PCC Board Approves Partnership with Pasadena Unified School District

School program will offer college studies, ease transition to higher education

Published : Thursday, August 16, 2018 | 5:38 AM

Pasadena City College Board of Trustees shown in session on Wednesday, August 15, 2018

[Updated]  After nearly six years of meetings, resolutions, plans, and near-misses, the Pasadena City College Board of Trustees Wednesday evening approved a program of college and career access pathway courses at a new PCC satellite campus, providing college credit courses to Pasadena Unified high school students from high schools throughout the district.

The agreement with the Pasadena Unified School District establishes full-time operations in Building D on the John Muir High School campus. The 53,000 square-foot facility will allow the college to offer courses, academic support, and career guidance directly to Northwest Pasadena.

To be known as “PCC Northwest,” the building will be the college’s fourth campus in the district, with the Muir property joining facilities on Foothill Blvd., Rosemead Blvd., and the main campus on Colorado Blvd.

“A college education can be the gateway to a good-paying job,” said Dr. Anthony R. Fellow, president of PCC’s Board of Trustees. “We’re thrilled to be bringing this benefit to another corner of our district.”

According to a Pasadena Unified staff report, the program will help develop “seamless pathways” from high school to community college for career and technical education, as well as prepare students for college transfers, improve high school graduation rates, and help local high school students achieve college and career readiness.

PCC will also offer continuing education courses through its non-credit division at the Muir site, in response to community demand. Respondents to a recent PCC survey indicated that they would most benefit from self-enrichment and training courses that could lead to better jobs. The college had already been offering similar evening classes for the past two years.

“We want to be sure this expanded facility is meeting our community’s needs,” said Dr. Rajen Vurdien, PCC’s Superintendent President. “We have heard what our residents are looking for and we’re planning accordingly. We are working on some very exciting courses for the fall.”

As Pasadena Unified Board Member Scott Phelps explained, “There’ll be all sorts of classes offered to help our students. We have a federal magnet grant that Muir is a part of, and Muir’s part is to establish an early college program.”

“So,” Phelps continued, “What will happen over time is because of these agreements and this lease, more and more college classes will be offered (at Muir) so the students can get their associate’s degree while they’re going to high school, and graduating high school.”

Phelps explained that the details of that aspect will be worked out by Muir Principal Lawton Gray, with hopes of eventually expanding the program as students’ interest grows.

The agreement stipulates that PCC will pay Pasadena Unified an annual rental fee of $150,000 for 10 years, with an option for a five-year extension. The college will also make additional investments in upgrading classroom technology and other facilities improvements, according to a PCC press release.

A separate agreement between the districts allows college students to be present in the building and surrounding areas on Muir’s campus during the high school day.

The program was first proposed back in 2013 for John Muir High School with an ambitious and near-unanimous (Board Member Cooper abstained at the time so it was 6-0-1) resolution that read in part, “The Board of Education of PUSD does hereby resolve that PUSD welcomes the expansion of PCC course offerings at Muir, with the intent to offer the first new classes for the Fall 2014 semester, and hereby directs the superintendent and his staff to begin collaborative planning with PCC staff to make this a reality…” including but not limited to the following elements:

• Dual enrollment opportunities at the site, including the expansion of college-level academic courses, and much greater participation in any articulation agreements with PCC that would help remove barriers and promote matriculation to postsecondary learning.

• The closer articulation of pathway programs between PCC and PUSD to strengthen program alignment and rigor, and ensure students are prepared for postsecondary learning and continue their education without interruption.”

At the time, PCC Board Member Berlinda Brown and PUSD Board Members Tyron Hampton and Scott Phelps and Muir Principal Tim Sippel led the effort to make the program a reality, but said Brown recently, “We just didn’t have the support back then, but now I think the Board has changed.”

“We have students at John Muir High school and PUSD that have problems achieving their goals and when they get to college, with the amount of remedial classes that we have to provide to the students, they get pretty discouraged and they end up falling off the chart because they’re so behind in math and English,” Brown said. “It takes them forever to catch up. So because of that, many of them fall off.”

Continued Brown, “The whole goal is that our students get an opportunity to get better prepared. When they get to college, PCC or whatever, they will l have a better preparation. And not only that, they may feel with an offering of college classes, they will feel that they too can move on to college and succeed. That is the whole thing.”

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