Birmingham High School

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Birmingham Community Charter High School (formerly Birmingham High School) is a public coeducational high school in the neighborhood/district of Lake Balboa in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles, California, United States. It was founded in 1953 as a 7–12 grade combined high school, and became solely a senior high school in 1963. The school has a Van Nuys address and serves Lake Balboa, parts of Encino, and Amestoy Estates. The school is within the Los Angeles Unified School District but it is operated as an internal charter school.


The school opened in 1953, during the immediate post- World War II era. Originally it housed many White children from families newly settled in the San Fernando Valley. [2] As of the 1960s the White families were middle class, and many of them had settled in the San Fernando Valley from the East Coast and the Midwest. [3]

By 2006 the student demographics became majority Latino and Hispanic. [2]

By 2006 Marsha Coates, the principal, established "small learning communities" and a ninth grade academy to cater to incoming students. [5]

Charter designation

On July 1, 2009, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) voted to allow the high school to become a charter school under the name Birmingham Community Charter High School. Prior to the approval, the school officials had fought over whether the school should become a charter for months. Some school officials had advocated creating an alternate school sponsored by the teacher's union on the same campus. [6] About 66% of the faculty members of the school supported the charter change. [7] After the charter was approved, 91 teachers continued to teach at Birmingham while 34 decided to leave to work at other LAUSD schools. This meant the Spanish, science, and history departments had a high level of turnover. [6]

Because of the divisions within teachers and other staff members, the faculty and staff of the magnet program received permission from LAUSD to split from Birmingham. In 2009, Daniel Pearl Magnet High School was formed as an independent high school within the Birmingham campus. Connie Llanos of the Los Angeles Daily News said that Pearl "got off to a rocky start." During the first year as a standalone school, one third of the students left. Some left due to conflicts with Birmingham staff and students; some Birmingham students and staff members tormented Pearl students. Some left because Pearl was so small; they wanted a more comprehensive high school experience. Pearl moved into its own facility next to Birmingham in 2010. [7]

In 2012 LAUSD officials accused the school of failing to adequately respond to allegations of racial discrimination and mishandling disabled student services and expulsion, and the LAUSD officials attempted to return Birmingham to direct district control. Birmingham officials stated that they were unaware of serious problems at their school. [9]


The school is located in the Lake Balboa area, which was previously a part of Van Nuys. The site was previously a military hospital. [2]

As of 2009, Birmingham has the largest high school campus in the LAUSD. [6] The campus is in proximity to Reseda. [4]

Attendance boundary

Its attendance boundary includes Lake Balboa, and also portions of Van Nuys, Encino, [10] Tarzana, and Reseda.


In 2006 Mitchell Landsberg of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "It would be easy to see Birmingham as just another bad public school. But for many students, it's not." [11] He cited the Daniel Pearl Journalism Magnet, the "dedicated core of teachers" and the "variety of honors and Advanced Placement classes." [11] Landsberg stated that despite the demographic changes that came before 2006, "academic standards have not suffered; if anything, a Birmingham diploma today is more difficult to obtain than it was a generation ago." [2]


In 2009 it had 2,700 students. That year Mitchell Landsberg of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "Birmingham is in some ways the quintessential Los Angeles school, with demographics and student performance that come close to mirroring the city as a whole." [10]

In September 2001 there were 1,100 9th graders entering Birmingham High School; this class would become the Class of 2005. Over 350 of the students in this class, over the course of the years, switched to other schools to study. About half of the switching students remained at traditional high schools and the other half went to independent study, vocational school, or other alternative educational settings. In June 2005 there were 521 graduating students of the Class of 2005, fewer than half of the starting number. Media attention to this rate of graduation resulted in a nighttime meeting with parents. [12]

In a period prior to 2006 students zoned to overcrowded high schools were bused to Birmingham. 102 students who were zoned to Belmont High School were instead a part of the Birmingham Class of 2005. [2]

As of 2006 there were almost 4,000 students attending the school. [2]

Landsberg wrote in 2006 that there had been ethnic conflicts between Latino and African-American students and between Latino and Armenian students. [2]

Academic performance

In 2006 Mitchell Landsberg of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "Many students thrived at Birmingham" but however "many others struggled, or gave up and quit." [5] As of that year, he stated that the school "sent its share of students to good colleges -- Cal State and UC campuses, even the Ivy League." [5] In Class of 2005, about 75% had intentions to partake in higher education. Over 60 students from that class went to the University of California campuses. [11]

