heard us crying?”
That was how Luther Burbank Middle School Senior Administrative Assistant Alma Carranza responded to a caller’s query this past Friday whether it was true that Principal Arturo Valdez is leaving.
The good news for Carranza and her colleagues is that Valdez, who led the school for three and a half years during one of its most difficult periods, isn’t going far at all: Starting Monday, he will be principal of Benjamin Franklin High School.
“The freeway shouldn’t be packed from here to Franklin,” Valdez joked during an interview with Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch on his last day at Burbank.
Valdez’s promotion is a testament to his administrative success at Burbank Middle School, which was required by the Los Angeles Unified School District in April 2011 to reconstitute itself after years of failing to meet state standards in Math and English.
In December 2010, Luther Burbank had an API of 663, well below the 696 average of schools similar in size and demographics. By December 2012, after Valdez changed as much as 80 percent of the school’s teachers, Luther Burbank’s API score stood at 794—a 101-point improvement that was 56 points higher than similar LAUSD schools.
Valdez credits his success to “a common vision, shared strategies and effective implementation.” The new teachers that he brought in introduced new pedagogical approaches, which, combined with a renewed focus on what Valdez calls “pride in the classroom,” dramatically altered Burbank’s academic landscape.
There’s no doubt that Valdez’s biggest achievement is in the area of classroom instruction. “We’ve had some great results,” he said. “Kids are better prepared now than ever before to go to high school.”
And now Valdez hopes to bring the same focus on rigorous instruction to Franklin.
“Good instruction looks exactly the same, whether in elementary, middle or high school,” he said. “And Franklin has a very long tradition of good instruction. I’m interested in learning it and making it better.”
Asked how he hopes to improve an already good situation, Valdez said he would work partly through parents.
“My biggest supporters have been the parents,” he said. “Some of them are already at Franklin, so I’m thinking of reconnecting with them.”
Despite his administrative achievements and connections with the community, Valdez didn’t exactly expect to get the top job at one of Northeast L.A.’s most prestigious high schools.
“I can tell you it was the happiest I’ve ever been,” he said, referring to the day he learned he had got the job he applied for. “To go to a comprehensive high school with a very rich tradition—that’s an honor.”
Correction: The pervious version of this article inadvertently identified Principal Arturo Valdez erroneously by the last name Chavez in two sentences.