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VALLEY NEWSWATCH / A SPECIAL REPORT: GRADUATION

June 01, 1993|Sam Enriquez

FAILING MATH: About 8,500 seniors will be awarded diplomas this month at the 17 city high schools in the San Fernando Valley. But with a district dropout rate of 37%, 5,000 or so more Valley teen-agers should be graduating this year.

THE GOOD NEWS: In 1986, the Los Angeles Unified School District had a 43% dropout rate. Dropout prevention programs are credited for the improvement. . . . High school counselors like Luis Medrano make sure kids go to class and get help with schoolwork or problems at home.

THE BAD NEWS: "I don't know if I'll have a job next year," Medrano says. Supt. Sid Thompson is seeking to ax the district's dropout prevention programs to help balance the district's 1993-94 budget. The move would save about $1.3 million, but Medrano warns: "Absenteeism and the dropout rate will go up."

TWO FOR THE ROAD: San Fernando High School seniors Noel and Joel Mendoza (above) are finally going their separate ways: one to MIT, the other to Notre Dame. . . . The 17-year-old identical twins from Pacoima, who had identical class schedules throughout high school, will both study aerospace engineering. They were doubles partners on the school's varsity tennis team and are both "pretty good in math," says Joel. . . . Their father, a retired General Motors mechanic, has taught them the finer points of auto repair, just in case.

BEST AND BRIGHTEST: At Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City, 99% of the senior class will be going on to four-year colleges. At city schools, that number is 20%. "Nobody in Los Angeles comes close," says John Wellington, a college counselor at the private school. It's hard to argue. Acceptance letters received by the school's 270 seniors include 100 from UC Berkeley, 63 from UCLA, 36 from USC and 18 from Stanford. Not to mention 26 from Penn, 20 from Brown, 16 from Yale and 16 from Columbia. The school's tuition: $10,800, if you can get admitted.

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