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DOWNEY - Since 2007, the year John Harris became principal at Warren High, many significant advances have been made - and honors won - by the school, none more emblematic of general excellence and none more prestigious than the state's recognition of it in June as a "California Distinguished School."
It was the only school so honored in the whole district.
Along with this signal distinction, the state also gave Warren recognition for its three "exemplary programs" in Arts Education, Career Technical Education, and Physical Activity and Nutrition.
It was the only school so honored (with all four awards) in the whole state.
Warren High's robotics team, which performed impressively against international robotics teams, its state-of-the-art culinary arts center, its varied triumphs in the CIF championships, etc., have also made headlines.
Here is how Harris describes his - or is it (collectively) Warren High's? - more noteworthy achievements over the past several years:
1) Significantly improved student achievement by narrowing the so-called academic achievement gap: Warren improved 85 points over six years, meeting API growth targets for all subgroups in 2011 and 2012;
2) Designed and supported an intensive professional development program to guide PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) through the critical steps of "curriculum alignment, first best instruction, and intervention";
3) Developed and implemented a pre-engineering program (Project Lead the Way) which delivers a national curriculum, affording students a competitive edge in college and university acceptance as well as state, national, and international scholarships;
4) Implemented an intensive intervention program with a State Board of Education-approved replacement core curriculum which accelerates the academic program for General Education, Special Ed, and EL students two or more years behind in English Language Arts;
5) Established and maintained strong community partnerships with city of Downey Police Department, Kaiser Permanente, PTA Council H.E.L.P.S. food bank, Gangs Out of Downey, TLC Family Resource Center, Rotary Club, Kiwanis International, The Masons, and the Downey Chamber of Commerce;
6) Secured additional revenue streams for curricular and co-curricular programs including multi-year fundraising for AVID through National Evaluation Systems, $11,200 Lowe's Education Grant, $2 million matching Prop.1D Grant, $35,000 Kiwanis Foundation Grant, $10,000 Wells Fargo Foundation donation, and over $100,000 annually from the Dr. Mary Stauffer Foundation; and
7) Implemented a parent orientation and education program, the Parent Partnership Academy, which connects parents to the school through a nine-week course to better understand and support their student's academic program.
Perhaps because his contributions, his dedication, the force of his personality, his value to the district can no longer be ignored, is why he was tapped, with the board's blessings, to fill the position vacated by Dr. Sara Cairns some two years ago.
Although he has officially been elevated to his new position as director of secondary education, Harris remains temporarily as Warren High principal until a replacement can be found. Applications for the position will close on Sept. 5, and the first round of interviews will commence on the 12th.
Harris' appointment comes at a time when the district is abuzz with the transition to Common Core. He has embraced the idea of it, and how instructional shifts in mathematics and English Language Arts can be made to work, such as: "focusing on the math that matters," "developing deep understanding" of math concepts and thus building coherence, fluency, and application of learning (creativity); balancing informational texts and literature, and encouraging disciplinary knowledge and true literacy.
All this to prepare students for the 21st century: to the original learning and innovation skill set consisting of critical thinking and problem-solving, creativity and innovation, communication, and collaboration (teamwork), has in fact been added the element of citizenship.
The purpose of the new pedagogic paradigm, Harris says, is to "prepare students for jobs that don't even exist today, and to solve problems that have yet to be identified."
As for the celebrated friendly rivalry between Warren and Downey, Harris said, grinning:
"Let me put it this way. We celebrate each other's successes, except for a couple of nights out of the year."
Published: Aug. 29, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 20