Spring Band Concert and Art Show

May 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Thursday evening, May 17, parents, siblings, family friends, teachers and administrators filed into the gym. The warm-ups ended as the concertmaster walked down the aisle and played his “A.” The rest of the band tuned to his note, conductor Dr. Brian Bartel made his entrance, and the show was underway.

The Purple Concert Band, made up of Band I students, has come a long way since the Winter Band Concert last semester. At that time their skills were primarily in note reading, and everyone played the same melody. During the second semester, Dr. Bartel introduced not only sectional harmonies, but also dynamics: changing volume and varying tempos. As usual, the nine percussionists rotated among their various instruments: crash cymbals, bass drum, timpani, stand cymbals, snare drum, bells, maracas, triangle, tambourine, and woodblocks. The first set had an international flavor, beginning with “El Capitan,” an American march by John Philip Sousa. This was followed by the equally popular (in hockey circles, at least) “O Canada!” for our neighbors to the north. Russia was represented by Tschaikovsky’s “Marche Slave” and two more countries with “Egyptian Dance” by French composer Camille Saint-Saens from his opera Samson and Delilah. Then came a Chinese folk tune in a slower tempo, “Silver Moon Boat,” and it was back home for F. W. Meacham’s lively “American Patrol” a combination of several folk tunes, but made famous by Glenn Miller’s swing version, known by its wartime lyrics, “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (with anyone else but me).” The set closed with two pieces with varying tempos: a soulful African-American spiritual, “Wayfarin’ Stranger,” and an energetic Latin American favorite, “La Cucaracha.”

John Reyes, Still Life with Fruit, acrylic on canvas

The Phantom Jazz Band took over with Miles Davis’ “Tune Up” and their own jazz arrangement of a medley from this spring’s musical, Fiddler on the Roof. They closed with “Stolen Moments” by Oliver Nelson. Dr. Bartel watched from the sidelines as the musicians played. He emphasized to the audience that the Jazz Band is not a separate class; it is entirely “student-organized, with student-led rehearsals.” They meet voluntarily at lunch and after school to rehearse, and Dr. Bartelacts “simply to facilitate, copying music and coaching large-scale issues, such as the building of arrangements.” Their performance, he insisted, has “very little to do with me and very much to do with them.”

Seth Averill-Murphy, Still Life with Flowers, acrylic on canvas

This year the combo includes a keyboard because saxophonist Matt Nuesca also plays the piano. Other jazz musicians are Paolo Cruz and Azriel Caballero, saxophone; Adrian Castillo, trumpet; Andrew Flores and Ian Gomez, guitar; Franklin Muñoz, percussion; Andrew Bille, vibraphone; Ian Tadeo, flute; and Gus Puga, bass guitar. While their musical expertise is admirable, even more impressive is that many of these young men, Mr. Puga among them, had never played an instrument before coming to Cathedral as freshmen. And several of them look forward to another year of music before they graduate in 2013. It just goes to show what can be accomplished with a good teacher and a lot of practice. Hmm, I wonder if that applies to any other areas of high school….

Acrylic on canvas by Romario Leyva

During intermission art teacher Jamie Murphy discussed the work of his seniors in Studio Art II. These students have learned the basics of drawing, value, proportion, line control and composition, so the next step is to introduce them to “emotive representation,” the artistic equivalent of dynamics in music. By using acrylics instead of oils, he explained, students work with a sense of urgency because the colors dry so quickly. This also “liberates [them] from the need for control,” he continued, because they know their efforts “can be reworked quickly” as well, unlike work in oil. It also forces them to see their first attempt as a draft that will have to be revised because there is not enough time to get everything right the first time. Hmm. Sort of like writing an essay….

Romario Leyva’s restrained geometric composition is “beautifully rendered” and stands in stark contrast to the “colorful, aggressive brush strokes” of the “sculptural painting” so reminiscent of German Expressionism of his fellow Phantoms. Mr. Murphy encouraged applying “three or four colors” to the brush (and hence, to the canvas) at one time. Among the works that best meet these demanding criteria are Steve Lee’s “Self-Portrait,” John Reyes’ “Still Life with Fruit” and Seth Averill-Murphy’s “Still Life with Flowers.” This kind of art is “a physical process and not for the faint of heart,” he concluded.

