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Charter school opens at Cal State L.A.

March 30, 2009|Howard Blume

The first charter school to operate on a local university campus had its official opening Thursday at Cal State Los Angeles with a ceremony that drew dignitaries from across the state.

But the day's star may have been Cesar Gomez, a 16-year-old junior at the $13-million Stern Math and Science School.

He recounted how, as a preschooler, he'd dressed up a doll as a pediatrician when asked to demonstrate what he wanted to become. His mother shared in her son's aspirations, but, he said, "as I was going to middle school, her dream was pushed further and further back."

Speaking before 200 guests and more than 400 students on the lawn outside the campus, Gomez noted the historically poor performance of schools in East Los Angeles, which have high dropout rates and low test scores. At the charter school, in contrast, "on the first day, I knew they meant business."

Charters are independently managed public schools.

The Stern school first operated in rented space belonging to another charter school. Then it moved to portable classrooms atop a parking lot at the college. This fall, the school moved into its new, 34,000-square-foot facility, which was finished in January.

Students have access to the university library and college classes, benefiting from the college's student teachers and counselors.

The school is one of 11 opened by the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools and is its first ground-up project, said Alliance chief executive Judy Burton. The major donors included philanthropists Marc and Eva Stern, for whom the school is named. --

howard.blume@latimes.com

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