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LCHS students protest on behalf of program

May 20, 2011|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com
  • Aidan Branney, 15 and a sophomore, left, and others show their support for the World Cultures Academy program at La Canada High School in La Caada Flintridge on Friday. The protest was aimed at the school's administration because the program won't be back next year. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
Aidan Branney, 15 and a sophomore, left, and others show…

About 30 La Cañada High sophomores gathered in front of their school’s administration building after school let out Friday with signs and T-shirts in protest of the school’s World Cultures Academy program possibly ending.

The World Cultures Academy is an interdisciplinary combination of English and history for sophomores. It was founded and taught at LCHS this year by Rick Mohney and Jim Cartnal and it’s already made an impact on students.

“When I wake up in the morning I don’t dread going to school as much as I used to,” said Anders Iversen, the student-protest leader, participant in the program and sophomore at LCHS. “When we walk in we know we’re going to pushed to our limits but we’re not going to be pushed beyond them…When I’m sick I’ll go to WCA and then I’ll leave because I enjoy the class.”

The program could amount to just a one-hit wonder, though. Mohney accepted an early-retirement incentive plan for veteran teachers offered by La Cañada Unified earlier this year and later decided he wanted to come back to teach the course on a part-time basis.

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Jackie Luzak, LCHS’ principal, won’t allow Mohney to return part time though because of the impact it would have on staffing next year, according to Anders. Luzak could not be immediately reached for comment because she’s attending the senior trip to Catalina.

“Luzak wants to bring back full-time teachers to strengthen the community at LCHS, which I understand,” Anders said. “But what I don’t understand is they’re not sure what they’re going to have next year — they’re hiring as they go, so why not hire Mohney now and go from there?”
Wendy Sinnette, La Cañada Unified’s assistant superintendent of human resources, said committing to Mohney would complicate things when it comes time to create next year’s master schedule.

“Whenever you’re building a master schedule priority is given to hiring [full-time educators],” Sinnette said. “If we had extra sections [hiring Mohney part-time] would be a potential consideration, but with the budget crisis we are running so lean that the only sections we are able to assign at this point are full-time.”

Cartnal was left to decide between continuing the WCA with a new teacher or stopping it all together. He chose the latter.

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