Sussman’s Magnetizing Transformation

Adrian Soto, Writer

Downey Unified School District met on Jan. 15 to discuss Sussman Middle School’s possible conversion to a magnet school.  The news has arisen some opinions from previous middle school students and DUSD teachers in nearby schools.


A great variety of school options are made available to parents when deciding what school they should send their child to.  One option is a magnet school, such as the one Sussman could become. A magnet school is a public school that possesses specialized programs and instruction unlike that of any other school near it such as International Baccalaureate, and engineer-focused performance classes. Additionally, magnet schools have increased diversity than most public schools around it. California currently has the highest number of magnet schools in the United States at 546 schools.


District board representative and AVID coordinator, Mrs. Andra Macomber, possesses a strong opinion on the idea of magnet schools and Downey’s inclusion of one.  


“I like the idea of a specialized school,” Macomber said.  “I like the idea of schools that have programs to include performing arts and science. Conceptually I like the idea. My only reservation is that I want it to offer something new and not take away from the specialized programs at the high schools. It’s nice to explore new avenues but we need research to make it successful.”


At the meeting, the school board wishes to find ways to increase the declining enrollment at Downey schools.  In the last four years, DUSD has lost about three hundred students per year. After further discussion and investigation, DUSD discovered that virtually every district nation-wide is suffering from declining enrollment.  Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education, Wayne Shannon and Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education, Roger Brossmer presented their ideas on a solution to this situation: IB programs, Dual Immersion, and Magnet Schools.  


Mrs. Macomber was also pensive about the district’s plans.


“The purpose of it [the magnet school] is to attract more students to our district, and to regain and keep students we could lose,” Macomber said.  “I want students to come to our schools and I believe this is one way to keep people in district. I also believe it is a good way to keep parents involved in our district.”


Shannon noted that most of the students DUSD loses in enrollment, transfer to neighboring magnet schools like that of ABC Magnet Schools.  He presented the benefits of starting magnet programs in schools such as Carpenter Elementary. Carpenter has the lowest student enrollment of all the elementary schools, and the plan is to have a few classrooms reserved for Dual Immersion (classes in English and Spanish) and IB centered instruction.  After some time, the board is favoring this motion as it proves beneficial without any drastic changes to Carpenter itself.


Proceeding Shannon’s marks, Brossmer began explaining the situation with Sussman Middle School.  He elaborated on both possible “pros and cons” to having a magnet school developed in the next few years.  Brossmer has been going from school to school in the district with Dr. Garcia, talking to the community and school faculty about Sussman turning into a magnet school.  Originally, Brossmer was aiming to break ground by the 19/20 or 20/21 school year under either an Accelerated or Gradual plan for Sussman’s possible reconstruction. These plans were very short notice to the Downey community and a lot of uneasiness sparked as a result.  More meetings regarding the schools in the district are scheduled throughout the coming weeks to ease information into the community.


Freshman and Junior Varsity baseball pitcher, Alejandro Salinas, was shocked to find out Sussman would no longer be a middle school.  He was a Sussman Pioneer and now might be one of the last.


“I didn’t really know about magnet schools… I know that they focus on academics, but I don’t think Sussman has the space for it,” Salinas said.  “I wouldn’t go there… I like the sports here in Downey.”


Downey High School and Warren High School continually aim to improve themselves.  As they underwent remodeling a few years ago, the schools continue to push forward programs like S.T.E.A.M. or more commonly known as S.T.E.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).  Additionally, the C.T.E (Career and Technical Education) programs encourage students to pursue careers such as that of educator, chef, and policemen. Given these developed programs, the main query that most students have is: “What new programs will this magnet school offer that the other schools do not?”


Kaithlyn Pineda, senior and previous Sussman Pioneer, felt indifferent to losing her old school in exchange of a magnet school.


“I personally feel it [the magnet school] is only beneficial to those who actually need to attend a magnet school,” Pineda stated.  “… It will overpopulate the surrounding high/middle schools and it will be harder for students to go to school because the one they’re transferred to will be farther from their home.”


Originally, community feedback showed that Downey’s inhabitants would appreciate a dual immersion program with Spanish, so the elementary dual immersion plans are currently progressing.  Due to new community feedback and numerous amounts of meetings throughout Downey, the magnet school and its possible location plans have been put on hold. No new construction is expected and voting for the schools is off the DUSD Board’s agenda for Feb.15.