Prop. 39, Taper Time + Spring Break…Woo Hoo!

This post has very little to do with running. But that’s the point of my blog. My life is only 5% running. Part of the challenge of setting PRs is figuring out how to do it with work and life. Being a Founding Principal is a huge part of my identity. I think it’s pretty obvious that I absolutely love my job, but all I can say about this past week is WOW. I’m supposed to be in taper mode, relaxing and taking it easy. Yeah, not so much. I am so grateful for my team. They show endless support, and are so committed to our scholars and our school.

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Equitas Academy Family Day!

In September of 2015 I helped open the third Equitas school. There was demand for more Equitas schools in Pico Union. We weren’t able to provide seats for all interested families, resulting in long waitlists at Equitas Flagship and Equitas #2 Middle School. I knew opening a school would bring a variety of challenges, but I wasn’t sure what they’d be. Year one the biggest challenge was shifting to lower elementary. Kinder is scary to someone with eight years of middle school experience. I spent the year learning how to talk to five year olds, learning how to share space with our middle school, learning how to teach kids how to read, and learning how to be a boss. Below you’ll see us on the last day of our founding year. We ended the year with 100% of our scholars reading at or above reading level. We met our ambitious MAP NWEA goals in math and reading. 100% of our teachers returned for year two, something uncommon in urban education. We were cautiously optimistic about making our dream a reality, that there would be no achievement gap at EQ3.  13495396_10106686133097493_225893631786753668_o.jpg

This year our school grew to K-1. We moved to a temporary site at an apartment building half a mile from our first home. Moving is never easy, and it’s especially hard with families and kids. And our current site isn’t exactly ideal. It doesn’t handle rain very well. And this winter was particularly rainy in LA.IMG_5974 (1).JPG

Our classrooms often leak and flood. Ms. Vega had to move her classroom to a cold ballroom attached to our site one morning. Teaching out of an old, cold, echoing ballroom with no whiteboard and no internet access is not ideal. That’s why we call her gritty Gabby.

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Here she is holding chart paper, trying to teach her writing lesson. It’s really hard leading a school, and putting your teachers through this. But we knew it was temporary. Just one year. IMG_6160.JPGFall of 2017 was when our shiny beautiful facility would be ready, but you know how it is with construction. It’s never ready on time. In late December our builders shared the bad news that our site wasn’t going to be ready until Fall of 2018. unnamed.jpgSo the next dilemma was finding yet another temporary space to house our growing school. Next year we’ll serve K-2. We decided to apply for a Prop. 39 placement, requesting 12 classrooms for one academic year. We were granted the space at a nearby elementary school, just half a mile from our permanent site. Rent is affordable and the site is in our community. Although sharing a building isn’t ideal, we’re a “find a way or make one” kind of school. We’ll make it work. Well, not everyone is as optimistic about our co-location. Our partner school got a little cozy at their site, understandably they used the extra space due to lowering enrollment for parent centers, art classrooms, computer labs. I’d probably do the same thing if I had extra space, but we’ve been forced to be resourceful with very limited space. Over the past few weeks we’ve had several protests, community flyering, union members and parents attending our meetings, all speaking out against us moving into their space. There’s a facebook group against us, and an anti-Equitas hashtag. 17757562_1851343015117425_1418557927574231745_n.jpg
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Again, I get it. Nobody wants to give up space, but we’re both publicly funded. And less space doesn’t mean programs have to disappear. At Equitas we’ve never had and likely never will have computer labs. Our yoga teacher doesn’t have a classroom. She hopes for clear days to teach on our patch of grass. Our first year we didn’t have a playground. Our Special Education staff members share my office. We don’t have a teacher’s lounge. This is how I feel when asking the district for space…. beggin.gif

This week got very interesting. At our monthly Cafecito (Coffee with the Principal) parents expressed fear. They shared they’re scared to wear Equitas sweaters in our community. They fear their students attending a school where they’re not welcome. I told them I felt confident we could resolve the conflict. I told them this was the time to unite as a community. Pico Union cannot be divided, and we cannot teach our students to hate. I see this experience as an opportunity to work collaboratively, show our students we can work together, and to teach acceptance and kindness. Maybe I see the world with rose-colored glasses, and don’t truly understand the district/charter divide, but I’m not going to contribute to the problem. We can and we must work together.148879-full.jpg

Thursday evening during a protest at my school I was at LAUSD’s headquarters in Downtown LA meeting with the Local Superintendent, Equitas’ CEO and COO, other district employees, a School Board representative, and the Principal at the school we’ll be housed at next year. Our CEO and COO worked incredibly hard to schedule the meeting. Thank you for all your hard work in making this happen. At first it felt a bit hostile. But as the meeting progressed, it felt more positive. The Principal hadn’t gotten any information regarding our co-location. He was asked why he hadn’t been communicating with his families, and he responded with “Communicate what? I haven’t gotten any information. All I know is through rumors.” For whatever reason he was under the impression we were coming with middle schoolers. He was rightfully upset about 7th and 8th graders sharing space with his elementary school students. He also had no idea the deal was done, and thought there was still time to negotiate. He also thought this was a longer term deal. He didn’t know we’d be in and out in a year.

