The multicultural program pays for itself, according to Assistant Supt. Katzman. State funding, about $4,000 per student, follows the child to the school he or she attends. And the students supply their own transportation.
"There is no additional cost to the district," Katzman said.
Assistant Supt. Don Fox explained that the district spends roughly $6,000 per student each year, but the estimate includes administrative and other overhead costs. The multicultural program is so small that it does not require extra teachers or services, and does not affect overhead costs, he said.
Multicultural program students are the only non-residents of Beverly Hills, besides children of city and school employees, allowed to transfer into Beverly Hills High, Katzman said. At Beverly Hills elementary schools, however, about 200 out-of-district students are granted permits each year. Most of them come in under a state child-care law requiring districts to take children of parents who work within its boundaries if space is available.
Until last year, all the multicultural students came from Emerson Junior High School in Westwood. After graduation, instead of going to University High School, successful applicants entered the 10th grade at Beverly Hills High.
But University High administrators complained that the program was drawing away too many students--in many cases, the brightest students. Parents enrolled their children at Emerson instead of at their local school, hoping they would eventually get into Beverly Hills. Other parents said it was unfair not to include their schools.
As a result, the Beverly Hills school district modified its agreement with the Los Angeles district to include 11 junior high schools throughout the Westside in the selection process.
Last year, only half of the 30 spots were taken by Emerson graduates, the rest by the other 10 schools. This year, Emerson's share dropped to a third. Next year, it is expected that the 11 schools will be more or less equally represented. The application process starts in February.
Ninety students competed for 34 spots this year, Harris said. The selection committee looked for students with good grades, an outgoing personality and outside interests such as music or athletics.
The program might never have happened had it not been for Lyle Suter, who in 1964 became the Beverly Hills Unified School District's first black teacher.
It was the era of the civil rights movement, and Suter, who retired as head of the art department in 1988, recalled that Beverly Hills students were acutely aware of the absence of blacks, Asians and Latinos on the campus.
"It was a time of turmoil in the country," he said. "The kids at Beverly, who seemed to have everything, wanted to become a part of this."
A group of Beverly Hills High students met with black students in educational symposiums run by Suter's wife, Joan, to discuss civil rights issues. The students went so far as to present a petition to the school board demanding the admission of minorities in order to provide an "integrated experience."
It was Suter who helped find a creative solution. It turned out that a group of middle-class black parents from the Baldwin Hills area, concerned that local schools were not adequately preparing their children for college, had begun looking around at the same time for a better high school. They arranged with the Los Angeles school district to enroll their children at Emerson Junior High and hired a private busing firm to get them there.
But when the time came for the children to enter high school, the parents ran into a bureaucratic brick wall. The district would not permit the Baldwin Hills children to attend University High.
Suter suggested taking these Emerson minority graduates into Beverly Hills. The idea gained momentum as officials in both districts decided it was feasible. Thus, recalled Suter, the program was born "quietly, without fanfare."
"There were many friendships made," Suter said. "It helped stop the misunderstanding just from people getting to know each other at an early age. There's beauty in differences. But you'll never know unless you experience it firsthand."