Self-Portrait by Steve Lee, acrylic on canvas

After intermission it was the turn of the Cathedral Symphonic Band, made up of students in Band II/III/and IV. They began with “Mars, the Bringer of War,” a movement from Gustav Holst’s The Planets. At the winter concert, the band played “Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity” a chorale from the same work. Holst also composed the second piece of the set, “First Suite in E Flat,” made up of two movements – a slower chaconne and a livelier march. Then they played a medley of music from Phantom of the Opera – three tunes woven together into a concert piece: “All I Ask of You,” “The Music of the Night,” and the title song, “Phantom of the Opera.” Dr. Bartel introduced the next work as “the most famous soprano aria in all of opera,” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, “O Mio Babbino Caro” (O my beloved Daddy). The set finished with “March to the Scaffold” from the Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz, which concludes with the hero’s decapitation!

The concert closed with all the band students combining their talents to perform Cathedral’s Alma Mater.


Founder’s Week

May 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Cathedral’s annual observance of Founder’s Week was a mix of fun, information, and worship experiences. Each day there was a different theme, based on the five Lasallian Core Principles, with appropriate activities to commemorate it.

Monday was “Respect for all persons,” and anyone wearing this year’s “Signum Fidei” button or wristband was allowed to come to school in modified dress rather than in the usual uniform. Each class began with a prayer (over the Intercom) for respect. Br. Ernest Miller, FSC, addressed junior religion classes on Lasallian involvement in promoting and respecting the rights of children.

On Tuesday, thanks to preparation by Mrs. Aguirre and Lasallian  Youth, selected students and faculty members participated in service projects off campus in acknowledgment of the second theme, “Concern for the poor and social justice.” Some teachers provided transportation to and from the projects; some substituted in classrooms while their colleagues served. Modified dress was again available for those who could spare $2.00, and the money was designated for our sister school, St. Mary’s in Kenya. Br. Ernest continued speaking to the juniors, and Br. George Van Grieken, FSC, arrived to address vocation with other classes. During lunch, Mrs. Aguirre and Lasallian Youth invited students to help them make sandwiches for delivery to the homeless, and in the cafeteria lines, students donated “change for change,” which also went to St. Mary’s.

Wednesday the “Spare your Collar for $2.00” continued as Cathedral observed a commitment to “Quality education,” presenting Honor Roll students with a free snack from the Administration. Teachers, too, received juice, coffee, bagels and muffins in the morning, plus a free lunch of assorted Chinese delicacies! Mr. Ferrante and the yearbook staff posted various teacher profiles around campus to let students know their instructors have interests outside the classroom as well. Br. George Van Grieken continued speaking to classes about the Lasallian vocation.

Thursday was a dress-up day for celebrating “Faith in the presence of God.” Lasallian Core Principle posters were on display around the campus, and Father Rick, a “Brothers’ boy” from Cuba celebrated Mass, which included slides prepared by Br. Roch and music by the Praise Band under the direction of Mr. Yslas. At the end of Mass, Br. Chris Patino renewed his vows for another year as a Christian Brother, and Brother Visitor Donald Johanson, FSC, of the San Francisco District, bore witness. Br. John Montgomery acknowledged the departure of several long-time Cathedral teachers: Nancy Price (retiring after 25 years), Sanford Jones (moving to the Philippines), Bruce Matteson (leaving after 11 years), and Br. Chris Patino (moving to San Miguel in Tucson). At the end of the day, just before school was dismissed, Br. John called classes to the athletic field, where a star had been laid out in preparation for the school’s picture. The yearlong theme “Many stars, one La Salle”was illustrated in the photo (taken by Abel Gutierrez) of the entire student body, faculty, staff and administration radiating in five points from the Phantom in the center of the athletic field.

