Culver City Edition Local News

French officials honor Mar Vista elementary school

MAR VISTA — Los Angeles school Superintendent Austin Beutner joined school board member Nick Melvoin, Deputy Consul General of France Nathalie Soirat and others Oct. 8 in honoring Richland Avenue Elementary School for promoting excellence in French language and culture acquisition.

Richland is the first Los Angeles Unified school to open a dual language program in English and French. The program was conceived five years ago by Richland Principal Gerard Granade — himself of French and Basque heritage — who launched the program with support from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

“In today’s world, there is nothing more important than understanding among people and cultures,” Superintendent Beutner said. “Helping our students become global citizens at Richland, the doors of opportunity open for students every day. My congratulations to the educators and families at Richland for building something that is truly special.”

Thirty Richland fourth-graders received special certificates from the French Ministry of Education for scoring at an excellent level on the Diplôme d’études en langue française (“Diploma in French Language Studies”), an assessment measuring fluency in the French language.

Principal Granade was awarded the Ordre des Palmes Académiques (“Order of Academic Palms”), one of the highest honors bestowed by the French government to civilians.

“Through his work here, Principal Granade has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to promotion of the French language and culture,” Deputy Consul Soirat said. “There were many involved in creating the success we’ve witnessed here today. But it could not have happened without the vision, leadership — and persistence — of Gerard Granade.”

Principal Granade was humble in his acceptance of the honor.

“These amazing students work harder than you can imagine, mastering all of their core content in not one but two languages,” he said. “Their success is made possible by the ongoing support from their parents, the community and especially our dedicated faculty who work tirelessly to ensure student mastery.”

During the event, Superintendent Beutner announced that the district would be expanding the school’s dual language program through eighth grade, which was met with a standing ovation from the crowd.

“This is for the students,” he said. “Because they’ve demonstrated the excitement about learning we want for all our students. We want to continue providing them this opportunity through middle and high school.”

The superintendent further announced plans to continue the French and English dual language program at Venice High School, where most Richland students go on to attend.

The popularity of the program has led to a lengthy waiting list among families in the community. And, a second program has been launched at the Richard Riordan Primary Center in Highland Park.

“We are thrilled and grateful for the opportunity to continue what we’ve started through eighth grade,” Granade said. “It’s been said that knowing one language places you into the corridor of life. Knowing two languages opens every door along the way.”

Alexa Dudkowski, whose son, Dashel, is enrolled in the school’s program said that she and other parents are ecstatic to have additional opportunities to work with Granade.

“It’s so wonderful that our children will be able to continue having Gerard as a principal through their middle school years,” she said. “He has such amazing energy, and the environment he’s created in which people from multiple cultures come together in such a positive way is exactly what has promoted the learning and growth we’ve seen.”

The French Ministry of Education has committed to continue its support of Richland through the expansion.

“We will proudly continue to support the school as it expands to a middle school program in the next few years,” Deputy Consul Soirat said. “We look forward to continue providing teachers with training in curriculum development, classroom management and use of resources specific to French dual language as well as the opportunity to network and work closely with professionals in the field.”

Adding to the chorus of support for the program’s expansion was Melvoin, whose district includes Richland.

“I am thrilled to recognize a successful academic program that is attracting more families to LA Unified at a time that our district faces declining enrollment,” Melvoin said. I look forward to expanding Richland’s flourishing French immersion program and supporting Principal Granade’s continued success.”

Wave Staff Report