T.I.M.E Community School (TCS) is a STEM and Visual Performing Arts High School, blending career-based learning, college readiness curriculum and hands-on learning with a focus on community service. TCS is committed to educating and advancing the lives of students, families and the community. The goal is that when students graduate, they will be ready to go onto college or join the workforce.
TCS was approved as a charter school in the city of Montebello in July 2020. It went on to become one of the few schools in Southern California that were opened during the beginning of the pandemic. TCS is free to attend and is funded like other public schools by the State of California through average daily attendance.
TCS leaders say that the school caters to families looking for an innovative education model that will motivate their children to achieve their potential in STEM-related fields such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the arts. TCS has also been recognized as a new member of the League of Innovative Schools. The League is a federal education program that connects and rallies the most forward-thinking leaders of the nation’s school districts.
Dr. Gabriel Ramirez has been in education for more than 23 years as a school administrator, director and teacher at both public and private schools. He says that he is passionate about the issues surrounding education reform and social justice, particularly where it concerns Latino families and students. Ramirez is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher and has created his own writing programs that have been implemented at school sites.
Ramirez has served as an instructor for prospective National Board Certified Teachers, as well as the Director of Teacher Induction for the California State University, Los Angeles teacher education program.
In addition, Ramirez earned his Doctorate of Education from the University of California, Los Angeles in Educational Leadership and his dissertation focused on how the environment affects student learning in the classroom. Ramirez believes that schools should be the hub of every community in Los Angeles and stakeholders should have access to quality local schools in order to provide social mobility for everyone. Ramirez hopes to assist in their reformation so they can become institutions of innovation, opportunity, and equity.
Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Dr. Gabriel Ramirez, Montebello, Executive Director & Founder of TCS, He/Him, Mexican-American
ARE CHARTER SCHOOLS BETTER THAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS?
I would have to say that it’s not that charter schools are better than public schools or that public schools are better than charter schools. I firmly believe in charter schools as a form of school choice. Because families in the Latino community don’t have many options for a variety of reasons, a lot of it always comes down to finances. And when it comes to schools, families who are more influential always have more school choices. As a result, they must look for schools that meet the needs of their child, which includes meeting the needs of their child’s learning style. That could be a smaller school, a specific focus, or a performing arts school. They have a lot of choices, and Black and Brown families simply don’t have those choices.
So, the idea behind charter schools, particularly T.I.M.E, was to create a school that met the needs of the students in the community that we serve. We are a STEM and performing arts charter school, and we are the only performing arts charter high school in the south portion of the San Gabriel Valley. So, there’s also the idea that students don’t have access to a performing art high school. What we are saying to families is like “Look, if your child isn’t doing well in another school or if the school is too big or if the child needs to be in a smaller setting. We always tell them are model, which is preparing every child for college, but we are also career-focused.” Students get access to vocational classes and certifications of different careers so that upon graduation if they don’t want to go to a traditional four-year college they go to a trade school or a community college. But most importantly, they will have certifications where they can start working pretty fast but still get paid a living wage. I just want to say that all schools serve a purpose, whether charter, public or private. All schools are valuable and what I think that the public needs to hear is that they have a choice, and they should be able to choose because every child is different.
HOW DO CHARTER SCHOOLS UPLIFT LATINO COMMUNITIES?
Our goal is to make sure every child that enters through our door has the opportunity to achieve and to have opportunities after high school. Our specific model is that 100% of the students that graduate from the school will be eligible to go to a four-year college or university. So, our high school graduation requirements meet Cal State universities and Universities of California admission standards. So, that means if they graduate from us, they are going to be able to go to a four-year college. Now, it’s just a matter of what school actually accepts them, but all students will meet the criteria and that’s powerful. In addition to that, we have our students on double enrollment, meaning that we have a partnership with ELAC, and they are taking college classes. Which means they are getting high school credit as well as college credit. That’s how our students can receive certification, so that when they graduate they can start working after high school. It’s very important that we don’t close doors and that they don’t have fewer opportunities. So, we provide them with every opportunity, whether that is college or a vocational school. Since we are a small school, we can easily focus on students’ needs. All of our students at this school do internships, they get tutoring, and they are also required to participate in clubs, and we are able to do that because we are a small school and that’s always been the idea of charter schools.
HOW IS THE MISSION OF THE SCHOOL IMPORTANT TO LATINO STUDENTS?
