First All-Girl Public School To Open on LA High Campus

Liz Hicks will be the principal of the Girls Academic Leadership Academy opening next fall.

Liz Hicks will be the principal of the Girls Academic Leadership Academy opening next fall.

MID-WILSHIRE—The Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA) is now accepting applications for incoming sixth and ninth grade students for its inaugural 2016-2017 school-year.

The school will be the first non-charter, all-girls school in the Los Angeles School District (LAUSD) and will feature a highly rigorous STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—curriculum.

The school will have its own facilities located on the Los Angeles High School campus on Olympic Boulevard just south of Windsor Village.

“It is clear that within our District, our female student population is underserved in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines said when the school board unanimously approved the new school last April. “Not only will this new school help our students discover their potential, think critically and develop important intellectual skills, it will also prepare them for college and beyond.”

Unlike other specialized public schools—such as magnet schools—GALA is a full open enrollment school. This means there are no geographical preferences—all girls within the LAUSD’s boundaries are equally welcome to apply.

As the curriculum will be highly rigorous, it is critical to find girls who are motivated students.

For Liz Hicks, the principal of GALA, it all boils down to one key question: “Do you have an interest in being part of an all-girls STEM highly rigorous school and will you put in the effort to do the work?”

Hicks has previously served as a teacher, an assistant principal at multiple schools and for the last six years, as a Counseling Coordinator working with counselors at dozens of LAUSD schools to help students be college prepared and career ready.

Hicks, whose daughters attended the private, all-girls Marlborough School, said the idea for GALA came about from conversations she had with her fellow LAUSD employees.

“There were several [of us] who had their daughters in all-girls private schools,” said Hicks, “and we all kept saying to each other over the years, ‘Why can’t we do this for our girls in LA Unified?’”

Hicks and her team reached out to the Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem, which opened in 1996 and is now the flagship school in a national network of all-girls schools. There, they not only found a model of successful all-girls schools in an urban environment, but mentors who showed them how it’s done.

Although there was support for the idea among LAUSD leadership, there were legal obstacles regarding a public school only serving girls.

In response, Hicks and her team proposed an all-boys academy for LAUSD, which would focus on areas where boys statistically falter: English and Language Arts.

A vote by the LAUSD school board on that proposal, which currently does not have a location, may come as early as this spring.

Hicks said she has cultivated partnerships with educational institutions such as Harvey Mudd College, USC and UCLA as well as with several businesses to create the STEM curriculum. She said she will continue to seek alliances that will bring materials—such as two recently acquired flight simulators—to the school’s “maker space,” a lab for hands-on projects.

The school will open to grades 6 and 9 in the 2016-17 school year, grow one grade level per year, and serve grades 6 through 12 by 2020. Applications will be accepted through January 6th.

GALA leadership plans to visit schools and parent groups to present their program. Requests for information sessions can be submitted at: galacademy.org

Leave a Reply