New School Groundbreaking Caps 10 Year Effort

New School Groundbreaking Caps 10 Year EffortNew School Groundbreaking Caps 10 Year EffortNew School Groundbreaking Caps 10 Year EffortNew School Groundbreaking Caps 10 Year EffortNew School Groundbreaking Caps 10 Year EffortNew School Groundbreaking Caps 10 Year EffortNew School Groundbreaking Caps 10 Year EffortNew School Groundbreaking Caps 10 Year EffortNew School Groundbreaking Caps 10 Year Effort


4:46 am | September 13, 2013

Pressing on through the obstacles, Pasadena Unified administrators, parents, students and staff finally saw the first fruits of their ten-year dream at the ceremonial ground breaking of Sierra Madre Middle School on Thursday.

“It was worth it, all the struggles we’ve gone through. There have been some lows along the way, but there’s also been a lot of highs and were stronger because of that as a community. I think if everything had gone through perfectly we may not have had that experience of really coming together,” Sierra Madre Middle School Principal Garrett Newsom said.

Most parents of these students felt relief that the project has begun, for even if the journey has been a long one, the end is in sight.

“It’s underway and I feel confident it will be built in the next two years and there will be a campus for these kids and they deserve it. They’ve been living in dirt pits and trailers. My daughter went through the middle school the entire time without a campus. They didn’t deserve it,” involved parent Melissa Castillo said.

Currently the 400 Middle School students are in temporary portable structures. The $27 million project will have 20 classrooms, a multipurpose room, music rooms, computer lab, library, administration area, atrium, gym and other features, funded by Measure TT. When completed, Sierra Madre Middle School will be able to serve 600-650 students. The project is expected to be complete within 20 months.

“It started with incompetence and there was malfeasance by employees of the district along the way and now we have a school being built so it’s pretty exciting. It’s taken perseverance and showing up at the facility subcommittee for years, literally years and speaking before the board. The most exciting day was this summer when they finally agreed to build the school,” Castillo said.

Gretchen Vance, another invested parent, invited her children up to the podium with her because in her opinion the kids are the real heroes who have been through the interim campus and constructions.

“The students, parents and staff of Sierra Madre Middle school know how to press on through dirt and dust on a dilapidated campus, we know how to press on when rains come and flood the entire place, we know how to press on when we are told there is another delay, we know how to press on when we are told ‘were sorry there’s not enough money,’ we know how to press on when it is all for our kids, so tonight we celebrate, but this celebration is not just about constructing a new middle school, it is much more than that. Its about parents, students, teachers, voters, neighbors, and community leaders coming together with determination and persistence to press on for our children and the children to come,” Vance said.

Newsom has kept a vision that started when Ty Gaffney was principal in 2001 during the first year Sierra Madre transitioned into a Middle School alive.

“We remember sitting down when it was just a gleam in our eye. The community really rallied around Measure TT in Sierra Madre, especially to support what’s happening right now. It really was a wonderful community effort and we’re getting to see the fruits of it right now,” former principal Gayle Bluemel said with nods of agreement from Gaffney.

The current principal described it as being a ten-year dream realized.

“It really is a dream come true. We started 10 years ago as a small hole in the wall place and who would have thought ten years later we’d be building this brand new state of the art middle school. It’s been very exciting to watch the entire process,” Newsom said.

Fred Wesley and his crew from PBWS architects completed the Sierra Madre Elementary School and he is the lead architect for the Middle School.

“It’s been a long road to this dirt… It took a lot of work to get the middle school. We’ll say it was a series of misfortunate events but we’ve come to a fresh start and we are here to build a fabulous middle school,” PUSD Boardmember Mikala Rahn said, a Sierra Madre resident.

Sierra Madre City Council also supported the project from the beginning and have been monitoring the progress.

“From what I see here today Pasadena Unified and Sierra Madre Schools are writing a very bright future,” Sierra Madre Council Member Chris Koerber said.

At the new Sierra Madre Middle School the Mandarin Dual Language Immersion Program will begin for the middle school leve.

“Our focus district wide is to make sure that every student in our district has the opportunity to learn in a 21st century learning environment and it certainly is made easier when you have a 21st century facility to do that in. Most of students in this district don’t have that,” PUSD Superintendent Jon Gundry said. “We anticipate that this school will become even more popular than it already is with the addition of the Mandarin Dual Language Middle School Program.”

The Mandarin Dual Language Immersion Program began at Burbank Elementary five years ago, just in time for Sue Clark’s son to begin the program in kindergarten. The program moved to Field Elementary in Pasadena and now students will be able to emerge into Sierra Madre Middle Schools, traversing all the communities of the Pasadena Unified School District. If the construction smoothly finishes within two years it will be perfect timing for the inaugural class to transition into their program at the middle school. The district also hopes to implement a high school program eventually.

“We need to build that pathway, it’s not clear will that will be yet but I know the Superintendent has talked about wanting to establish [a high school Mandarin dual language immersion program],” PUSD Board member Tom Selinske said.

Sue Clark firmly believes in the public school system and has sent all four of her children through PUSD schools.

“I’m a total believer that parents and the staff and teachers and the community and the school board, everyone working together, that is how you change community, that’s how you see transformation,” Clark said, “I think the Mandarin families encompass so much of what I feel needs to be brought back into the district, families that have tremendous resources that are willing. It’s just a really great opportunity to bring back all the assets, all the wonderful things about the school district and have those families come to see there are a lot of wonderful things happening in PUSD.”

The new students are eager to have their own gym to play sports and actual music rooms. This will bring a large improvement for the school district as a whole.

“We eagerly await the studying, learning, dancing, singing, and celebrating that will be born on this new campus,” parent Gretchen Vance said.