Many stars, one La Salle, Cathedral version. Photo by Abel Gutierrez

Finally, on Friday, the school celebrated an inclusive community of  “Brotherhood” with a Purple Pride dress theme. Students wore Cathedral logo shirts or other CHS apparel. Several inflated amusements were set up on the field, including a climbing tower, basketball and  soccer skill games, water rides, and a dunk tank. Hot dogs, snow cones, nachos and an assortment of drinks were available for purchase (but not to take onto the field!) and a good time was had by all right up until 12:30 p.m. Juniors and seniors went home to prepare for Prom, held that night at Castaways in Burbank, and freshmen and sophomores went home to an early weekend.

Director of Student Life Br. Chris Patino expressed his gratitude to all of the above-named, as well as to the many people who, with faith and zeal, worked behind the scenes to make this week possible, specifically: The Administration, for all their support, helping pick loose up ends, and their attention to all the logistics; Mr. Resurreccion and the ASB, for all their work, true Phantom spirit, and Lasallian activities; a special shout out to Mr. Res for not only handling many activities this week, but also for taking care of all the preparations for Prom; Ms. English, for designing a great flyer and meaningful logo for this year’s Founder’s Week; Mr. Bertolone, Mrs. Collier, Mrs. Soliz, and Mrs. Zaragoza, for their selfless help and support with many details — what would we do without you? Br. Roch and KCHS, for their coverage of Founder’s Week and presence at many of the activities;  Br. Lawrence, for keeping the website up to date with all Founder’s Week information; Mr. Gutierrez, for his attention to all the details in putting together a great school photo of our Human Star! Mr. Flores, Coach “AJ” Jefferson, and Coach “Toro” Torres, for providing support and students to help set up the gym; and to Mr. Jones, Br. James, Br. Paul, Br. Lawrence, and Mr. Res, who welcomed guests into their religion classes.

But the year isn’t over yet. Br John announced an assembly next Monday to hear a choral performance sponsored by the Colburn School of Music in downtown Los Angeles. This spring students from Cathedral, Salesian, Bishop Conaty, and Sacred Heart of Jesus were invited to be part of a new community outreach program, and their performance is intended, first, to showcase what the students in our local Catholic high schools have been able to accomplish in these few short months, and second, to encourage more students to join the choral program next year. Thursday night  is the Spring Band Concert and Art Show, followed by the Farewell Dance on Friday. Then it’s final exams for seniors, graduation rehearsals, Senior Presentations in the gym in front of the student body, Baccalaureate Mass in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and graduation ceremonies in Pasadena. Final exams for everyone else begin on Tuesday, May 29.

Star Scholar Night

May 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Amid the pressure of Advanced Placement Exams, Math Club Honors Ceremonies, and preparation for finals, Cathedral has made a point for over twenty years to honor members of the student body for their achievement and effort.

Before Easter, each teacher was asked to select two students from each class, one to be honored for academic excellence and one for dedication. Since early April, Registrar Aurora Soliz has been checking the spelling of 164 names and preparing 302 certificates for presentation to the selected freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.

The excellence award is pretty straightforward, going to the student maintaining the highest grade for the length of the class, whether semester or year-long. Many teachers wish they could select more than one “excellent” student especially when several have similarly high grades. Of course, teachers are free to give the dedication award to the student with the second-highest grade in the class, and often they do. But this honor is designed particularly to reward sustained and enthusiastic commitment, especially for those whose best efforts do not quite reach the academic heights of the “A” Honor Roll.

On Thursday, May 4, faculty, administration, parents and family members gathered to celebrate the achievement of Cathedral students in Computer Science, English, Mathematics, Religious Studies, Science, Social Studies, Spanish, andVisual & Performing Arts. The program, as usual, listed the names of all the honorees, but the particular class or award is deliberately omitted to add to the suspense. Seniors are not included in this event because their recognition comes at the Senior Presentation Assembly before graduation.

Following the opening prayer by Br. Chris Patiño, Master of Ceremonies Gary Bertolone introduced Principal Br. John Montgomery. In his opening remarks, Br. John noted statistics for college-bound seniors from Cathedral. As the saying goes, there was good news and bad news. The good news for the Class of 2012 is that, of 152 seniors, a record 26% have maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher for their entire high school career. Of these forty students, eleven have maintained a cumulative GPA of 4.0 or higher.

