Once ‘forgotten,’ school is now thriving through the arts
Published : Wednesday, February 12, 2020 | 12:22 PM
There are school success stories all over the nation. In little towns and big cities. Pasadena is no exception, as there are heartwarming stories of success and real achievement happening in classrooms every day.
Mark down Altadena Arts Magnet School as one of those success stories, on so many levels.
“This is such a unique school,” Principal Dr. Benita Scheckel told Pasadena Now Monday. “Altadena Elementary, as it used to be called, was believed to be one of the lowest rated schools in the District,.” Scheckel recalled.
The school had five principals in three years, and by 2015, attendance had dropped from 500 students to 150.
“It was forgotten,” said Scheckel.
Then, in 2017, funded by the Magnet Schools Assistance Program Grant, the school was reimagined as a full-time arts campus.
PUSD selected Scheckel, a former opera singer and voiceover artist, to take over Altadena that same year, and the school is now rated in the top 3% of schools nationwide who offer a full- time arts curriculum.
“We have an incredible veteran staff, one of whom has been with the school for 21 years,” said Scheckel. “They’ve helped reimagine the school to create what it is today.”
The school now has dedicated dance, visual arts, theatre, media arts, and music spaces on campus to help facilitate its many arts classes.
The school also offers a French dual language immersion option. Enrollment and student achievement are up, and there is more on the horizon for Altadena Arts. The school will partner in March with nearby Eliot Magnet School for an “Art Walk,” as parents and students will walk between the two campuses on that day to view the student art exhibitions.
March 11th will see the school’s “Make Space for Art” Ribbon Cutting, featuring a special performance by vocal artist Lynne Fiddmont, and honoring hometown artists Matthew Lillard, Patrice Rushen, as well as other local arts celebrities.
Lillard, a Pasadena local, is an actor, voice actor, director, and producer. He currently stars in the television series Good Girls. He previously played Shaggy Rogers in two live action Scooby-Doo movies, Scooby-Doo (2002) and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004), and in animation, he’s been the voice of Shaggy since Casey Kasem retired from the role in 2009.
Meanwhile, longtime Altadena resident and honoree Patrice Rushen is a jazz pianist and R&B singer. She is also a composer, record producer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and music director, who has performed with and produced for such esteemed artists as Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Prince, Nancy Wilson, Sheena Easton, Carlos Santana and Freddie Hubbard. Ms. Rushen is currently the Chair of Popular Music at the USC Thornton School of Music. Said Scheckel, “I think being so close to Hollywood, it’s important to have partners in the entertainment community.”
Scheckel added that the namings will serve to inspire aspiring visual and performing artists for years to come.
“It’s going to be a great, fun event,” said Scheckel. “We’ll have a red carpet and passed hors d’ oeuvres.”
The event will also honor Lula Washington, Founder and Artistic Director of the Lula Washington Dance Theatre (LWDT); Keni Arts, a visual artist with his studio located in Altadena, CA;, Artis Lane, a Black Canadian sculptor and painter;, Bettye Lou Smith Holliday, a beloved educator and former Altadena principal who passed away on March 14, 2018; and Dr. Eunice Elizabeth Nash, an adjunct professor of Educational Management and proud Aunt of Altadena’s Arts Magnet Coordinator Ms. Regina Major.
Altadena Arts Magnet, 743 E. Calaveras Street Altadena, (626) 396-5650 or visit www.pusd.us/site/Default.aspx?PageID=9.