California Educator

December 2018 / January 2019

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Being in demand has its benefits Admission to GALA is granted via a lottery system, and any girl entering sixth grade or later in L.A. Unified can apply for entry — and many, many have. e waiting list is nearly 500 students long, so for the parents of those admitted, it really does feel like they hit the jackpot. Henderson, the Friends of GALA president, said that her daughter, Monica, told her it was either attending GALA or being home-schooled. Henderson and Claudine Wolas-Shiva, vice presi- dent of the parents' organization, both spoke highly of the dedicated teachers, creative programs and assignments, and the school's diver- sity. ey mentioned student-driven learning opportunities, such as a model United Nations and reading with dogs, and inspiring experi- ences and relationships with accomplished women aerospace engineers and programmers. As a woman in tech herself, Wolas-Shiva said she wanted to give her two daughters, Laila and Taiya, opportunities in STEM that she had to seek out. She also wanted an environment that would teach them to be strong and advocate for themselves. "I have been a woman in tech. I have faced unconscious bias. I have had experiences that I don't want my children to go through," she said. "I wanted to give them a chance to step out of STEM instead of having to step into STEM." The popularity of GALA, its special atmosphere and its wealth of opportunities have had an unintended benefit for L.A. Unified: In the three years since GALA opened, 190 students have been admitted who had previously attended private schools or independent charters. is means more than $2.5 million in state funding returning to L.A. Unified and greater resources for all the district's students. A Senator stands up for the special school State Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) has always had a penchant for fighting for equitable opportunity for girls and women, and when she met Principal Hicks in 2015, she was immediately supportive of the school and its unique mission. But there was one big problem: the all-girls public school was in violation of state law prohibiting single-gender public schools. While GALA conformed with Title IX, which contains an amendment allowing single-gender schools, it was not in compliance with state law, which differed from the federal law prohibiting discrimination in public schools on the basis of gender. Mitchell immediately got behind a pending bill by Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-omas (D-Los Ange- les) that would align state and federal laws to allow single-gender academies like GAL A in (and only in) LAUSD. Despite organized opposition to the bill, Mitchell was able to usher it through the state Senate after the bill garnered approval in the Assembly, inviting Hicks and some of GALA's students to join her on the Senate floor during her final call to support it. Assembly Bill 23 passed and was signed into law, and Mitchell is thrilled with the result. "Creating opportunity for children and girls where they don't routinely have it is a passion of mine. We're impacting the child poverty rate by providing resources " At my other schools, I felt like I wasn't growing anymore. Now everything I'm doing is about how I can be more innovative. There's so much positivity." — L a i l a N u r , U T L A Even during their lunch, GALA students are hungry for knowledge, sitting together and excitedly collaborating. 38 Laila Nur the Innovation issue the Innovation issue I T I N O I N N E O S S V U A Innovation Issue 2018 I I 2018 Innovation issue the 2018

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