He also pointed out that in the Los Angeles Unified School District, only 15% of graduating seniors are eligible to enroll in a four-year college. At Cathedral, he proudly announced, fully 74% of our seniors have been accepted by a four-year college or university.

Going into a little more detail, our seniors have received 228 acceptance letters, and 15% of them (35 by count) came from the nine campuses of the University of California (2 each from Berkeley and Davis; 4 each from UCLA, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Diego, and Riverside; 5 from Irvine; and 6 from Merced). The majority of acceptances, 64%, came from eighteen of the twenty-three Cal State campuses: 42 from Cal State LA; 29 from Northridge; 11 from Cal Poly Pomona; 9 from San Francisco; 7 from Fullerton; 6 each from Long Beach and San Jose; 5 from Monterey Bay; and 4 from San Diego, for a total of 146.

Private colleges and universities account for 20% of the acceptances. These include such California schools as St. Mary’s of Moraga, University of the Pacific, and Pepperdine, plus the following out-of-state institutions: St. John’s (New York); Seton Hall (New Jersey); Notre Dame (Indiana); LaSalle University and Swarthmore (both in Philadelphia); Willamette (Oregon); and Johns Hopkins (Baltimore).

Approximately 25% of our graduates are expected to enroll in a local community college, such as Glendale, ELAC, or Pasadena City College.

Now for the bad news. College acceptances are becoming more difficult at California’s public universities. Because of the increased tuition ($23,000) paid by out-of-state and international students, the UC system is accepting fewer California residents. Similarly, in three years – and this affects this year’s freshmen – the Cal State system will be accepting 1,500 fewer students per campus. As it stands today, Cal State students frequently take six years to graduate, but no financial aid will be awarded for a seventh year.

All of this means that college acceptance will no longer be automatic just for taking (and passing) the college preparatory courses that Cathedral offers. Acceptance to a UC school is down 10% since 2010, while CSU acceptances are up 10%. Private school acceptances over the last three years are up 6%, and community college acceptances (not particularly rigorous) are up 1%.

Following these somewhat sobering remarks, the Master of Ceremonies returned to the focus of the occasion, presentation of the certificates.

Beginning with the Computer Science Department, faculty members lined up in front of the decorative balloon arch, and then Mr. Bertolone read the names of the students selected for academic excellence. Department Chair Anthony Trafecanty presented certificates, while the department members offered their congratulations in a receiving line. Following the applause for the honorees, Mr. Bertolone read the names of the students selected for dedication and effort, and they received their certificates and congratulations as well.

The next group was the English Department, with AP English Language and English I Honors teacher Terry Catlin standing in for Department Chair Kristin McNeal (on maternity leave).

They were followed by the Spanish Department andChair Martha Lira; the Math Department led by Chair Abel Gutierrez; Religious Studies withChair Br. Lawrence Haley; Science underChair David Galaz; Social Studies andChair Robert Ryan, and concluding with the Visual & Performing Arts andChair Jamie Murphy.

After each department’s honorees have been recognized, the audience responds with applause. At least one freshman, Kendrick Antenor-Cruz, was honored for excellence in six of seven categories! While the teachers take delight in watching the freshmen make their first trip to the front, they also share a special joy when sophomores and juniors participate for the first time.

At the end of the ceremony, the students led an a capella rendition of the Alma Mater.

Library Progress Report

April 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Reference Shelves

Although it still lacks books, the newly refurbished Library Media Center was acknowledged with a reception last Wednesday, April 18, in the Brothers’ back yard, followed by a special naming ceremony outside the library and a brief tour of the interior.

In an interview with KCHS, President Martin Farfan estimated the total cost for the new air conditioning system, computers, bookshelves, tables, chairs, and Smart Board technology at approximately $240,000.  Funding was provided by the Shea Foundation. In January, Mr. Farfan indicated costs of roughly $200,000 for upgrades and another $200,000 for technology. [See Purple Letter of Jan. 16, 2012]

Photo by Abel Gutierrez

The back yard refreshments were tacos made fresh to order, accompanied by frijoles, salsa and assorted beverages. It was an opportunity for trustees, alumni, faculty and students to socialize.

