LOS ANGELES–The first Armenian all-day school in the United States–Holy Martyrs Ferrahian–was established over forty years ago. The network of Prelacy Armenian schools has been expanding ever since–and today a total of 2,736 boys and girls attend our seven preschools and six schools across California–from San Francisco to Orange County. The higher academic standards achieved by our schools and the growth of our community challenge us to further expand the network of our schools to better serve the educational needs of the new generation. We are charged to meet this challenge collectively with even greater commitment and perseverance. The more our schools accomplish–the more we must strive to surpass our own achievemen’s.
The Western Association for Schools and Colleges (WASC) has accredited all of our schools–and four of our pre-schools have National Association of Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation. The students attending the Prelacy Schools have also been consistently progressing in terms of academic performance. This fact is evinced by students’ impressive performance in interscholastic competitions–the number of students receiving awards for academic excellence–the high acceptance rate of our seniors into first tier universities–and the merit-based scholarships that those same students receive.
The Board of Regents has embarked on a mission to further improve the overall quality of the Prelacy Schools in the community–with specific emphasis on professional development of our teachers and Armenian education. The Board has already taken steps toward realizing this goal–which entails preparing teachers who have not only mastered the material in their own fields–but who are also versed in contemporary teaching methods and approaches to learning. It is important for teachers to know and understand the psychology of Armenian students growing up in the multicultural American society.
In this regard–we have been organizing our own summer courses for Armenian subject teachers for the past two years. The weeklong Summer Institute provides the Armenian subject teachers with an opportunity to be introduced to teaching strategies by specialists–specifically focusing on methodology–Armenian language and literature–and contemporary teaching principles and techniques.
In addition–all of our teachers participate in an annual daylong seminar with experts in child education and psychology. Furthermore–in order to evaluate the role of the Armenian identity with respect to curricula and teaching methods–in June 2004–the Board of Regents organized a two-day conference titled "Armenian Education in North America: Reassessment in the Context of the Changing Armenian-American Identity" at Woodbury university. The participants of the conference included Armenian school principals–teachers–intellectuals–university professors–and students from the US and Canada. Finally–with the help of specialists in education and Armenian history–the Board of Regents also standardized the content and lesson plans for teaching our students about the Armenian genocide at all grade levels. In this way–a methodical–structured and incremental approach to teaching the Genocide was established throughout the course of students’ education. Last April–the standards–outlined in a 275-page document–were distributed to all of the Armenian schools in the US and Canada and will be subject to evaluation after the second year of their implementation.
Among the Board’s forthcoming projects and objectives is the development of a Standardized Test in Armenian language and history for grades 5th–8th–and 12th. The Board of Regents–in collaboration with the Education and Finance Councils–principals–directors and local committees is currently revising the Salary Scale of our teachers to improve their compensation–who deserve our respect and admiration for their dedicated and professional services. In addition–starting in May of this year–with the establishment of the Board of Regents newsletter–we hope to create a stronger bond between the community and the Prelacy Armenian Schools. The Board of Regents–as a result of the popular demand of the community–also intends to expand the Vahan and Anoush Chamlian Armenian School–currently serving first through eighth grades. This long-term project of adding a high school is estimated to cost more than $10 million.
As indicated by the progress of our schools–in the past–our challenge was to provide education and Armenian instruction to the young generation as a means of survival on foreign soil. The education was meant to ensure students’ future success–while at the same time preserving Armenian cultural–linguistic and religious values. However–today–we must strive for more far-reaching goals. As we are living in an era of social and economic globalization and in a multi-cultural society–we are mandated to reach educational excellence–strengthen the Armenian identity of our students–and prepare well-rounded individuals–who are confident and equipped in their abilities to succeed as Armenian-American citizens and contributing members not only within the Armenian community–but in society at large. If in the past our goal was to preserve the Armenian identity–today we must begin to look for new ways to channel the richness and applicability of such an identity as an asset in contemporary society.
According to Dr. Rubina Peroomian–the chairperson of the Board of Regents–"Our mission is to make the Prelacy Armenian schools an environment where students forge a balanced sense of their Armenian identity within the context of contemporary reality. It is our responsibility to tap into our multitudinous resources–in order to successfully produce generations of students with a clear sense of ‘Armenianness’ and with the competence to excel in American society and culture. In other words–it is our goal to provide our students with the necessary tools to function as good citizens with an intelligent awareness and understanding of both the American and Armenian aspects of their identities. Realizing the benefits of a balance between the two is of utmost importance for the future of our children."
The Board of Regents intends to embark on this mission with COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY and COLLECTIVE ACCOUNTABILITY. We have placed great emphasis on the word collective–because the Prelacy Armenian Schools belong to our communities–to us all–COLLECTIVELY. Together–we are much stronger in preserving and ensuring the progress of our schools–while at the same time providing our new generation with the best educational opportunities possible in the United States. In order to further advance our educational mission and to meet the challenges of the 21st century–the Board of Regents has decided to establish an Endowment Fund for Prelacy Armenian Schools. Only the dividend of this inviolable fund will be used toward the educational needs of the Prelacy Armenian Schools. Hovan Tashjian–Executive Director of the Board of Regents of the Prelacy Armenian Schools–described the significance of the establishment of the Endowment Fund: "We have a strong and impressive network of schools in the community. By initiating efforts to further enhance the quality of the schools and by involving the community–we hope to spark a general revival and celebration of our past accomplishmen’s and objectives we have set for the future."
With this goal in mind–the Board of Regents has organized its first Annual Banquet-Awards Night on Friday–May 6–at 7:30 p.m. to initiate the efforts toward establishing the Endowment Fund for Prelacy Armenian Schools and to honor our dedicated and long-serving teachers–staff–and volunteers as they are the ones responsible for bringing excellence to our schools. During this event–the Board will acknowledge individual achievemen’s of teachers–staff–and volunteers–thereby recognizing their hard work and exemplary commitment to educational progress of our students. By honoring the pillars of our schools–we reaffirm our dedication to the growth of our academic institutions as a priority in our communities.
The Board of Regents intends to embark on this mission with COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY and COLLECTIVE ACCOUNTABILITY. We have placed great emphasis on the word collective–because the Prelacy Armenian Schools belong to our communities–to us all–COLLECTIVELY. Together we are much stronger in preserving and ensuring the progress of our schools–while at the same time providing our new generation with the best educational opportunities possible in the United States.
–Prelacy Armenian School Board of Regents