Editor’s Notebook: A pathway to educational innovation

David N. Young, editor of the Catalina Islander.

School will start soon and so will a long awaited program designed to improve the future generations of Catalina Island residents.

Principal Christopher Lounsbery says the new Avalon School program is a “paradigm shift” in educational thinking and has been in development for many years.

Lounsbery said the Long Beach Unified School District has finally green-lighted the program, so teachers and administrators will be implementing the “Career Technical Pathway” program into its curriculum for the first time.

While this groundbreaking program will ultimately benefit Avalon School students, Lounsbery believes it will also bring long-term economic benefits to the island. Island specific knowledge will now be baked into routine educational classes that will eventually add value to job skills and higher education prospects.

Implementation of the program required the coordination and training of parents, teachers and a special Career Technical Education committee of Catalina business community. Additional part-time teachers were hired to develop the actual teaching materials that will be used, said Lounsbery.

Under the program, students will begin learning specific knowledge about Catalina Island’s hospitality industry. Here’s an example how it will work.

While the program involves many educational subjects, Lounsbery used the example of ecology.

For instance, students attending a science class will not only learn about ecology, they will be taught very specific aspects of the Catalina ecology.

“Eco-tourism is a huge industry,” said Lounsbery, and he said it will continue to develop over the years. And while 75 percent of Avalon school students attend a four-year or community college, Lounsbery said they will benefit along with those who don’t move on to higher education.

Say a student does not attend college but lands a job as a jeep tour conductor; this Catalina specific pathway program will open their eyes to scientific and technical knowledge about the island that will stay with them throughout their lives.

“We’re really excited about it and are grateful to everyone who helped us develop and implement it,” said Lounsbery as he and his staff prepared to begin school. He is also grateful to the faculty at Browning High School in Signal Hill, a “sister school” to Avalon, who have worked tirelessly with Avalon to make the program happen.

Lounsbery said the program will involve high school students in 9th through 12th grades, but could also be introduced to underclasses in brief preparatory sessions.

“This program will, in no way change our focus on preparing students for college,” said Lounsbery, saying the program will introduce Catalina specific pathway knowledge to those planning to move on to higher education and those who are not. He said the Catalina pathways program will benefit all students

However, working with the business community, the program will also prepare those who don’t move on for more productive employment on the island. “They are telling us what kinds of knowledge they need.”

Avalon is one of the few public schools in the state that teach students from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Their graduates have made legendary pursuits over the years. The traditions of Avalon school are unique and for good reason.

We can only wish Lounsbery and the Avalon School the best of luck with the Catalina pathways program.

Education is mostly a solitary pursuit but plays such a dominant role in the success of any society.

Something so groundbreaking as this educational innovation on what is already an incredibly unique community should not go unnoticed.

What a huge innovation for such a small school. The parents, business leaders and educators involved in making it happen did their quiet work but their efforts will speak loudly for years to come.

David N. Young is editor of the Catalina Islander. He may be reached at editor@thecatalinaislander.com.


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