Mr. Leong, Br. Lawrence, Br. John, Br. Chris, Br. James, Br. Paul, Br. LaSalle, Br. De Sales and Br. Roch. (Photo by Abel Gutierrez)

Afterwards, the group moved to the library. But before opening the door, Director of Development Oscar Leong and President Martin Farfan unrolled a blank scroll, and individual Brothers stood behind it, each holding a letter to spell out the identity of the person whose name is attached to the Library Media Center. This activity endorsed what the CHS Alumni Association had done several years earlier, and from the photo you can see that the honoree himself participated in the ceremony.

Br. James and Alumni Association plaque (Photo by Abel Gutierrez)

For those who do not know, James Meegan attended Cathedral as a student, left for college as a graduate, and returned as a lay teacher. A few years later he left again to become a Christian Brother, and returned as Br. James. He spent many years teaching, serving as (English) Department Chair, Principal, and eventually President of the school. Currently he teaches history and, as President Emeritus, is special advisor to President Martin Farfan.

Once inside the library, guests viewed a presentation on the SmartBoard and admired rows of computers, new study tables & hardwood chairs, and inviting upholstered furniture at the entrance. The additional tables and chairs mean students have more space to do their homework. There are also more computers, so once they are up and running, research will be easier. Rumor has it that there will be more online assignments next year, even in English, and that will keep the computers busy, too.

Photo by Abel Gutierrez

Loading all the applications onto the computers will take a while, and printers need to be installed as well. Then all of this has to be connected to the school network for access to the Internet. Moreover, because the books cannot be moved onto the shelves until the contractor finishes his work and signs off on the job, the library will not be open to students for several weeks yet.

Photo by Abel Gutierrez

Although her psychology classes are meeting in the library now, Librarian and Media Specialist Helen Moses indicates that “re-shelving the books will take weeks,” at least in part because she has to map out where the books go. The number of books was reduced by 60% to make room for the new computers and study tables, to the stacks (bookshelves) also have to be reconfigured. For example, fiction will now be up front, near the librarian’s desk, and Mrs. Moses invited “anyone who is reading a fiction book” to sit in the comfy upholstered sofas and chairs in this section.

Photo by Abel Gutierrez

Mock Trial and Academic Decathlon

April 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

We leave for Holy Week and Easter break with the celebratory banquet for Mock Trial and Academic Decathlon participants on Thursday, March 29, 2012.

The Mock Trial Competition is sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation. According to its website <www.crf-usa.org> the program was created “to help students acquire a working knowledge of [the] judicial system, develop analytical abilities and communication skills, and gain an understanding of their obligations and responsibilities as participating members of … society.” Each team receives “summaries of case law, witness statements, [and] official exhibits,” which they present at trial using “simplified rules of evidence.” Middle schools and high schools from 36 California counties compete each year.

Mr. Ryan addresses his audience. Photo by David Guerra

The cases are hypothetical, but based on topics of current interest complicated by Constitutional questions. Robert Ryan [See Purple Letter of March 29, 2010], the teacher-sponsor for Cathedral’s Mock Trial team, explained that “the case is unique to each year, and all schools try the same case.” This year the case was called People v. Buschell. Mr. Ryan  summarized the case: “Ryan Buschell was accused of murdering his friend Becca because she was going to turn him in for plagiarism and ruin his chances at inheriting millions of dollars worth of trust fund.”

The tournament, which took place last November at the Courthouse downtown, requires that each team prepare both prosecution and defense. Like over 8000 students across the state, Cathedral’s Mock Trial team worked with Mr. Ryan as their teacher-sponsor and an attorney-coach from the Los Angeles community to learn how to analyze, prepare, and present their case. They presented the prosecution’s case one week and the defense’s case the other.

