High-performing Richmond charter school sees big demand for limited spots
By Rick Radin For the Contra Costa Times
Posted: 03/01/2013 12:29:10 PM PST
Updated: 03/01/2013 05:19:12 PM PST
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RICHMOND -- Parents and their eighth-graders lined up down a street in this city's economically depressed Iron Triangle neighborhood Thursday evening for a chance to attend a high-performing charter school.
About 180 students were competing in a lottery for 71 places in a freshman class of 120 at Leadership Public High School.
Leadership students averaged an 800 score on the statewide Academic Performance Index, the state benchmark for proficiency, in 2012 and the school has a goal of sending all 120 members of its senior class to college every year, said Principal Shawn Benjamin.
Leadership has a mostly Hispanic student population, most of whom qualify as economically disadvantaged, and has recently
Parents and children stand in line to check in the children's names with hopes to be enrolled in Richmond Leadership Public High School through a lottery process. ( Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)
been trying to attract more African-American students.
"I've heard it's a great school, with high test scores," said Victoria Flores, an eighth-grader at Helms Middle School in San Pablo, as she waited in line on 12th Street with her father Pedro for the school's doors to open.
Once in the building, students and parents were routed to individual classrooms where they entered their names on lottery tickets. The tickets were then taken to Benjamin's office, and she and her assistants mixed them in a spinner and drew them one by one, announcing the names over the school's public address system.
Forty-nine places were reserved for the brothers and sisters of current Leadership students who expressed interest in joining their siblings at the school.
Flores ended up in the top spot on the list because her sister Alejandera is an 11th-grader at the school, but other applicants waited in suspense as positions 50 through 120 were filled by the random drawing.
There were cries of joy and lots of high-fiving in the classrooms as the 71 winners heard their names called.
Angel Turner, an eighth-grader at Arlington Christian School in Richmond, and her mother, Tammy Turner, leapt out of their seats in joy
Richmond Leadership Public High School Principal Shawn Benjamin picks tickets with names of new students. ( Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)
when Angel's name was drawn at No. 57.
Tammy Turner said Angel visited the Leadership campus with a friend who is in the current freshman class and liked what she saw.
"I think I was more nervous than my daughter," said Turner, a Richmond resident. "She's going to have more opportunity here (than at Arlington Christian)."
After the 120-member class, the rest of the names were drawn in order for places on a waiting list.
Many participants drifted away as the wait list grew longer.
Jasmine Perez, an eighth-grader at DeJean Middle School in Richmond, looked forlorn as she waited in vain to hear her name called in one nearly empty classroom.
Tears rolled slowly down her cheeks when she was picked for the 103rd
School manager Ximena Montes, left, checks in Fernando Cervantes,13, as his father Alfredo looks on with hopes to be enrolled in Richmond Leadership Public High School through a lottery process. ( Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)
spot out of 104 on the waiting list.
"I'm feeling disappointed," said Perez, who has a friend in Leadership's current freshman class. "I would do my best here, get the best education here."
Benjamin said this year's turnout was a record. She began the lottery four years ago when applications rose above the 120 slots available in the freshman class.
Transfers are accepted as space becomes available in the upper grades, she said.
"We're having success," Benjamin said. "Word has gotten around."
Leadership is housed on a temporary site using part of an old elementary school combined with portable classrooms. The charter will join Gompers Continuation High School in about two years in a building now under construction,
Leticia Lopez, left, followed by her daughter Jayra Revuelta, 13, are all smiles after her daughter enrolled in Richmond Leadership Public High School through a lottery process. ( Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)
Leadership also has campuses in Oakland, Hayward and San Jose, she said.
Gabriela Cervantes, a member of this year's senior class, was checking in students and parents in one classroom, speaking to them in both Spanish and English.
She attended Peres Elementary, a high-performing West Contra Costa primary school, before moving on to DeJean Middle School.
Cervantes said she had applied to several public and private colleges for next year, including UC Irvine and the University of San Francisco.
"I want to become a math teacher after I graduate, perhaps (at Leadership)," she said.
Richmond Leadership Public High School Principal Shawn Benjamin, center, picks tickets with names of new students as coordinator Yesenia Bermudez, right, call them via interphone while they wait for in classrooms. ( Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)