Taft Shows How to Do It : Valley school outpoints everyone in winning state academic super bowl

There has been little good news of late for the beleaguered Los Angeles Unified School District. Teachers, for example, face an unprecedented 10% pay cut, and as many as 2,500 employees face possible reassignments or layoffs next year.

This has also been a difficult time for Taft High School in Woodland Hills, which in the last year has agonized over the fatal stabbing of a student and the shooting death of a former student.

For the moment, however, the LAUSD and Taft High in particular can enjoy some well-earned applause. For the third time since 1988, Taft High has outpointed 45 public and private schools from across the state in winning the California Academic Decathlon. This past weekend the nine members of Taft's championship team--Leonard An, David Bronstein, Adam Caress, Evan Dodge, Chris Hoag, Alex Jacobs, Robert Shaw, Josh Stempel and Mara Weiss--edged Orange County's Laguna Hills High School for the top spot. Having done so, Taft will represent California in next month's competition in Phoenix, where it will have a chance to regain the national title it won in 1989.

LAUSD officials also have another reason to be proud. The fifth-place finish of another of its schools, University High, represented the first time that the much-maligned district had placed two schools in the state finals.

Taft's marvelous effort capped months of work and two days of intense competition that tested students' abilities in subjects ranging from trigonometry to art, as well as their interviewing, essay-writing and speech-giving skills. The result is a welcome and well-deserved week of pride for the LAUSD.

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