Our mission is really important because what we are trying to say is that everyone has value and that everyone can succeed through our model of learning. Again, our learning model is college-based, career-based, and project-based, which means they are very hands-on. Looking at the statistics for Latinos in general, only about 30% graduate from a traditional high school, implying that only about 30% are prepared to apply. So, about 15% of them are going to college after high school. So there’s this idea that Latinos typically don’t have a lot of opportunities. If you look at the census data for the Latino students in our community, only 16% of the students over 25 are certified or only have a bachelor’s degree. As a result, the majority of Latino students do not continue their education after high school. So, for me, it’s very important to question what happens if the student doesn’t get a traditional education. I think it’s important to ask, “What are they getting? And what does their success look like? And if they are getting jobs that they really want to work in?” I’m aware that Latinos are typically the ones working at minimum wage, doing the hard work that no one else wants to do. Not only that, but they are not earning the type of income that they would like to earn in order to move into the middle class. So, what our mission does because we are college and career ready, it prepares them for multiple entry points in the workforce. Because they are skilled and ready to go.
Students participating in Tae Kwon do during club time at TCS.
WHAT PERCENTAGE OF LATINO STUDENTS ARE ENROLLED AT TCS?
100% of our students are Latino, but I believe we have 2% who are dual-race but still consider or associate as Latino. We basically reflect on the community we are in. So, for example, in Montebello Unified, when you look at the ethnicity breakdown of the city, they are about 75% Latino. I believe that the school, or the district in which it is located, is 97% Latino. So, I think that Latinos within the community stay within the surrounding schools. And for whatever reason, other ethnicities are going to other schools outside the Montebello community. I just want to say charter schools are open to all families and the boundaries are the same as the district, so we do serve Monterey Park, Pico Rivera, Bell Gardens, Commerce, East Los Angeles, Rosemead. We serve all cities, but even then all those cities are primarily all Latino.
HOW DOES TCS COLLABORATE WITH COMMUNITY PARTNERS TO ENSURE LATINO STUDENTS ARE CAREER READY?
Because we do offer internships at TCS we try to reach out to as many community organizations, who are interested in having students being interns. So, what we ask our partners to do is to mentor our students and talk to them about what it takes to be in that position. We have a community partner near us called ID Design where students learn how to do banners, flyers, digital design and make t-shirts. We also have another student who is interning with the chamber of commerce, who is learning about that world of politics. We also had another student who was interning with a fashion boutique here in Montebello. We just recently partnered with a real estate agency, who is interested in mentoring our students in the world of real estate. So, it’s this idea that our kids get to be entrepreneurs with individuals, who can mentor them and let them know that these are real life options for them.
WHAT WAS THE NEED FOR A CHARTER SCHOOL IN MONTEBELLO?
We are the only charter high school in Montebello. There is an elementary school as well, and we were both approved a month apart from each other. I initiated the process first, followed by the other school.
I believe that in every community, there should be school choices. Not only that, but I think that’s critical. The goal is to never speak bad about another education institution. Every education institution has a value. And I think it’s more important to really get that message out that there is choice. Every kid deserves to be in a school that feels right for them, that they feel is going to support their needs and their desires to be the kind of individuals that they want to be. And I just think that charter schools are an excellent option. Prior to us there weren’t any charter schools in Montebello, and we are happy to be pioneering that, and being a good example of what charter schools should be like.
HOW CAN STUDENTS ENROLL? WHAT RESOURCES ARE THEY PROVIDED?
We will officially start enrolling students next week on March 7th. And the way that they can do that is by going on our website and fully enroll through our application process. They can also come into our office and our office manager will walk them through the entire process doing the enrollment here at school. Families just need to make sure that they bring all the critical paperwork like transcripts, birth certificates or any other information that they may have. There are more things to add to the list, but our office manager can let you know ahead if they give the school a call. Again, I just want to let the people know that any family can enroll in our school. It is not required for them to live in Montebello, as long as they are able to commute to the school. We also provide transportation depending on the area.
Since we are a public school, we do provide the students with all the resources they need to be successful at our school. The only thing the student should have is the willingness to be a partner with the school. I think for me, the most critical part is that the student wants to be part of the school. I always tell the families, “We are a team and when we work together, every child succeeds.” I think when families have that support, that changes everything. So, yeah, we are excited, and we are looking forward to meeting all the new students and hope that they consider us as a school so that we can be a partner in their child’s education.