Laura Pogio, an 8th grader at Everett Middle School who lives in the Mission, told U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan on Tuesday that she thinks transportation is the hardest thing about school.
She takes Muni the 1.6 miles from her home at Harrison and 24th streets to Everett at Church and 17th, but generally arrives late. She wants better transportation.
Secretary Donvan light-heartedly told Pogio that he would bring that request back to President Obama, but then added in a more serious tone, “Those are the kinds of ideas we want to hear.”
While it is unlikely that Donovan or the President can do much about Pogio’s immediate problem, he heard more.
“We do have a big problem with tardiness to first period,” Principal Lena Van Haren told the Washington visitor, adding that this often has to do with transportation problems.
Secretary Donovan and Mayor Ed Lee stopped by Everett because it is receiving funding from a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. Among other things, the grant is meant to improve services at Mission schools and the ways in which social service agencies interact with the schools.
On Tuesday, Donovan and Lee sat around a table in the school’s library with about 20 students and teachers to talk about the school’s success and challenges. The school is in its final semester of funding from a three-year, $4.5 million School Improvement Grant. The boost from that grant gave officials and students plenty to say about their recent progress.
Everett has moved up 40 points in the Academic Performance Index, making it the most improved school in the city for the past year, according to Mayor Lee. Principal Van Haren, however, pointed out that the school’s test scores remain below the district’s average.
Most of the students responded to Secretary Donovan’s inquiries about the school by saying that they loved their teachers, describing them as helpful and friendly.
Kayla Rash, an 8th grader at the school who lives in the Sunset, said that the school’s Wellness Center is her favorite part of Everett.
“You can go to the Wellness Center for bullying or if you have problems at home,” she said.
Principal Van Haren said that some of the new federal grant will go towards further improving the center.
Litzy Tacuba, an 8th grader who lives in the Mission, said she’s noticed that a lot of Latinos have left her neighborhood.
“Mission has changed a lot. Now there are a lot of white people. I used to see more Latinos. It’s more expensive now because of white people, so we have to move out and come farther for school,” Tacuba said.
President Obama, Donovan said, is trying to create more affordable housing in the neighborhood so that Latino and lower income families would not have to move out. He mentioned the Valencia Gardens housing project, which first went up 66 years ago and was rebuilt in 2004.
Mayor Lee acknowledged that “There’s gentrification, and people are being pushed out” and added that “the city wants their families to stay.” He did not elaborate on how this would happen.
Following the visit at Everett, Secretary Donovan and Mayor Lee toured the Valencia Gardens housing project, which they considered to be a successful example of affordable housing. Valencia Gardens, like Everett, has also received some of the new innovation and improvement grant.