In 2006 the LAUSD gave the official four-year graduation rate of Birmingham High as being almost 80%, [11] with an official dropout rate of 3.5%. [5] A Civil Rights Project at Harvard University / University of California Los Angeles published a report in the northern hemisphere Spring of 2005 that stated that the four year graduation rate at Birmingham was 50%. [11]

In 2009, 9% of students were rated as proficient or higher in mathematics and 34% were rates as proficient or higher in English. In 2008 9% got this rating in mathematics and 36% got this rating in English. [10]

Student discipline

As of 2006, principal Marsha Coates stated that "We have 20, 30 kids or so who are constantly out of class. They're on campus, they're not dropouts and they haven't disappeared. They just roam." Despite the school giving out tickets to caught truants and a new attendance system implemented on November 6, 2005, as of 2006 there were still truant students walking in the halls of the school. [11]

Birmingham High School has been used as the backdrop for numerous music videos, commercials, and television shows such as the music video for Simple Plan's song Can't Keep My Hands Off You, Missy Elliott's song Gossip Folks, Gwen Stefani's song " Hollaback Girl ", Corbin Bleu's song " Push It to the Limit," Eminem's No Love, and Lil Wayne's Prom Queen. Also, in 2007 an episode of America's Next Top Model was filmed there. Other shows filmed at Birmingham High School include Nip/Tuck , NCIS , Cold Case , Scrubs , The Office , Ghost Whisperer and Monk .

The school's football field was used as a set for the shoot of the music video for Angels & Airwaves "Everything's Magic" (the first single to their new CD, I-Empire ). The track, surrounding the football field, was home to the CIF Los Angeles City Section Championships until 2014. It also served as the location for the relay race scene starring Kirk Cameron in Like Father Like Son . An episode of Full House was filmed there, with Danny, Jessy, and Joey running a race around the track. In addition, Fanny Pak of America's Best Dance Crew comes to the dance studio to practice before they go on tour.

In June 2009 Los Angeles Schools superintendent Ramon C. Cortines objected to photographs of the school's football team posing with comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in his guise as Brüno that appeared in GQ magazine. [13] Even though LAUSD superintendent Ramon C. Cortines gave discipline against principal Marcia Coates and Rick Prizant, the athletic director, Cortines stated that the discipline could not be enforced because, since Birmingham was becoming a charter school, Coates and Prizant would no longer be LAUSD employees. [6]

Miranda Cosgrove's music video for " Dancing Crazy " is also filmed on Birmingham High School's football field. The hit show on MTV, Awkward, has also been filmed at Birmingham High School.


The athletic mascot is the "Patriots". Originally the school mascot was the "Braves". [14] Native Americans in the San Fernando Valley had campaigned against the use of the "Braves" mascot at Birmingham High. This was a part of a national movement to remove Native American mascots. They met the Los Angeles School Board because, according to Paul Kivel, author of Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice Ð 3rd Edition , they "met with so much intransigence at the high school". [15] The LAUSD school board voted to remove all Native American mascots and logos from all schools. [16]

The school was told that it needed to change its mascot by June 28, 1998. The students voted for the new mascot to be "Blue Devils". Gerald Kleinman, the principal at the time, stated that the school's mascot committee believed the "Blue Devils" was an inappropriate choice and overruled the students, instead choosing the "Patriots". [14]

From 2003 to 2007, the basketball coach was Andre McCarter, MVP for the Rochester, New York Zeniths of the Continental Basketball Association in the 1978–79 season. McCarter played on UCLA's national championship teams in the early 1970s under John Wooden.

In 2006 the Birmingham boys soccer team achieved to win the first ever L.A city section championship in school history coached by E.B madha upsetting the Canoga park hunters.Robert Villa made school history by becoming the first goalkeeper to start every match including the city section finals as a freshman.

In the 2008–09 school year, Birmingham introduced a Lacrosse team.

In 2013 the Birmingham wrestling team achieved to win the first ever L.A. City Section Championship in school history.

In 2010 the Birmingham Cross Country team went on to win both the Boys and Girls L.A. City Section Championship. Adding to head coach Scott Kings already incredible 16 city championships in his time at Birmingham.

Notable alumni

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