Our CEO and I expressed over and over that we recognized we were guests, that we were grateful for any and all space, that we’d collaborative as much or as little as he requested, and that we were willing to share some of our resources. He warmed up to us, and the meeting ended with a commitment to work with our families to understand that it is our responsibility to model positive co-existence to our students.

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Outdoor Community Meeting

He asked to check-in with Malka and I after the meeting. We exchanged contact information, and I’m so grateful that he invited me to visit the space. The next day I lyfted to the school, hid my face, and made my way to the main office. I appreciated the Principal’s professionalism, and he was so kind in spending time showing me the space. The students at the school clearly love and respect him. I was amazed at how many names he knew considering it’s a school of 1200 students. He’s built strong rapport and I was impressed with how his language was so student centered. He stated “These classrooms will be most comfortable for your Kindergarteners” and “This space might be best for your recess and PE.” There was no talk of inconvenience towards adults, and this made me feel hopeful and excited about collaborating with him.

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Our Amazing Team

There is much work to do, but I’m glad there is some sort of resolution as I head into Spring Break. Knowing I’ve connected with the Principal and we’re both committed to professional and positive co-location will allow me focus on visiting Michigan and Ohio, and making my way to Boston for the marathon next weekend.

Although I’m an Equitas employee, this experience has made me realize just how much we need support as a network. We’re not given space, we have to fundraise for it. Our per-pupil funding is less than that of traditional public schools. We rely heavily on grants and donors. Despite less funding, Equitas Academy is a top performing network in Los Angeles. This might make little sense, but yesterday I decided to become a reoccurring donor to Equitas Academy. I’m giving $50 a month to support a cause that I know is making a positive impact and is closing the achievement gap for it’s scholars. Why wouldn’t I give to the cause I care about most? I ask you to join me in becoming a donor at Equitas Academy. $50 a month can help build a classroom library, help us provide free uniforms to families who cannot afford them, and can help us purchase classroom materials and supplies. Bigger gifts can help us with providing stronger professional development for our teachers, provide more programs for our students, and secure space for our growing network. I didn’t start this post intending to ask for your support!

So now I rest for a week, take my mind off my #1 passion, my school, and shift focus to my two other passions, running and family (yes Alaina, you’re family). It’s time to rest, eat, foam roll, stretch, relax, see family, and re-energize so that I can come back to school on April 19th ready to finding off the 2016-2017 year strong. Spring Break started with a bang, at MB Post with Alaina and Cecilia. Cocktails during taper time is a great idea, right 🙂 IMG_7133.JPG

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Ventura Half Marathon Race Review + Our Little School

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Before I jump into all things running, I need talk about our beautiful little school. Yesterday we had our first Community Meeting of the year. At this weekly event we invite parents and celebrated one scholar from each homeroom who exemplified our school values over the course of the week. Yesterday was the first day that felt somewhat smooth. I need to make a huge poster next summer that says “It gets better” and hang it up in my office.

August and September are insane. Lower elementary is so different in the fall than middle school. Middle schoolers start compliant and eager, and gradually start testing you, while elementary school kids need a lot of socializing. On top of the regular get school running craziness and learning the new personalities of some of our more difficult students, we have our annual audit at the end of the month and this week our permanent facility project is going to city hall for a public hearing. We’re rallying a huge group of parents to join us at our hearing so that we can be sure to get approved finish our project by the 2017-2018 school-year.14305278_10104883651110857_2912348494288250708_o.jpg

The Saturday after the first week of school I was so ready to sleep in , but I couldn’t make it past 5:30 am. I was lazy all morning. By lazy I mean I had a huge bowl of granola, two cups of coffee, and worked for four hours. It was so nice to get uninterrupted work done on the couch. Saturday night Brent and I went out for dinner in Costa Mesa at the #2 Jonathan Gold restaurant, Taco Maria. It did not disappoint. Worth the drive down to Orange County. I carbed up with the 4 course meal (and margarita-ed) up and was ready to run on Sunday. IMG_5259.JPGSunday morning Gisele, Ellen and I met up to make the drive to Ventura for a 6:30 am start time. I wondered what my Mexican food would do to me on race day (I might swear by it now). We ran into Shannon at Starbucks in Ventura, one of the Marina girls I run with. She was there to support Emily and Alison, going for a BQ on the day before registration. Spoiler alert, they did it! Emily finished in 3:23 (she needed a 3:40) and Alison finished in 3:27 (needing a 3:35).