The process begins with a pre-trial motion (presented by senior Cristian Alegria) that concerned the Second Amendment and “whether an individual has a Constitutional right to carry a concealed weapon.” Mr. Ryan was pleased to note that “as the prosecution, we won the motion, and the charge was allowed to stand.” However, as the defense, he confessed, “we lost [the motion], with the same result.”

Student attorneys (for both the defense and the prosecution) were Abraham Beltran, Jaycee Barajas, Michael Mora, and Anthony Cardinal, who received Honorable Mention for his work from the sponsor, the Constitutional Rights Foundation.

The witnesses were played by Cameron Payne, Jose Mares-Martinez, Yohanes Shimelis, Richard Kim, Benjamin Lopez, Rosario Leyva, Herbert Benitez, and Ivan Palomera. The court bailiff was played by Julio Priego, and the clerk/timekeeper was Fernando Reyes.

The team “won the verdict in both trials,” observed Mr. Ryan. As prosecutors, they convicted the defendant, and as defenders, they won his acquittal. If you are interested in being part of this challenging activity, see Mr. Ryan.

Mrs. Staveley & the 2012 Academic Decathlon Team. Photo by David Guerra.

Cathedral’s Academic Decathlon team celebrated their worthy accomplishments as well. Like the Mock Trial Competition, these decathletes prepare all year for a two-day competition. Each year the focus is a different historical era, and students undergo rigorous testing on two consecutive Saturdays. The three subjective events – the interview, the speeches (one memorized, one impromptu), and the timed writing (essay) – were tested first, on January 28. On the following Saturday, February 4, students faced a grueling series of Scantron tests in each of seven subject areas: literature & language, music, science, art, mathematics, economics, and social science. Four tests are administered before lunch and three more afterwards, including the written and oral Super Quiz. Each year since 2008 the teams have brought home more medals than the year before. In 2011 [see Purple Letter of February 14, 2011] the total was 34, up from 21 in 2010. With the redoubtable Mrs. Staveley [see Purple Letter of November 17, 2008] as their coach and moderator, two teams again competed in Division 2 and Division 3 at the Regional Private School Decathlon Competition at Bishop Alemany High School in Granada Hills.

Team One, consisting of Tom Bebing, Matias Farfan, David Guerra, Steve Lee, Emmanuel Licup, Edgar Maldonado, Earl John Reyes, Yohanes Shimelis, and Ian Tadeo, received a beautiful plaque for winning Team Gold in their division of the Oral  Super Quiz. Each young man received a gold medal for this accomplishment. In addition, Matias Farfan won a bronze medal in mathematics; David Guerra a bronze in language & literature, and Steve Lee a bronze in music. Edgar Maldonado won a gold medal in the interview, and Yohanes Shimelis took gold in economics. However, junior Ian Tadeo won an astonishing six medals! Besides the team gold for the Super Quiz, Ian also won the following individual medals: gold in art, silver in the Super Quiz, and bronze in science, economics, and decathlon. Counting nine golds for the team Super Quiz, Team One brought home eighteen medals!

Team Two did its part as well; every member of the team brought home at least one individual medal. John Severino took gold in the interview; Armando Freire won silver in science; Johnathan Llamas won bronze in music; Andrew Lucero and Diego Vera both took bronze in science.

With multiple medals, Matthew Nuesca brought home bronze in both music and mathematics, while Jonathan Pagador took bronze in science and gold in both art and economics. Bringing home four medals each were junior George Bebing (silver in science, and bronze in interview, music, and Super Quiz) and senior Anthony Javier (silver in interview, bronze in essay, language & literature, and Super Quiz). Total for Team Two: eighteen medals!

Total medal count for 2012: 36! Cathedral continues its impressive rate of acquisition. The subject of next year’s competition, Russia, was announced at the banquet. An important qualification for Academic Decathlon is grade point average (GPA). Each team of nine must have 3 “A” students, 3 “B” students, and 3 “C” students. If you are interested you can talk to either Mrs. Staveley or a team member. Be sure to stop by the senior building to view the team bulletin board. If you like a challenge, like learning new things, and are not afraid of commitment, consider becoming a member of the Academic Decathlon or the Mock Trial team (or both, like Yohanes Shimelis).

