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Positive Thinking : New Principal Vows to 'Ring In' Changes

September 11, 1988|Nucgeke Fuetsch | Times Staff Writer

At Dominguez High School, the victory bell in the courtyard does not ring anymore when the school wins on the playing field. The clapper has disappeared.

Ernie Roy, the Compton school's new principal, is getting the bell fixed and vows that he is going to ring it so often that students will tire of hearing it.

"Every time a kid does anything that needs to be rewarded, at lunchtime I'm going to go out there and personally ring that bell," Roy said. "I want these kids to know that there are some positive things happening on this campus."

Academically, there is not much positive about Compton's three high schools. On state achievement tests for 12th-graders, Compton students scored in the first percentile, the lowest possible.

But Roy, a former Los Angeles science teacher with a reputation for developing prize-winning science students at inner-city schools, is optimistic that he can transform the failing school into a premier science and technology learning center.

Give Him a Funny Look

"I believe in May of next year we will be No. 1, 2 or 3 in the county science fair competition," said the 44-year-old educator, who has put a computer in his office and has hung a picture of Albert Einstein on the wall.

"Some people, they're giving me a funny look when I make those kinds of statements and I keep telling them, 'Hey . . . we've got the teachers, we've got the kids . . . why shouldn't we be competitive.' "

Roy became principal in July, replacing Fred Easter, who will assume other administrative duties in the district.

Dominguez High will be unique, Roy said, because it will offer specialized classes for all students, regardless of past academic performance. Most magnet-school programs, he said, attach themselves to an existing school, then take the top students for the new enriched curriculum.

"What we're (saying is) every kid in our school, no matter what his academic background and academic level, will learn science and technology. Just about everything we deal with now has to do with computers and (high technology)," said Roy, who pointed out that even supermarket checkers have computers.

To turn Dominguez High into a science and technology center, he said, the two disciplines will be integrated into every phase of education, such as English composition or history, during the next three years. A social studies class, for example, might take up the issue of where to dump nuclear waste.

The district's administration is supplying the computers and laboratory supplies, and the school has a capable teaching staff, Roy said.

Roy was brought to the Compton district by Supt. Ted D. Kimbrough, who knew Roy when Kimbrough was an assistant superintendent at Los Angeles Unified. Calling Roy an "on-fire administrator," Kimbrough said, "I think our community and education in general are really going to benefit from what he accomplishes (at Dominguez)."

Eventually, Kimbrough said, the school district plans to make all three high schools specialized learning centers. Compton High School is already the magnet school for gifted students, and for students who are talented in art or the performing arts. Centennial High School, Kimbrough said, is to become the magnet school for humanities, perhaps as early as next year.

Roy, who lives in South-Central Los Angeles with his wife, Cassandra, who also is an educator, and their 2 1/2-year-old son, has proved that he can produce students who excel, regardless of the location.

During 12 years at James A. Foshay Junior High School in central Los Angeles, he pushed inner-city youngsters to compete and made them prize-winning science students.

Must Learn How to Win

"It's not easy to get kids to compete," he said, "because what we do . . . even in elementary school (is) discourage that. They think it's a negative thing. What I feel is that kids need to be involved in competition at an early age because the world is set up that way. It's important that kids learn how to compete, learn how to lose, learn how to win."

After Foshay, Roy taught gifted students for three years at Portola Junior High School in the San Fernando Valley, developing a cadre of budding scientists who trounced their competition at the annual county science fair.

In 1983, he returned to the inner city to become coordinator at King-Drew Magnet Medical High School in Watts. He supervised the academic program and coordinated school activities with Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital and the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. He also was in charge of students working on science fair projects. One student, Mark Christian, last year won first prize in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's national science contest.

"Compton's gain is our loss. That's for sure," said a friend and colleague, Gerald Garner, a science education specialist for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

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