This year marks the end of a long relationship with Leland High School. I graduated from Leland in 1975, my daughter 2009 and finally my son this year. Having graduated from Leland in 1975, I attended University of California at Davis and then attended Northwestern University in Chicago where I received my DDS. After getting married in 1983, we agreed to move to South San Jose in 1984 because of the highly rated school district I grew up in—specifically Leland High School. We were willing to pay a premium to buy a house in South San Jose to be in the Leland-Bret Hart school district.
This blog entry is not to honor Leland, but to put it to sleep. Has anybody noticed the free fall from grace that Leland High School has been in since 2007? With the two major scandals rocking the school in the last two month, its seems everyone is just now noticing something that I have been seeing these last 5 years. The administration and teachers of Leland are failing to lead and inspire. There has been a total breakdown in the Leland High School Legacy. School Pride is gone. Most of the good tenured faculty have left Leland or are now too old to care. We no longer rule Speech and Debate. And academically, private high schools with populations of South San Jose kids, are consistently bettering us academically as well as athletically. Yes there are a few individual exceptions, Its not often you have a student accepted to Harvard, Princeton and Stanford, but Ive known that family since kindergarten and and work ethic and achievement runs strong in that family outside of Leland High School and Leland does not deserve credit for that. Leland has never been lacking in highly intelligent and motivated high school students—especially with the ethnic diversity shifting towards cultures that value education with its current 58% minority enrollment. Leland high school does not care about the remaining 42% mid and lower achieving students. For many of the really smart kids at Leland, school is like a video game with the goal being a trophy college admission. Some kids are naturally brilliant and other are clever enough to beat the system at Leland—the recent cheating scandal at Leland is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to gaming the administration for better grades. There are instances of unreported cheating—in one situation, a high ranking, popular ASB officer was caught taking pictures of a test and it went unreported even though he was caught in the act. Leland prides itself on high achieving students but they didn’t create them.
The way a school motivates and educates the borderline student is what defines the quality of the school. A borderline student is a student who has a grade that is close to a B—78% to 79.9%. If your child falls into this category, Leland High School is toxic. The “school policy” of not returning test illustrates the apathy and lazyness of the teachers at Leland. Once you fall behind, you are gone. To college admissions, the difference between a C+ and a B- is a full point—it is either a 3 or a 4 and not a 2.5 vs a 2.7. A student with too many B’s has no chance of getting into a good UC. The traditional fall back UC—US Santa Cruz- had an average admission standard this year of 3.8. With today’s college admission standards at such a high level, a C or B grade in and AG class is a virtual death sentence to anyone wishing to attend a quality UC. This is why many Leland students to drop classes if they feel they are getting C’s despite tutoring and teacher confernences.. Instead they choose to take them in the summer, at night at community college or online and transfer them to a Leland transcript. It is a known fact that it is easier to get an A or B from these sources. Leland should have realized that the reason for their drop in Newsweek ranking from 2007 to 2012 is the fact that they were not empowering and encouraging freshman and sophomores by giving them the benefit of the doubt on wobblers C-B grades. A “C” student is not pursuing AP class’s in the future and his destiny is set in stone. No AP classes means NO UC acceptance. This could have easily been achieved if test preparation was more efficient straight forward and exams were returned to students. Only Lazy teachers don’t write new test each year and return them after every exam. Good teachers know how to provide test preparation that a student can use to do well on a test. Teaching through exams is ridiculous at the high school level.
The primary basis of Newsweek’s High School Rankings is the availability and utilization of AP classes. How do I know this? My son had taken a Leland precalc class his sophomore year with a teacher that refused to return test and refused to work with his tutors. Despite his supervised and motivated efforts to bring his grade to a mere B, we had him drop out of the class and take the same class in a community college where he received an A. You would think that the college class would be more difficult but it was not—just better teachers. I remember a few years ago when my ASB President daughter Graduated from Leland, one of her friends from Pioneer who graduated Valedictorian, was rejected from UCD with a 4.0 gpa. It should be the mission of Leland to give the benefit of the doubt to the borderline student especially in the freshman and sophomore years—give any student with a 75% or better grade average a “B” instead of a “C”. And, it is not just me that feels this way about Leland High.
The Parade of Leland Scandals
Oct 7, 2005 – A high school teacher accused of keeping child pornography on a school-issued Brian K. Jessee, 44, a yearbook teacher at Leland High School, was arrested on a $25,000 misdemeanor warrant for possessing child pornography
Apr 3, 2012 – The Leland High School students disciplined last week in a test-stealing scandal
Apr 3, 2012 Joseph Reghitto, Leland High School Vice Principal Arrested for Alleged Unlawful Sex with a minor in September 2011
2012 school year – Leland Cheerleading team is told to suppress scandal involving girls sneaking away from a hotel and getting drunk with their boyfriends. As a consequence, several girls are secretly kicked of cheerleading team and on boy is kicked out of ASB with no reasons given.
2012 School Year—ASB president caught takeing pictures of a test and not given a cheating file to avoid public scandal over ASB faculty leadership.
The Newsweek Rankings.
-Leland High School in 2003 Ranked 389 Index-1458
– Leland High School in 2004 unranked
-Leland high school in 2005 Ranked 352 Index-1832
-Leland High School in 2006 Ranked 273 Index-2258
-Leland High School in 2007 Ranked 408 Index- 2083
-In 2009 Leland was unranked
In 2010 Leland was unranked
In 2011 Leland was unranked
In 2012 Leland was ranked 314
During the 2009-2010 School year on which the 2012 ranking is based, Leland was 42% Asian with 58% of the student population being ethnic. According to the ranking, 57% of the student population took part in AP tests with an 89% pass rate. There are only 8% economically disadvantaged students. Since this is a major part of the Newsweek ranking, its easy to understand how the administration is taking credit for high academic standards, but the reality of this is that the parents of the Asian 42% are responsible for this statistic. Unfortunately, for future Leland students, this Newsweek ranking won’t help the borderline 50% of students who need skilled teachers to have a shot at great college. I can only reflect my personal experience with my children who now have both graduated from Leland. My Daughter who attends UC Berkley and my son who will be attending University of Oregon both started out at Leland at the top 10% of Bret Harte’s graduating class. In hindsight, I can say that my kids have definitely given back to the school more than I did in my 4 years at Leland. Both kids, elected ASB officers every year, put everything they had into their academics, extracurricular and community spirit. You would think that with 8 years of ASB , Captain positions is more than one Varsity Sports, Victories at Speech and debate tournaments and good to great GPA’s that Leland would have recognize their contributions. Not the case with either child. The faculty but for a few exceptions has done just about everything they can to discourage. stifle and ignore their progress and achievements. Specifically, outrageous class scheduling, unreturned email communications, and total apathy when it came to the performance of a C or B student. Despite that, the efforts we as parents made outside of Leland are responsible for their successes. Besides the recent scandals that made the newspapers, I can attest to teachers who were buying Marijuana from students and actually teaching while high over the last 8 years.
And finally, how about that graduation ceremony at the Rose Garden? Besides a bunch of strange adults giving keynotes in the absence of the principle and other administrators that spent the last 4 years with our kids, there were numerous mistakes and errors on the program that left several Validictorians off of the program and absolutely no acknowledgement of the ASB officers. What a joke.
Goodbye and good riddance to Leland High School. I know many parents who quietly pulled their kids out of Leland in the middle of their high school education and put them in private schools. With the news that the upper administration has been purged with the conviction of the rapist vice principle, maybe Leland will finally take this chance to re-establish the old ways that made it great. I doubt it though, there is no one left with the vision.