Board of Education Honors Legends

LOS ANGELES – Noted physician Dr. Sammy Lee is one of our own.  He graduated from Franklin High School, Class of 1939.  A scholar-athlete, passionate about studying and practicing platform diving, he became the first Asian American to win an Olympic Gold Medal for the United States.

Lee, a native Californian of Korean descent, won his first gold in the 10-meter platform in 1948 at the London Games. Four years later in Helsinki, he became the first male Olympian to win back-to-back gold medals in the same category.

Today, the Board of Education voted to honor him by naming a new elementary campus the Dr. Sammy Lee Medical and Health Sciences Magnet School. Located at 3600 W. Council St. it is scheduled to open on Tuesday, August 13 for the start of the 2013-14 school year.

“We honor a great leader today, welcoming Dr. Sammy Lee Medical and Health Science Magnet Elementary School to the LAUSD family,” said Board President Mónica García. “Our students and families celebrate the inspiration of his life story.  He models cultural pride, courage, hard work and perseverance.”

Speakers also supported the name change.  Michelle Steel, Vice Chair, California State Board of Equalization, said, “As the highest ranking elected Korean American in the United States and as one of California’s twelve constitutional officers, I want to unequivocally recommend that Central Region Elementary School (CRES) #20 be renamed the Dr. Sammy Lee Medical Magnet School. It would be absolutely fitting to rename this elementary school after Dr. Sammy Lee. He is an inspiration to all Americans for not only his accomplishments as an Olympic athlete but for his medical career which will inspire the students at this medical magnet school.”

Linda D. Paul, President and CEO, USA Diving said, “To name a school after Dr. Lee would be inspirational as Sammy is a Korean American who overcame discrimination to realize both his father’s desire that he become a doctor and his own dream of becoming an Olympic champion.”

Two other campuses also received new names today.

While under construction, it was simply known as Central Regional Elementary School #21. As of today, the new campus will be called the Sally Ride Elementary School: A SMArT Academy, named in honor of the first American woman astronaut.

The Ride School, located at 1041 East 46th Street in South Central Los Angeles opened in September of 2012.  It relieved overcrowding at five neighborhood schools in an area so dense in population that for decades, children had to be bused to another school far away from their homes.

Board Member Bennett Kayser represents the area in which the school is located.  He said, “I am thrilled that once again the Los Angeles Unified School District is taking the opportunity to celebrate one of its highest achieving alumnae, Sally Ride. (Portola Middle School) Beyond breaking the glass ceiling as an astronaut, Dr. Ride’s contributions to Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math (STEAM) education are significant. In naming this school the Sally Ride Elementary School: A SMArT Academy, the children and staff of have joined a legacy of greatness and I expect much future success.”

The new Diego Rivera Learning Complex, a high school named today in honor of the acclaimed Mexican artist, features four small learning communities with their own classrooms and science labs. They share a library, a multi-purpose room, two gymnasiums, performing arts classrooms, offices and playfields. Located at 6100 South Central Avenue, the campus opened to students in 2011.

Considered one of the most acclaimed artists of the 20th Century, the painter is best known for his large public murals. Many celebrated Mexico—its people, Indian heritage, earliest civilizations, history, culture, art, sculpture, dance, music, poetry, drama and labors--agricultural and industrial. And, by the way, he was married for a time to another famous artist Frida Kahlo.

Rivera's life was filled with contradictions - a pioneer of Cubism who promoted art for art's sake, he became one of the leaders of the Mexican Mural Renaissance. Considered a great revolutionary artist in some camps, he also painted society portraits. Not limited to Mexico, he received mural commissions from the United States where he continued to champion workers, and display a fascination with the form and function of machines. He is known for major works in San Francisco, Detroit and other areas of the U.S. At the invitation of the Rockefeller family, he took his talents to New York.  In vibrant colors he depicted many scenes in a piece for Rockefeller Center.  Never one to shy away from controversy, he included a portrait of Lenin, which some found offensive.  His offer to add a portrait of Lincoln was rejected, and the mural was destroyed.

The school named for him and the other campuses are part of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s current $19.5 billion New School Construction and Modernization program.  The goal of this program is to provide every student with the opportunity to attend a safe and healthy neighborhood school operating on a traditional, two-semester calendar.

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Contact: Daryl Strickland (213) 241-6766