Coffee with the Principal: Grab a drink and Converse


Image by Isaac Lichtman

The parent, Kristal Minor, talks to Principal Dr. McDonnell.

Students and parents had the chance to converse with the Principal over a cup of coffee about any worries or questions they might have. Mt. SAC Early College Academy (MECA), held their first Coffee with the Principal this year which started September 14, and will be a continuous event throughout the year.

Wanting to address any concerns parents might have, the Principal and Vice Principal were both present to get feedback on what they could improve about or get feedback on the mission or vision of the school, instructional programs, and boosting school spirit and morale. “[Our purpose was to] get some of their [parents] ideas and feedback on what we could do for each of those three areas,” explained Dr. Ryan McDonnell, Principal of MECA.

The event also had them talk about enrollment and recruitment for MECA.

“We brought up recruitment because we really want to have a fully enrolled school for the next couple of years,” Dr. McDonnell said. “And so I was really asking parents for ideas about how we can recruit more kids, how they found out about the campus.”

MECA is a closed campus based on school board policy and students need to qualify to sign out to leave the campus. Some of the things brought up during the event were how there were now actions taken to make the school safer. Some parents asked if these new actions were too restrictive for the students.

From left to right, parent Patricia Cervantes, Principal Dr. McDonnell, and the parent Kristal Minor. Dr. McDonnell converses with both of the parents. (Image by Isaac Lichtman)

“In the past year, I’ve seen [students] coming and going and that’s not really safe or allowed,” Dr. McDonnell continues. “So we were putting in place what should have been in place for the last couple of years.”

One of these actions was a senior off campus pass that required a GPA of 3.5; one parent worried that that was too high of a requirement.

“With the fact that you students are taking college classes… I think a 3.5 is a bit high for an off campus permit.” responds Kristal Minor, parent of senior Marcus Minor. She further explained by comparing to other schools, “Considering most high schools have it at 2.0 and with parent permission.”

Both Ms. Price and Dr. McDonnell agreed to look into if the GPA is too high, and they found that other high schools weigh their GPAs. Weighting is done with advanced classes as they’re worth more and end up impacting GPAs much more and MECA has college classes that are worth more when weighted.

“So the GPA for West Covina High school is also a 3.5, but they weigh their grades,” explained Ms. Tomoko Price, Assistant Principal of MECA, “which is why I sent out [to] anybody that wanted to look at their grades and weigh them because college classes are worth more. So a couple of people have been eligible for those.”

Another topic brought up during Coffee with the Principal was the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum or IGETC and how some parents don’t know about it, how it wasn’t clear, or should have a mainstream approach to it.

According to UC Admissions, IGETC “is a series of courses that California community college students can complete to satisfy most freshman/sophomore-level general education requirements before transferring to UC.”

IGETC is useful for students as it gives them information of what’s required to finish a broad amount of education before college, and some parents want a modern version that gives more information and prepares you to complete the IGETC.

“I asked that there be a more mainstream path to take from freshman year all the way up through senior year. You know, more idealistic of what classes [students] need to take like an MSW (Master of Social Work) program would or any BSW (Bachelor of Social Work) program.” said Kristal Minor.

One last topic talked about were extracurricular activities such as basketball or some sports that the parents want to see.

From left to right, Parent Isamar Cordero, Vice Principal Ms. Price, Freshman Gigi Mondragon, Parent Patricia Cervantes, Principal Dr. McDonnell, and Parent Kristal Minor. Parents, Vice Principal, and Principal discuss and get feedback about the school. (Image by Isaac Lichtman)

“I would hope that the school starts integrating sports or at least give the students the option to join sports at other district high schools.” said Isamar Cordero, mother of freshmen Gigi Mondragon.

The next date of Coffee with the Principal isn’t confirmed yet, but there’s an idea to do it every 6 weeks but as of now there are no confirmed dates.

“I’m thinking probably, maybe like the first week of November…And then maybe one more right before the holidays or at least when school returns” Dr. McDonnell ponders.