I was screaming like a crazy woman watching them cross the finish line. So so happy for them! I also ran into Kristine Rezny, our counseling intern back at KIPP who now works full time at a Green Dot middle school. She’s coming back from injury, but is also a Boston Qualifier and will be there in 2017. Boston’s gonna be a big ole party this year! Ellen, Gisele, Alison, Emily, Kristine. Can’t wait for this year’s nerd convention. Screen Shot 2016-09-17 at 5.58.07 PM.png

So the race, I was definitely going to try, and I was excited to see what I had in me. Even though I won entry to the race last minute and didn’t pay to participate (SO GRATEFUL!) I don’t see the point in going to a race and taking it easy. Why not just go for a run? I ran the first two miles on feel. 6:25ish. Turns out that was the pace of the day. I was in something like 5th place, and ran the first 5ish miles with a pack of guys. I was scared to be running what is fast for me stayed positive and eventually passed them.

To keep me calm and take my mind off the race, I cheered for the marathoners who we were passing. They started 30 minutes prior, so we were passing the 4:30-5:00 pace groups. At the turn-around I had worked my way to second place. I felt nervous because the girls I passed looked like “real runners.” They were more intense looking than me and visibly seemed to be taking the whole race more seriously.

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My arm on the right with the man pack. 

Gisele saw me at the turn around and shouted “you’re in second!” Around mile 9 I came up to the first place woman. It’s really awkward passing someone for first. I turned to her and said “Thank you. You’ve been pushing me. I hope I don’t fall apart!” I wondered how much she hated me for talking to her, but I ran into her after the race and she was so sweet! She goes “You didn’t fall apart! Congratulations!” Gotta love the running community.

The last 4 miles were lonely. Being an out-and-back course, I had passed everyone on the turn around and there were no other runners in sight, but I just held it and only allowed myself to look at my pace, not the total time. I finished with the 5Kers, looked down at my watch and saw 1:24:06. Finishing 1st out of 900ish women felt pretty darn good. Granted, I’m pretty sure all the fasties were at the Santa Monica Classic 10K, happening the same day. I couldn’t believe the 2 minute PR and was so happy with how comfortably hard it felt. Gisele looked so strong finishing in 1:27, and Ellen made her 1:36 look easy. She’s definitely got a sub 1:35 in her. Next up, Long Beach on October 9th!

Thinking of running this race next year?

Pros:

  • Flat course
  • Start and finish at the Ventura Pier
  • Great energy!
  • Free photos
  • Race day pick-up for an extra fee
  • Lots of post race food
  • Cute shirts and performance hats
  • Free parking all over town
  • Lots of water stations with nuun

Cons:

  • If you don’t like out and backs, you’ll hate this course. I like them because you can see your friends who are running the race too!
  • A good hour drive from LA

 

And I have to leave you with photos from my post-long run brunch. We’ve been to The Tasting Kitchen for dinner, but never for brunch. Short rib hash was the perfect recovery food. Carbs. Iron. Deliciousness. And yummy cocktails that I imagine aren’t great for recovery, but make life fun.

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No Watch November

Back in May after the LA Marathon, Boston Marathon and Vancouver Marathon Marta, Ellen and I did Mix It Up May as a way to take a break from miles and miles of running. It helped me get excited about training for New York, and it was a great way to explore the many workout studios LA has to offer. After the New York Marathon, I’m calling it No Watch November. I’m running Boston in April, and I’m super excited about running my best there now that I have experience with the course, but I need a break so that I don’t go into training feeling tired. I’m ditching the Garmin in November. No checking splits. No specific mileage plan. Just running how long I want…how fast I want…when I want. I will admit I’m a little sad New York is over, but rather than jumping into more hard training and burning myself out, I’m reminding myself that I have the rest of my life to run. The marathon rewards those who are patient. I’m just going to keep chipping away at the time. With less running there’s been more time for school, enjoying LA, and cooking. Here’s what we’ve been up to…

School…

Avocado Seed Observations

Alaina’s Yoga Class

Intervention with Ms. FitzGerald

LA Living…

Manhattan Beach Sunset

Cocktails with Marta and Alaina at Manhattan Beach Post

Back to Santa Monica Power Yoga with Rudy

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Green Juice after Yoga. We’re so LA.

Marta and Cecilia at Bestia!

The bone marrow and Lucy. Oh bone marrow!

What’s Cooking…

Homemade Muesli: Gogi Berries, Raisins, Cacoa Nibs, Hemp Seeds and Pepitas

Oatmeal with Dates, Candied Pecans, Peanut Butter and Granola. I’m trying to copy OatMeals.

Proud of my Friday lunch 🙂 Rice, kimchi, sweet potatoes and bok choy.

Pumpkin Tortilla Chips with Black Beans, Spinach, Soyrizo and Cheese