A Week in Review and Coming Attractions

March 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Last Tuesday’s even-bloc classes were modified so Dean of Studies Sulema Modesto and the academic counselors (Mr. Godoy, Mr. Lowdermilk, and Mr. Ryan) could explain to grade-level assemblies of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors how they will be registering for their fall classes. Each student had a copy of his transcript, which contained not only his coursework and grades through the first semester of this academic year, but also his contact information as contained in the school’s database. The Dean asked that each student verify the contact information and report to the Registrar, Mrs. Solis, if any of it needs to be updated.

Registration takes place in the computer lab this week (March 5 – 9) and will be entirely online, a new application of the technology everyone has been learning. Freshmen will register during their Spanish classes; sophomores during their English classes; and juniors during their U.S. History classes. Ms. Modesto also pointed out that registration will not include Honors or AP courses; placement tests for these classes will be administered through the departments after registration, and the final decision will be made by the Dean of Studies.

Students already enrolled in the second semester of an Honors or AP course will take the placement test for the next level in their current Honors or AP classes. Continued enrollment, however, is not guaranteed. Placement tests are scheduled for AFTER registration. Students who would like to enroll in an Honors or AP course in the fall but are not currently enrolled at that level should contact their teacher to discuss their readiness for an advanced class. Pre-requisites in addition to appropriate score on the placement test include a grade of “A” or “B” in the fall semester and the teacher’s recommendation. Individual departments may have additional requirements.

Last Friday 71 juniors returned from their overnight retreat to St. Mary’s Seminary in Santa Barbara. Guiding them in their reflections and spiritual development were Campus Minister Sanford Jones, Junior Class Moderator Jamie Murphy, Counselors Terry Catlin and Brady Lowdermilk, andStudent Life Moderators Br. Chris Patiño and Ryan Resurreccion. Friday was also Physics Day, and teachers Mike Trafecanty and Abel Gutierrez took their physics classes on the annual field trip to study the principles behind the rides at Knott’s Berry Farm.

Those of you who did not make it to at least one performance of Fiddler on the Roof [see February 19, 2012] have missed an event that will be recalled with pride for many years. This reporter saw the show twice (in order to see both Tevyes and both Perchiks) and came away more impressed each time. The lead performers were exciting, moving, and professional, but so were all the members of the ensemble. Each one was always “in the moment” ready with the appropriate response.  And there is more. The swirling backdrop, reminiscent of a work by Van Gogh, was painted by Cathedral alumnus Ixmal Rodriguez (Class of 2008). The sets, designed by architect Richard Olander, were constructed under the able direction of Walter Durham by the invaluable yet usually anonymous stage crew made up of seniors Michael Candaza, Luis Salcedo, & Cade Maldonado; juniors Christopher Lopez, Xavier Muñoz, & Christopher (or is it Cristian?) Rubalcaba; and alumni volunteers David Chavez (’09), Anthony Perez (’10), and Aaron Celaya & Christopher Garay (both ’11). How many high schools do you know that command such loyalty and service especially after graduation?

The sets fit together on stage like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and they are moved seamlessly into place under the supervision of their crew chief, senior Adolfo Monroy. And it’s not just the buildings. In “Tevye’s Dream,” members of the aforementioned stage crew provide mobility for the ghost of Fruma-Sarah (Rebecca McDonald) as she enters to terrorize and threaten Tevye (seniors Eric Babb and Julio Ortiz, double-cast) and his wife Golde (Yvette Santos, a junior at Visual And Performing Arts High School). That took a lot of practice, as Rebecca notes in the program.

As if two weekends of sold-out performances of Cathedral’s smash hit production of Fiddler were not enough, the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival arrives on tour Tuesday, March 6, for its annual presentation. Last year it was The Tempest [see February 28, 2011]; this year it is Macbeth. Teachers throughout the English department are using journal assignments and discussion to prepare their classes to consider the way Shakespeare addresses such universal themes as ambition, power, success and the supernatural in this tragedy.

