases, accelerate the program. It is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and approved by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The adult school has certification programs in several areas to allow adult learners to acquire the skills required for job advancement of new careers. There are several classes for English-learners as well as those studying for their citizenship examination. There are also fun classes like ceramics.

There are several specialized programs at MHS as well. There is the Math and Science Academy that stresses the skills needed for a career in STEM. The Humanities Academy is a program for those students who are looking for careers in areas such as writing, speaking and law. The newest such program is the Theater Arts Conservatory that prepares students for careers both on- and off-stage stressing not just stage presence and oratory skills, but also set design and building.

Then there is the Early College Program in conjunction with Citrus Community College that gives high school students the chance to take college level classes thus earning as much as two years general education requirements. This also exposes them to the challenges of college instruction and shows them new areas of study.

At MHS there are also technical education programs such as sports medicine, automotive maintenance, computer programming, media and design arts, and digital photography.

MHS is also a California Gold Ribbon School as well being listed on the Business and Educational Excellence Honor Roll. It was also listed as a “Silver School” by U.S. News & World Report, as well as having a six-year accreditation by WASC.

Gililland wrapped up the program by saying Monrovia Unified School District provides world-class schools for world-class students.

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