JSerra’s Growth Continues Despite Challenging Economy

* This column was published in the current edition of The Capistrano Dispatch

The budget crisis affecting the state’s public schools sadly turned into a recent street side spectacle in south Orange County.

Frank Talarico

The five-day teacher strike in the Capistrano Unified School District underscores the grave challenges facing the public education system.

And while 2,200 teachers in Capo Unified are dealing with the realities of 10.1 percent pay cut, their public outcry is symbolic of widespread frustration with the fiscal state of California’s public education system.

No one likes to see teachers hoisting picket signs. Unfortunately, the standoff in Capistrano Unified could be a sign of things to come.

Fortunately, JSerra Catholic High School continues to thrive, buffeted from the budgetary storms that are ravaging public schools.

Despite a harsh economy, enrollment at JSerra is up 100 students compared to the same time last year. No teachers at JSerra are in danger of losing their jobs because of the economy. In fact, there’s talk of expanding job benefits.

JSerra has not been forced to cut any science, art or extracurricular activities.

And while teachers at public school are being forced to contend with ever-increasing class sizes, class sizes at JSerra remain the same.

Bottom line, the quality education provided at JSerra is not being compromised despite the challenges of the economy. In fact, our school, closing in on wrapping up its seventh year, continues to thrive on all fronts, from academics to athletics to the arts.

Starting with the latter, the hills definitely are alive. The JSerra Theater Program recently presented the beloved musical The Sound of Music to the delight of families and the community.

Also on the arts front, the JSerra Chamber Choir and Advanced Women’s Ensemble recently traveled to New York City to compete in the invitation-only Elite Performance Series of the Festival at Carnegie Hall during the Festival of Gold Heritage Series.

Turning to recent academics achievements, junior Chloe Kempf was recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), having scored over a 201 on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying test in 2009. She is among the 50,000 highest-scoring participants from some 1.5 million applicants. Kempf will also be part of our first pre-med magnet program classes, a unique new curriculum geared at training the next generation of medical professionals.

On the athletics front, we continue to make headlines. Our boys soccer team earned our first CIF championship in any sport – and our baseball team is ranked among the county’s best.

Hopefully, for the sake of Capo Unified and public schools everywhere, teachers and district leaders soon can reach agreement and get back to the business of educating our youth. Fortunately, at JSerra, that vital mission remains uninterrupted.