New Magnet School in Strathmore

September 30, 2008 6:50:19 PM PDT
A new school, new materials and a whole new way of learning are what some South Valley students are experiencing this year. Harmony Magnet Academy in Strathmore is a brand new high school that specializes in performing arts and engineering. The academy also had a special visitor on Tuesday.State Schools Chief Jack O'Connell stopped by Harmony Magnet Tuesday afternoon. He talked to administrators, met with students and sat in on few classes. Many of the 149 students who are part of the school's first freshman class say this school will take them to the next level when they graduate.

From editing videos on new Mac computers to strumming away in a guitar class, the freshman class of Harmony Magnet Academy in Strathmore say they're taking advantage of the only specialized school of its kind in Tulare County.

Hailey Tsuboi from Strathmore says "It's something different and Strathmore it's a little town and nothing real exciting happens around here so this is a pretty big deal for Strathmore."

Logan Couch, a student from Porterville, says "I wanted to become an engineer because it's just a great opportunity and the job seems like it would be a fun job to do for the rest of my life."

Porterville Unified was one of 13 school districts picked nationwide by the National Academy Foundation to build an engineering and fine arts-based school. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell took a tour of the school Tuesday. He told the entire class they're lucky to go to a school that prepares them to be leaders in the working world.

Jack O'Connell says "These students are going to benefit for jobs. Not just jobs available today but jobs that will be in demand the next decade, as well."

In addition to their specialized classes, students also complete a rigorous math, science and English curriculum. The school not only boasts hi-tch engineering equipment and a brand new performing arts center, but a different, more vocational approach to high school education.

Principal Michael Hensen says "All of our teachers who have chosen to come here know they are teaching differently, that they have an integrated approach to embedding engineering and performing arts in the curriculum."

Harmony Magnet is a public school so there's no application to get in but since it is a charter school there is a lottery if there are more applicants than available spaces.

Officials want the grades to stay at around 150 students so they can keep the classes small.

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