Up to SCALE
While most Southern California schools are enjoying summer vacation, these are busy days at SCALE Academy Charter, a new charter school located in Pasadena, where they are gearing up for their opening day in September. There are rooms to clean and furnish equipment to buy, and staff to be hired, along with the various minutiae that go in to building a school from the ground up.
In fact, as we arrive for our interview, Dr. Lawrence Wynder is just returning from an errand to buy poster board for signs.
Just getting a school district to sign on the new SCALE Academy idea (“Schools and communities for advanced learning experiences”) was a struggle, recalled —–its headmaster and founder.
“We saw a need for this in the Rialto School District,” said Wynder, and we tried for four years to make it happen there, but the school district resisted. One district saw potential in our vision, authorized our school, so now we are here in Pasadena.
SCALE Academy is a free public charter school that serves children in grades 6 through 8.
According to Wynder, a graduate of La Verne University and Claremont Graduate University, who eventually received a doctorate in education from USC, the school specializes in urban education and is “based on the idea of blended learning, which is the incorporation of traditional face-to-face learning experiences, technology integration and project-based learning.”
“We believe that every kid has the ability to learn,” said Dr. Wynder, and that they are exceptional learners. They just have to be in an environment where the teachers and staff give them the attention and the sense of identity that they need to succeed.”
“This is essentially a private school environment at no cost,” he continued. “A lot of kids in the area do attend private schools, but many can’t afford that, so we want to provide that same environment and same experience for them.”
The school has lately been actively involved in community outreach to make the community aware of its existence, attending local soccer games and neighborhood meetings, as well as a lot of face-to face interaction.
“We’re trying to let families know we’re here,” he said.
Wynder began his teaching career in charter schools as a middle school teacher in Reseda and then a high school teacher in Huntington Park where his students excelled in a leadership-intensive environment.
“That’s where I saw the success of charter schools,” he said. “We had almost a 100% graduation rate when I was there. Over ninety percent of the kids then went on to continue their education in college or community college.”
Wynder saw that this was a model that could be applied everywhere. So, while working as a principal at an elementary school in south Los Angeles, he began writing the proposal that would become SCALE Academy. While studying at USC, he met Dr. Nancy Smith, who has become one of the founding leaders at SCALE. At the moment, the two are actively recruiting families and developing the curriculum at SCALE.
“The first thing we want to develop is a positive sense of identity,” said Dr. Wynder, “which may be difficult for a child because of his or her environment. Sometimes teachers don’t identify the gifts and talents in every child. But leadership begins with a positive self-image and how they see themselves in this world and how they respond to that.
“You need strong instruction and meaningful learning where children can engage. It also has to be relevant to them and then you need the support system to go along with that.”
SCALE Academy will offer full-day, state-approved curriculum along with a host of electives, many of which are technology-based in a host of media including computers and video.
The school is actively enrolling now and expects to open at capacity with approximately 140 students at their Lincoln Avenue campus on August 18th.
SCALE Academy is at 1206 Lincoln Avenue, Pasadena. (888) 315-4660. www.scaleacademy.org