Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine pledge to create a new high school in LA
In a sense, Audubon Middle School doesn’t need to be spared – with its energetic principal and a curriculum that has a lot to offer. But the sharp drop in enrollment has left the Leimert Park campus at less than a third of its capacity. And students are struggling academically – only 5% are at school level in math.
Enter Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine.
The two music industry moguls have settled on Audubon as the location to start a new public high school, which will mirror the format of a USC academy launched in 2013, catalyzed by their $ 70 million donation. The amount of money for the Audubon project is uncertain, but Iovine and Dr Dre have said they will spend whatever it takes.
“We are here strictly for the kids and trying to give them a future and something that may not have been available before,” said Dr. Dre, the professional name of the rapper, producer and figure of the. music industry born under the name of André. Young. He and Iovine spoke to Audubon at a press conference Monday with education leaders.
It all happened quickly, said Audubon principal Deanna Hardemion, who has just completed her second year as head of the school. Dr Dre and Iovine were looking for campuses to house their high school and had only inspected Audubon in recent weeks.
The campus had a lot of things they liked, basically its location in a low income community of color. But there were other bright spots, said Hardemion, including a stand-alone class building from the 1920s, with solid architectural bones and sturdy wood cabinetry, plus a renovated and distinctive auditorium – and plenty of space. .
Audubon has about 460 students in grades six to eight on a campus that can easily accommodate 1,500. During the high school years, around 2002, the school had over 2,300 students.
But over time, many black, middle-class families sent their children to charter schools or Los Angeles district schools in the Westside. Declining immigration, falling birth rates and gentrification have also played a role.
For now, this classic classroom building has been supplied to an independently run charter school, which may soon have to find another location.
The new project is not a music school, but aims to be an incubator of entrepreneurial and silo-breaking talent, where students will learn to work as a team to meet real-world challenges. A college-level prototype exists at USC, where students have tackled projects presented to them by medical centers, private companies and, for example, the Grammy Foundation – a connection to music that is not essential to the student experience.
Audubon has a lot to offer, Hardemion said, including an optional course in music production, where students create their own beats and songs. There is also a film production class. And more than a quarter of students are part of a gifted and high potential magnet at the School of Advanced Studies on campus. There’s also a well-equipped dance studio, renovated outdoor recreation areas and a sparkling gym – renovated with help from basketball star James Harden, who attended school, said the director.
The new high school will not increase enrollment at Audubon and have a different name, but it will give Audubon students a new option when registering – and the sudden and intense public attention could also inspire students. families to bring together or support the college. see.
Hardemion sees an opportunity to highlight the positive aspects of the school, where black students make up around 57% of enrollments and Latino students 40%.
Her children face challenges on and off campus. About 9 in 10 people are eligible for a meal subsidy because of low family income. On state tests given in spring 2019, 15% of students met or exceeded state academic standards in English, 5% in mathematics.
Dr. Dre and Iovine envisioned building a campus from scratch, but moving into the existing space is faster; students will be able to register for fall 2022.
“I think it’s going to be something extremely different,” Dr. Dre said. “And I’m still trying to learn myself and understand the politics and the obstacles we have to overcome to help.”
Dr Dre spoke briefly to Audubon on Monday, attending a press conference with education leaders and Iovine, who went from recording session engineer to co-founder of Interscope Records in 1990. Him and Dr. Dre are longtime collaborators and business partners known for discovering and mentoring musical talent.
LA Schools Austin Beutner said the funding and support expected from both would take the start-up high school from solid to state-of-the-art.
Even with a year of planning, the project quickly came to fruition by the bureaucratic standards of the country’s second largest school system. Beutner just didn’t want to say no to benefactors – or erect roadblocks that might push them elsewhere.
But a lot remains to be understood, including the application process.
At last week’s board meeting, staff suggested that applicants should write an essay and submit a video, which would be assessed as a special prequalification in the regular Magnet School application process. .
As with other magnets, if a program is oversubscribed, students are accepted on the basis of a complicated point system, including, for example, whether a student’s ethnicity would favor integration or whether a school neighborhood is overcrowded.
For most magnets, a student’s ability is irrelevant, although a parent’s ability to navigate the point system can be a factor.
As with the other magnets, the district will provide free transportation to and from the school for students who live outside a certain radius.
At Monday’s event, Erica Muhl, the outgoing dean and founder of the USC program, made it clear that the application process itself shouldn’t be a barrier.
“Any review process … will really aim to help us identify the specific needs – as well as the passions and desires – of each student, as this helps us as educators understand how we can adapt. what we do for them, ”she said.
Iovine and Dr Dre said they wanted to reach students who, like them, felt disconnected from the typical school experience, demotivated by it. They beat every chance of success. They want the incoming generations to have better chances.
“It’s great to be here because the idea is to try,” said Iovine. “We don’t have a real solution, we don’t have one. We will try to have that. We will try to help. And some details are not yet complete. But … one detail that is complete is that we are going to give it everything we have.