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Lecture focuses on La Jolla schools

BY CAROLYN GRACE MATTEO

Contributor

The past, present and future of La Jolla High School came into focus last week when the La Jolla Historical Society hosted the second part of its 2010 Lecture Series.

Called “School Days: Celebrating the Past and Exploring the Future of La Jolla High Schools,” the focus this time was on the Nautilus Street campus — the second-oldest school in San Diego opened in 1922. In 1925, the first class of 11 students graduated from the school. This June 2010 will mark the 86th graduating class, with 342 students.

Sandy Coggan Erickson, Class of 1962 and founder of the LJHS Alumni Association, was the first of three speakers. She addressed obstacles the school has had to overcome over the course of its 88-year journey.

She was joined by Harry Crosby, Class of 1944 and a teacher from 1958 to 1963, who provided an entertaining rendition of his sobering experiences as a student of La Jolla High School during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Also speaking was Dana Shelburne, the school’s principal for the last 14 years, who talked about the present and future, success and challenges facing the school.

Erickson shared details about the donation of land the school district received from Ellen Browning Scripps, who had purchased the dairy farm adjacent to the up-and-coming campus and donated it to be utilized as an athletic area.

Erickson also told the story of the 1928 selection of the first mascot.

“They chose Vikings. Of course, the only other option at the time was sea gulls,” said Erickson with a chuckle.

The students’ first choice for school colors back then was green and white, but those colors had already been adopted by another school, she said. So, the school colors became scarlet and black.

Crosby discussed the middle years and entertained the audience with memories of his experiences as a student, and then later a faculty member.

He reflected upon the curtain of seriousness that dropped unexpectedly upon the male students during the 1940’s.

“We were cleaning fish on the lawn when we learned about Pearl Harbor,” he said. “In 10th grade, all us boys realized we were going to be involved in it. Suddenly, all the Japanese kids were removed from school. The whole atmosphere was like nothing I’ve seen since.”

Crosby added, “We knew that the more education we got the more opportunity we’d have to choose positions in the service. So, we became serious about studying.”

Shelburne outlined the school’s role in a system that he noted quantifies both student and school as “successful” or “unsuccessful” based upon test scores.

“The autonomy status of LJHS is greatly misunderstood,” said Shelburne. “We had a disagreement with then-Superintendent Allen Bernstein about what was good for students. We were saying their ideas were not good for kids. Happily, the community was supportive.”

He pointed to the school’s “proven record of success” and said that led to contract status of the school.

“That means we get to do things like pick our own courses, texts, sequences,” he added. “We said we need freedom or we will exit the district. They didn’t want to lose our test scores, so we got our freedom.”