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PACOIMA : Vaughn Charter School Sets Sail for Expansion

October 11, 1994|MAKI BECKER

In an elaborate morality play of a 1990s, media-savvy variety, the students, faculty and staff of the Vaughn Next Century Learning Center staged the landmark events of the school's history by borrowing from the story of Columbus' discovery of America.

The 800-plus cast put on the allegorical search for the "New World" of education Monday--the official observance of Columbus Day--during a ground-breaking ceremony for a new, 14-class academy to be built at the edge of the Vaughn campus in Pacoima.

On the land where the academy will be located are two houses whose tenants were evicted because they sold narcotics there, school and local government officials said.

The Vaughn Next Century Learning Center is a charter school, which means it is a self-governing, community-based public educational institution that is free from state regulations, although still part of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Last year, through emphasizing school attendance and cutting down on administrative duties, Vaughn saved $1.2 million of its budget. Between $700,000 and $900,000 of the $1.2 million will be used toward the construction of the new academy.

Principal Yvonne Chan said that the academy, equipped with more than 50 IBM computers, will be devoted to acquainting youngsters with the so-called information superhighway.

In addition, the extra classrooms will allow the school to run at full capacity.

Currently, two-thirds of the enrolled students are at school at one time. "It's going to be a true year-round school," said Chan, who plans to extend the year to more days of instruction and have all students attending at the same time.

"It will not only relieve overcrowding, but it will be the only school to have additional instructional time," Chan said.

The academy is expected to be completed by July, 1995.

On Monday, in a grand fanfare complete with ladies-in-waiting with cone-shaped hennin hats made of poster-board and colored tissue paper and knights with aluminum-foil swords, a pint-sized Christopher Columbus--10-year-old Miguel Ortiz--asked for a charter for Vaughn.

Columbus bowed before Leticia Quezada, a school board member, in the role of Queen Isabella; School Board President Mark Slavkin as King Ferdinand; district Supt. Sid Thompson as the ship's commander, and Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar), playing an ambassador. He was granted the charter, thus embarking on the journey to the New World.

Three classrooms, representing the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, set sail across the playground, facing stormy weather and nasty pirates, until they reached the two houses where the flags of the United States, California and Vaughn were planted.

As ambassador to the New World, Katz rode a bulldozer that took the first whack at tearing down one of the houses.

"This is a 100% win situation," said Katz, pointing out that not only is Vaughn helping turn a crack house into a schoolhouse, but also helping the area's economy by working with local construction companies.

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