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To soothe rezoning woes, Liberty’s principal touts programs

Some parents upset that 240 students could move from Coronado

Updated Monday, Feb. 23, 2009 | 3:49 p.m.

Liberty info

To help answer questions from parents concerned about the switch, Gibson will be holding informational parent nights. The first will be at 6 p.m. Feb. 24 in room 203 of Liberty. Meetings will also be held at Charles Silvestri Junior High School, at 7 p.m. Feb. 26, and Del Webb Middle School, which is not yet scheduled.

Liberty High School's principal is defending the quality of her school in the wake of protests by Anthem parents that their children may be moved from Coronado High to Liberty.

"We have something for everyone," Principal Rosalind Gibson said before rattling off some of her proudest moments — from both boys and girls basketball teams that have made the regional playoffs to an award-winning dance program and the involvement of student volunteers.

"I think you'd find (students are) very happy here and they're safe here," she said.

About 240 students may be rezoned from Coronado to Liberty next year to ease crowding at Coronado and fill seats at Liberty. The final decision will be made at a School Board meeting 5:30 p.m. March 3 at the Edward A. Greer Education Center board room, 2832 E. Flamingo Road.

The potential rezoning has caused an uproar from many Madeira Canyon and Anthem Highlands parents, whose children would be moved. Some of their arguments have been aimed at the quality of Liberty's programs, saying the school isn't as good as Coronado.

Gibson doesn't agree. Offerings may be fewer or different, she said, but what Liberty offers is unequaled in much of the School District.

The education at Liberty works off a foundation of classical studies and the arts. Students have an opportunity to take classes such as Latin, which aren't offered at many, if any, other high schools, she said.

The foundation is directly responsible for helping the students score highly in language arts, she said.

Carolyn Edwards, School Board representative for Liberty, has touted the school several times at public School Board and Attendance Zone Advisory Commission meetings.

Because Liberty is 29 percent under capacity, fewer courses are offered, but the basics are there and much more, Gibson and Edwards said. Adding students will allow the school to offer more programs, they said.

Additionally, Edwards said, students have a better chance of getting involved with programs, whether they are sports or academics, because there are fewer students to compete for slots.

With Liberty under capacity by 750 students and Coronado over by 500 students, the commission hoped to move 350 students. The final recommendation to move 240 is the result of compromise.

"I think they should have moved more students in, but given the level of opposition, this is the compromise, and it's a reasonable compromise," Edwards said. "Doing nothing would be irresponsible. Doing the whole thing would be unfair."

Many ghosts from Liberty's past have come out with the announcement of rezoning, many of which have been taken to unfair or untrue levels, Gibson said.

One of the biggest misconceptions has been concerning drug use and fights on campus, she said. But reports show Liberty has fewer incidents on its campus than Coronado.

In the 2007-2008 school year, Liberty recorded one count of distribution of a controlled substance, two counts of possession or use of a controlled substance, two counts of possession or use of alcohol, and 53 counts of violence to other students. There were no instances of violence to staff or possession of a weapon.

In the same year, Coronado recorded two counts of distribution of a controlled substance, 19 counts of possession or use of a controlled substance, no counts of possession or use of alcohol, 59 counts of violence to other students, one count of violence to staff and nine counts of possession of a weapon.

That gives both schools a total incident rate of about three per 100 students.

Liberty students are some of the most respectful Gibson has encountered in her years as a principal, she said. Some of that shows through in their devotion to volunteering, she said.

Students tutor and help food banks. More than 100 students are also co-sponsoring a village in the Philippines through a program called Gawad Kalinga, Gibson said. It was an idea the students brought up and pursued, and one unique to Liberty.

Additionally, Liberty offers Advanced Placement courses in 14 subjects, she said. That compares with 16 subjects at Coronado.

Both offer AP classes in calculus, biology, chemistry, English, statistics, Spanish, U.S. government, U.S. history and world history.

Liberty also offers AP in art history, European history, Latin, Latin Vergil and human geography. Coronado also has AP courses in computer science, studio art, French, music theory, economics, physics and psychology.

Gibson isn't interested in filling all 750 seats right away, but she does feel it's important to gain as many students as possible.

If no students are brought over, Liberty would lose about 14 teachers, Gibson said, and with it programs. Additional students would save some of those positions and ensure continuance of the current programs, if not development of new ones.

While she would like an increase, she thinks the school will continue to thrive if no change is voted on at the School Board meeting.

"We'd still have a great school, because that's who we are," she said. "Our motto is, the best way to predict the future is to help create it."

Frances Vanderploeg can be reached at 990-2660 or [email protected].

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