Sequoyah School and Pasadena: Celebrating Six Decades Together

Published : Friday, February 8, 2019 | 5:43 AM

Sequoyah Head of School Josh Brody with a few of his young charges.

Sequoyah School will celebrate its enduring local educational legacy as well as its relationship to Pasadena this Saturday, Feb. 9.

“We are a school that tries to use the surrounding community as an important context for teaching and learning,” said Head of School Josh Brody. “So, our students really get out into the city and into the community and down into the Arroyo. We try to be involved with local government.”

Sequoyah, said Brody in an interview this week, asks its students to be change makers, to engage issues around social justice and environmental sustainability.

“We try to take advantage of all the amazing resources that Pasadena has so that our students can learn from them,” he continued. “Our high school has only been around for three years and we’ve already worked, for example, with Caltech.”

Saturday’s festivities are open to the public and will include interactive activities, a photo exhibit of Sequoyah’s history, and words of health and long life from Sen. Anthony Portantino (D) and City Councilman Steve Madison.

Music, which plays a large role in the Sequoyah curriculum will be played by the various combos that crop up out of the student body, according to school spokesman Randy Bunnao.

When Sequoyah opened 60 years ago, the faculty boasted one member. Yes, one. But the teacher-to-student ratio was good, because the latter numbered eight. Yes, eight.

What mattered to the parents who founded Sequoyah, said Bunnao, “is that students emerged with a deep understanding of themselves, confident in their ability to acquire knowledge and prepared for active citizenship.”

The idea, he added, was a school that “set a paradigm for innovative instruction and would hold itself accountable for maintaining excellence.”

The school takes its name from a Cherokee silversmith who invented the tribe’s syllabary, a set of symbols used for writing words. As such, the naming honors the creation of a system that gave a people written communication and a means to express their national identity.

Brody is an alumnus of the school, which has been around since 1958. “First it was Neighborhood Church and later we started leasing from Caltrans,” he recalled.

Sue Mossman, executive director, Pasadena Heritage, remembered the neighborhood church as “an amazing, old, shingle-style building that was much-loved and admired. Caltrans acquired the property and proposed to demolish the church as plans for the freeway off-ramps were coming along. There was a great outcry about the demolition, because the building could have been saved, but over a weekend Caltrans went in and tore it down.”

“People still talk about the loss of that building,” said Mossman.

With the 710 Extension no longer a threat, the days of renting from Caltrans and teaching K-through-eighth grader to the accompaniment of on- and off-ramp freeway rushes may be drawing to a close.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity in the not too distant future to purchase the campus and secure our future,” said Brody, “but we’re also excited to be part of revitalizing this whole corridor of Pasadena that had been planned as a freeway.”

Sequoyah School is located in Pasadena’s Markham Place district. The administration building is housed in a two-story, single family residence in the Craftsman style. It was designed by architect Sylvanus Marston in 1910.

The celebration will take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., on the K-through-8 campus, 535 South Pasadena Avenue. For more information call (626) 795-4351 or visit the school website,

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