Temescal Academy Is Under Way

Palisades Charter High School recently took over Temescal High School and renamed it Temescal Academy. Lisa Evans, Laurel Silver-Valker and Joann Young (left to right) were hired to teach at the new school.
Palisades Charter High School recently took over Temescal High School and renamed it Temescal Academy. Lisa Evans, Laurel Silver-Valker and Joann Young (left to right) were hired to teach at the new school.
Photo by Rich Schmitt, Staff Photographer

Eighteen-year-old Jenna Papa was disappointed this spring to learn that the Los Angeles Unified School District wanted to close Temescal High School because of budget constraints. ‘I was getting better grades here than at Palisades Charter High School,’ said Papa, who transferred to the school in March as a junior. ‘The classes are smaller, and I focus better in smaller classes.’ Fortunately for Papa, PaliHi officials decided this summer to take over the school and rename it Temescal Academy. They were able to do so because PaliHi is an independent charter school that receives funding directly from the state. On Tuesday, Papa was enjoying brunch with her classmates at the school, located at 777 Temescal Canyon Rd., just below PaliHi. She is among 43 students at the academy. ‘How exciting it is to bring the school up from no support staff two weeks before school started,’ said Richard Thomas, PaliHi’s new director of instruction, who is overseeing the daily operations, facilities and curriculum at Temescal Academy in addition to managing teachers and overseeing curriculum at PaliHi. The former Temescal High School staff members took positions elsewhere, including Principal Allan Tamshen, who is now working at Mt. Lukens Continuation School in Tujunga. PaliHi hired a teacher coordinator, Lisa Evans; two teachers, Joann Young and Laurel Silver-Valker; and a part-time office assistant, Pacific Palisades resident Ann Powell. The teachers had four days to prepare their classrooms, and ‘they did a phenomenal job,’ Thomas said. LAUSD took away the former school’s textbooks and supplies, so the teachers are using some of PaliHi’s old textbooks and physical education equipment. ‘We’re doing the best we can,’ Thomas said. PaliHi’s Budget and Finance Committee approved an annual operating budget of $372,000 for Temescal Academy with the assumption that the average daily attendance will be 50 students, said Chief Business Officer Greg Wood. The committee will submit its recommendation for approval to the board of directors at its next meeting on October 20. Temescal Academy started the school year with 28 students, and 15 more were transferred from PaliHi on Tuesday. Administrators plan to transition other PaliHi students who are behind on credits within the next few weeks, Wood said.   ’The goal was to have a balanced budget,’ Wood said, noting that he does not expect the school to make a profit or operate at a loss. ‘We did not want to draw from PaliHi’s budget.’   The money budgeted will cover the facilities, supplies and textbooks as well as salaries and benefits. The teachers’ and office assistant’s salaries and benefits total $289,000, Wood said.   PaliHi administrators chose to maintain the academic program as it has historically been run. ‘We didn’t want to change things too much,’ Thomas said of the first semester. The students spend their entire day (7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at Temescal, and the teachers work with them on multiple subjects in one classroom. ‘We are able to customize to the students,’ Young said, noting that students can study at their own pace and move on to the next level in the middle of the semester if they complete their work ahead of time. ‘They don’t have to wait for 35 other students.’   This year, the teachers will provide more classroom lectures and assign projects that span content areas, said Thomas, who worked as an alternative education teacher for 10 years through the San Joaquin County Office of Education. Thomas was assistant principal at Bear Creek High School in Stockton for three years and at Compton Unified School District’s continuation school for six months before joining PaliHi this summer. ‘ As teacher coordinator, Lisa Evans handles discipline, parent communications and daily operations in addition to teaching four classes. Evans, 27, worked as a teacher at Temescal High School for two years before going to Thailand last year to teach science and English to 8th-10th graders at Benchamatheputhit School in Phetchaburi.   When she returned, she wanted to work at Temescal again, so she was glad to hear that PaliHi had taken over the school and was hiring. ‘The connection with the kids brought me back,’ said Evans, who earned her bachelor’s degree in biopsychology from University of Michigan and her teaching credential from San Diego State University. ‘I was interested in the coordinator position because I thought it would be a challenge for me,’ Evans said, noting that she was the administrative designee for Tamshen while working at Temescal. ‘I know I can be successful.’ ‘ Evans’ colleague, Joann Young, brings 37 years of teaching experience to her new position. She spent the past two years at Hawthorne Math and Science Academy, following 26 years at El Segundo High School teaching math, science and special education. Holding degrees from Willamette University, Cal State L.A., and UC Irvine in biology, chemistry, genetics, science instruction and special education, Young hopes to share her passion for the sciences with students. In 1984, she participated in the Teacher in Space program through NASA. She has two grown children, Katherine Dannen, a school psychologist and sign language teacher in Denver, and Cheryl Dannen, a medical insurance specialist in Irvine. The 58-year-old applied for the teaching job at Temescal because ‘it seemed interesting and challenging; I had never worked in a continuation school.’ ‘ The third teacher, Laurel Silver-Valker, joins Temescal Academy from Greenfield High School in Monterey, where she served as special education department chair for two years. The 39-year-old applied to PaliHi because she wanted to take a job closer to her 14-year-old son, Alex, who lives with his father in Irvine. She has an 18-year-old son, Graham, who recently graduated from Greenfield High School. Silver-Valker enjoys working with alternative students and taught in alternative education for the Orange County Department of Education for five years. ‘I understand what their needs are’I think I do a good job teaching them,’ said Silver-Valker, who earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Concordia University in Irvine and a teaching credential in special education from Cal State Fullerton. Palisades Charter High School recently took over Temescal High School and renamed it Temescal Academy. Lisa Evans, Laurel Silver-Valker and Joann Young (left to right) were hired to teach at the new school.