by George J Elbaum
Terra Bella Academy is a small school for special risk students in grades 9-12 who are placed there for reasons such as expulsion, truancy, out-of-control behavior at school or home, and probation. The students typically work in a classroom setting, interact with their peers and change classes in ways similar to those of a comprehensive high school. However, the classes are small enough so the students are able to receive one-on-one assistance from their instructors, who not only provide academic instruction but also emphasize the skills needed to improve attendance and behavior. There is strong emphasis in maintaining a safe, orderly school environment conducive to learning.
My visit was arranged by Jack Weinstein of Facing History and Ourselves, and the event was planned and organized by teacher Maria Magana for her 2 classes of English totaling 37 students. Other teachers and staff attending the event were Angel Fuentes, Mitzi Marek, and Marques Buriss.
Jack had prepared me by stressing that students in this special alternative school often lead very insular lives in a narrow social environment, yet paradoxically are quite ”worldly” in ways that may or may not be acceptable in society at large – they may have made serious mistakes or bad choices, but can sometimes reinvent themselves and commit to improving academically and in their life choices.
(Note: Student photos will be added after approval by the school.)