By Jason KUROSU
Clark Magnet High held an open house and expo on campus last Saturday, showcasing what Clark has to offer and educating parents and students about what kind of learning experience a prospective student can expect. Clark’s auditorium was filled to near capacity as Principal Doug Dall hosted the open house. Behind him on a large projection screen, a video displayed a robot, built by Clark students, launching basketballs into nearby hoops with a catapult’s range and sniper’s accuracy. The video was a perfect representation of Clark’s focus on advanced technology and science.
Dall described Clark’s inception in the fall of 1998, its creation meant to relieve overcrowding at Crescenta Valley, Glendale and Hoover high schools and the mandate for the school to create a unique curriculum focusing on science and technology. While speaking on the science focus, Dall also addressed Clark’s lack of classes in other areas.
“Somebody will ask, ‘Why don’t you have a cooking program? Hoover has a bistro’ or ‘Why don’t you have a music program? CV has a marching band.’ The reason is because we were ordered and directed to have a unique curriculum, teaching methodology and learning environment,” said Dall. “We don’t want to offer the same programs that you can get at other comprehensive schools. Why would you get on a bus or drive all the way up here to get all the same things you can get at other schools in the district?”
However, should Clark students want to participate in those activities offered at other schools, there is a bus service which transports students from Clark to other high schools within the district.
As for the programs Clark does offer, Dall covered the four major “strands” (which can be thought of as equivalent to college majors, according to Dall) of education Clark provides: science and engineering, technology systems, technology applications and digital arts. Dall emphasized that the science-heavy curriculum is part of the school’s dedication to career-oriented education.
“Everyone comes to Clark when they want to see what a career technical school is, in our case a STEAM school, that’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics,” said Dall. “One of the foundations of President Obama’s education policy is career education, teaching students to have skills and that’s what we’re doing here.”
Dall noted that “more than 80% of our students take career-oriented courses.”
The principal also spent some time trying to dispel myths he said some have about Clark, including the perception that the school is only for wealthy and/or advanced students.
“Clark has a 49% poverty rate. You wouldn’t know because we do things to make it easier and to make it fair.”
Dall also said that they did have some gifted students but Clark was a gifted school per se.
Much of this perception of an elite student population at Clark may stem from the fact that Clark’s student body is chosen via random lottery, a lottery that Dall insists is fair.
“Let me tell you how fair [the lottery] is. Pam Alice used to be the president of the board of education. That year her kid was an eighth grader and he wanted to come to Clark. He didn’t get in and she was the president of the board of education.”
About 300 students are selected annually. Most of these spots are for ninth graders, but a few spots for 10th, 11th, and 12th graders may be open.
The small student population leads to a tight-knit community feel amongst the students, said Dall.
“I will meet with students who are graduates and they all come back,” said Dall. “They’re very connected. This is a small, family place. When they come back, they share their experiences and they say, ‘I’ve been very well prepared for college and I’ve been very well prepared for life.”
The deadline to apply for the lottery is March 2 at 5 p.m. Application materials can be submitted at the GUSD building at 223 N. Jackson St. Applications are not accepted by mail.