Monday, January 5, 2009


Encino Oaks School opened in 1978 (renting school space from Maarav Temple (now called Temple Ner Maarav, Corner of White Oak and 17730 Magnolia Blvd, Encino, CA. 91316)

It flourished during the late 1970's and early 1980's due to mandatory busing forced on L.A. Public Schools. (See below for more info)

The first year it was made up of just grades 4 - 8 and approximately 50 students. Later a 9th grade was added. I attended from 4th grade to 6th grade - the years spanning 1978-1981. Then I left to go to public junior high.

Recess was spent hanging out in the parking lot, lunch and P.E. over at nearby Balboa Park (Fridays Free Days were spent roller-skating or skateboarding around the park), and rainy days at the Topanga Mall (Spencer Gifts!). Year 2 or 3 brought the addition of an extraordinary music teacher who exposed everyone to the amazing catalogue and history of the Beatles music. Some of us learned to play the flutophone, others guitar or drums. The 1980-81 school year culminated in a huge student musical show full of 60's tunes. Along the years, there were field trips to Mammoth, San Diego, plus camping, biking, hiking, and fishing in Yosemite.

Encino Oaks School was one of several Valley private schools that emerged in response to a mandatory busing plan for L.A.'s public schools. The idea behind the plan was to force desegregation (bringing inner city kids to better suburban schools) but the flaw in the system was that it involved a lottery system that would systematically take kids who were already attending good local schools and bus them to the inner city. In addition to that flawed logic, the lottery could actually take a kid that lived close enough to walk to school (like myself) and actually bus them an hour or more away (in each direction) to attend another school. Needless to say, tons of fearful parents ripped their kids out of perfectly great local schools and enrolled them in private schools. Mandatory busing was fortunately banned and many of the kids who attended these private institutions eventually went onto attend public junior and high schools for the remainder of their education.

The 4th/5th grade class of Karen Singer. I was in the 4th grade. I'm the tomboy sitting on the fourth row from the bottom, far left side next to the railing.

A holiday card I made in class for my Dad.

Front cover of my Music class notebook - circa 1980/1981

Music class notes - Beatles lyrics for Come Together (handwritten by the music teacher Robert Dawson and them mimeographed).

The mimeographs were always really light and faded so I wrote over the handwriting in red to make them easier to read. The doodles showing through are actually from the backside. Mr. Dawson was amazing - he really taught us not only music but also the stories behind the songs so we could get the emotion and meaning of them. The Beatles White Album was one of the first albums I ever bought, I think at the Topanga Mall. Along with adults, so many of us kids were just devastated when John Lennon was murdered - we all felt connected to him and his music and image.

Along with this music teacher who taught me so much, my 5th grade teacher Bobbi Wang was just one of the best teachers I ever had in my life. I would love to meet her again. All the kids used to just gravitate around Mrs. Wang whenever we could - including recess and after school. She just had that inner light about her. She was smart and fun and hip and could be like one of the gang yet still your teacher. And she had a really cool orange VW bug convertible - I think I got to ride in it once.

The best education of my life I probably received at Encino Oaks. With our small class sizes, we had very focused attention from the teacher and we were always pushed to and beyond our limits academically. When I returned to public school I couldn't believe how lax the educational standards were. I think I pretty much slept through 7th grade, just coasting on my prior education. My Mom tried to get the school to let me skip 7th but because I was already so young for my grade (I started school early and was 6 months to a year younger than everyone else), the counselor wouldn't let me move forward - a wise decision in retrospect. Had I skipped 7th grade, I would have been only 16 when starting college!!! But I LOVED the social interaction at public school - tons of kids from all walks of life to get to know, instead of mostly spoiled rich kids at Encino Oaks. When your entire class is made up of only a dozen kids, and only half of those kids are actually in your grade (because we mixed grades), it's hard to have many friends. So academically Encino Oaks was amazing, socially, it was pretty terrible.

Recently I've been looking up a lot of old friends and neighbors on Facebook and of course I wonder what happened to a lot of my old Encino Oaks classmates and teachers. So today I created a Facebook page for Encino Oaks School. Hopefully some of us will reconnect.

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