A High School for the Next Millennium: Clark Magnet High School



The idea for Clark Magnet High School in Glendale, Calif., came in May of 1997. A special High School Task Force was formed to identify strategies for relieving the overcrowded conditions at the District's three high schools. The Task Force, comprised of parents, teachers, administrators, community leaders and students, recommended that a former junior high school, closed as a school for the last 16 years, be modernized and reopened as 'Clark Magnet High School with Emphasis on Science & Technology. As a 'magnet' high school, it would draw students from throughout Glendale by offering the latest instruction in computer science, technology applications and graphics.

Nearly $15 million dollars were spent to modernize and equip Clark Magnet High School, which opened in September 1998 to 500 ninth- and tenth-grade students. The price was a bargain compared to the $50 million estimated cost of acquiring land and building a school like Clark from scratch. Clark will add a grade of students each year for the next two years, bringing the total school population to 1,100 students, 40 teachers and 10 support staff.

School of the Future

So where d'es one begin to transform a 1960's junior high school into a technologically advanced high school? In the early planning stages, the Glendale district's director of technology, Jim Gibson, along with a committee of technical partners and construction experts looked at the deficits in school technology infrastructure. They primarily identified the lack of adequate power (usually 2 power outlets per classroom) and the cost of installing and maintaining the infrastructure over time.

Through relationships with Compaq, Intel, Novell, Meridian and other corporate partners, Gibson and his design team also identified the technology trends that Clark would need to support now and in the future. Surface-mounted wiring was chosen because school construction is hard to accomplish during the day due to classes and expensive to do after hours due to the increased cost in labor. The result is a fast and cost-effective infrastructure that is easy to update as technologies and wiring needs evolve.

The Clark campus is comprised of five fully wired and networked buildings; the school's main building contains 19 classrooms and two computer labs. Approximately $2 million went into electrical upgrades and computer network infrastructure. Every classroom and the cafeteria have surface-mounted raceways that contain a three-track channel with electricity, cable TV and data lines. These raceways, running along walls and ceilings, provide Category 5 wire for data and phone lines, and coaxial wire for video and cable TV. Fiber optic lines connect the network switches between buildings. Ladder racks, trays in which the wires run, are tucked neatly inside the ceiling tiles in the hallways. There are 30 ports or outlets for computer hook-up and electricity, spaced every 3.5 feet on the raceway in each classroom. Overall, there are over 1,300 nodes of connection on the campus that power network computers, phones and video communication.

Clark's network has a fast Ethernet duplex connection of 100 Mbps to the desktops and a 1-Gigabit connection between buildings. The network supports 60 switches, ensuring a speedy and reliable network infrastructure. A wireless LAN is being tested as a future solution.

Hardware Bliss

Complementing its fast and powerful infrastructure, Clark Magnet also boasts the latest technology hardware to support its high-tech curriculum. The two computer labs in Clark are equipped with Compaq Deskpro desktops, and the library and administrative offices benefit from Compaq's new space-saving model, the Deskpro Academic Series Small Form Factor. There are up to five Compaq Deskpros in each classroom, supplemented by 80 additional Compaq Armada 1700 notebooks that are used by the teachers on an as-needed basis. Students can plug the notebook PCs into a port and have instant network connection.

Clark Magnet teachers also carry Compaq Armada notebooks between school and home. At school, a monitor, keyboard and speakers are connected to a desktop docking station. The pull of a lever converts the notebook computer to their classroom desktop unit with no loss of time or data. Teachers use their notebook PCs equipped with presentation technologies (i.e., multimedia projectors and Microsoft PowerPoint software), Microsoft Office 98 and grading programs to facilitate their teaching. The Clark staff participated in a weeklong 'computer boot camp' during the summer to prepare for the new technological resources. An extensive professional development program, featuring peer-to-peer instruction and collegial support continues throughout the school year.

A Unique Curriculum

Clark Magnet's goal is to provide students with hands-on, analytical high-tech skills to enter a job or internship program in engineering, networking or graphic arts or to attend a trade school, college or university. Students participate in a variety of high-tech activities, including mastering computer-aided design applications, creating animation and studying network infrastructure and computer programming - all of which prepares them for the challenges of real-world jobs.

Relationships with local businesses and corporations, including Novell, Intel, Compaq, Meridian, Dreamworks and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in neighboring Pasadena, have also facilitated Clark Magnet's efforts to incorporate technology into the overall learning process. With corporate guidance, Clark Magnet is designing a portfolio of courses that not only educates students, but also provides them with a solid foundation of technology and work skills to successfully enter the workforce.

Clark Magnet's instructional approach is thematic, interdisciplinary and project-oriented. Classes feature collaborative groups, teamed classes, Internet research and portfolio production. Students must commit to remain at Clark for a minimum of one school year, and parents are strongly encouraged to play an active role in the school's programs and activities.

An 'Honor Roll' School

Based on its commitment to create a true school-to-work learning experience, Clark Magnet High School was recently selected as an Honor Roll school by Compaq Computer Corporation. The Compaq Honor Roll program recognizes schools that excel in integrating technology into their curricula, infrastructure and culture.

As Gibson says, 'The Internet has changed the scope of what students see and experience in the classroom. Clark Magnet is evidence to the fact that other school districts can accomplish this level of technology integration.'


Contact Information:

Compaq Computer Corporation
Houston, TX
(800) 88-TEACH

Intel Corp.
Santa Clara, CA
(408) 765-8080

Novell, Inc.
Provo, UT
(800) 218-1400

Meridian Technology
Chesterfield, MO

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.