The odd-bloc schedule will be modified in that Period 1 will be only 25 minutes, and Period 3 will be extra long (8:45 – 11:20) to allow for two performances. Freshmen and sophomores will see the play first, followed by 75 minutes of instruction. Juniors and seniors will have instruction first, followed by the play. Everyone has a 25-minute break at approximately 11:20. Period 5 and Period 7 will each be 60 minutes, and lunch will also be only 25 minutes. Dismissal will be at the usual time.

Unfortunately, teachers in the Science and Math Departments will miss Macbeth because they will be at a STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) Conference. Next week four teachers will be attending the two-day CUE (Computer Using Educators) Conference in Palm Springs, and the following Friday (the pupil-free day after the Walkathon) each department will visit a different Catholic high school in the Los Angeles area to observe teachers in their own discipline. Their observations will be included in the WASC/WCEA document being prepared for the spring of 2013. Professional development never ceases at Cathedral.

Schoolwide Writing Project

February 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Once upon a time, Cathedral seniors graduated and went off to college. However, when they took the writing placement test (all colleges and universities have their students take such a test so they can be sure they have the writing skills necessary to succeed at their institution), they could not pass. Instead of enrolling in the usual freshman courses, these students found themselves in a remedial course that (1) cost money and (2) did not count for graduation. Even worse, a few weeks into the course (when it is too late to drop), instructors discovered that our students already had the ability to write at the college level! What they lacked was the ability to write in a timed environment, such as for a test or an in-class assignment. But that was then.

Given California’s current financial crisis, Cal State and UC campuses are likely to reduce or eliminate remedial writing courses, and unprepared students will find themselves out in the cold. Thus, the ability to develop appropriate writing skills in high school is more important than ever.

As explained in earlier articles [see March 22, 2010 and February 2, 2008], Cathedral is unique in administering this annual schoolwide, cross-curricular writing project. By participating in the Writing Project every year, students get the practice they need, and by early May, when seniors sit for the Writing Placement exam for UC, Cal State, or any other four-year institution, they will show that they are ready for college-level instruction in writing.

The Project begins on Monday, February 13, when freshmen read an article with their Spanish teachers, and sophomores go over a different article with their biology teachers. Then, on Tuesday and Wednesday during their bloc classes, freshmen and sophomores will discuss with their English teachers how to respond to the prompt, and they will make an outline of the points they intend to address. On Thursday there is a special schedule, and the entire student body participates in the “Schoolwide Writing Project.” In their homerooms, freshmen and sophomores will use their outlines to guide their responses. Juniors and seniors will see an article for the first time and have to organize and write their responses in the 80-minute period.

Freshmen and sophomores are entitled to more help, of course, than their upper division brothers, but it is essential that they be present at school every day so they can get the most benefit from this assistance. Another way that Cathedral emphasizes the importance of participating in this Project is that every student gets two grades for his writing: one from his English teacher and one from his subject-area teacher. Besides freshman Spanish and sophomore biology, junior religion and senior government teachers evaluate the students’ ability to understand and support their opinions in response to the article.

Using a six-point scoring guide, the subject-area teachers evaluate the compositions; then the English teachers do the same. The scores are kept confidential until both groups are finished. Then the two grades are recorded by the English Department on a cover sheet that also contains the scoring guide. The papers are distributed and the scores discussed in the English classes, and then everything is filed in the students’ English folders.

A few years ago, after the yearbook class had met its final deadline, it embarked upon a statistics project. Under the direction of their moderator, Dean of Services John Ferrante, they collated two years’ worth of scores by grade level, student number, English teacher, and subject area teacher. If they are able to continue collecting the data this year, we should have a linear record of each student’s progress from freshman through senior year. With the WASC/WCEA accreditation process getting underway again, Cathedral’s administration wants to be able to document an improvement in student writing over the years.

If students and teachers agreed to participate in a survey about the Writing Project experience, these results might also be compiled and studied in order to refine the Project and make it more effective. The best indication of success , of course, is that more seniors who are accepted to four-year institutions are passing the writing placement tests and enrolling in the freshman writing course required of all college students. This is now. And the Schoolwide Writing Project is why.

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