By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
CTA President David A. Sanchez and Needles Teachers Association President Julie Rowan.
Much to the amazement of those who live and work in the small, rural town of Needles on the California-Arizona border, the town’s high school was selected to receive a makeover on the NBC show “School Pride.” When the announcement was made to students in the football field, they cheered wildly while news helicopters buzzed overhead.
In each episode of “School Pride,” a design team helps a community fix up a dilapidated school.
The show has two criteria for selecting schools — a need for renovation and the community’s passion and commitment to do the work. Needles High School fit both categories. The show’s producers, who include Cheryl Hines of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” were also looking for a rural school, since many of the other makeovers were urban schools, such as Enterprise Middle School in Compton.
While professionals are in charge of coordinating the renovation, the work is actually completed by volunteers. And Needles had plenty of those.
“We have a community of 5,000 people, and more than 1,000 people volunteered,” says Needles Teachers Association (NTA) President Julie Rowan, a graduate of the high school. “We sometimes forget how much community support we have, and we learned that support was huge.”
The event sparked school pride, with alums who had graduated decades before working alongside their kids. NTA members painted, moved furniture, cleaned, and did whatever was necessary.
“People who had never met each other had the opportunity to work side by side to improve the physical condition of the school,” says CTA President David A. Sanchez, who stopped by and met with chapter leadership, administrators and community members involved with the project.
During the five-day project, Needles baked in heat that sometimes exceeded 115 degrees and experienced heavy winds. But that didn’t wilt the enthusiasm of volunteers. CTA Board member Marty Meeden found scissors and cut his pants into shorts to make it easier to unload a truck, clean and move a barbecue, and do other tasks. Other CTA Board members volunteering in Needles were Theresa Montaño, Mary Rose Ortega and George Melendez.
The made-over Needles High School aired in the Nov. 12 episode and showed off new landscaping, a fresh coat of paint on the outside of every building, new carpeting in every classroom, and an outdoor mural of mustangs, the school’s mascot. Microsoft contributed money for 40 computers to go in the school’s new traveling computer lab. A student lounge was created with a big screen TV and study areas, providing a college-style atmosphere. The Regional Occupational Program (ROP) buildings were completely redone and now house a wood shop, a metal shop and an auto shop with state-of-the-art equipment, including a new Chevy Camaro with diagnostic equipment for students to use. Even the “snack shack” got a facelift.
The school’s poor outward appearance detracted from many of the positive things happening inside the campus, say NTA members. As a Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) school, Needles High School receives extra funding from the CTA-sponsored legislation, which has enabled it to reduce class sizes, increase professional development for teachers, and use data and benchmarks to improve academic achievement.
English teacher Tracy Hanline says, “What we did here was make the outside of the school match the inside of the school and the way we feel about our school.”
CTA members lend a hand as Needles High School gets a makeover at www.nbc.com/school-pride/video.