Community Picks Preferred Designs for Kennedy, Richmond High

The “Eagles Soar” design was chosen for renovations of Kennedy High. (Screenshot captured by Samantha Kennedy / The CC Pulse)

By Samantha Kennedy

The West Contra Costa school board reviewed community-chosen designs for the Richmond High and Kennedy High modernization projects on Wednesday.

After holding community meetings to further develop project designs, district staff and project architects found the community preferred a design for each campus that reflected the school’s culture.

At Kennedy, community members preferred an option, named “Eagles Soar,” where the main entrance on Cutting Boulevard is meant to resemble an eagle’s wing when in flight. This entrance, according to project architect HKIT Architects, makes it so the front of the building is not simply a wall.

Attendees at the community meeting for Kennedy’s modernization said “Eagles Soar” was “unique” and “looks like Kennedy.”

Input was similar for the preferred option for the future of Richmond High.

Richmond High’s preferred design will also greatly change the entrance of the campus, with board members likening it to a modern art museum or a university in Mexico.

The design, which one attendee at the April 25 community meeting said had “a sharing of culture” representing the school, shows various materials used on the entrance, including glass and murals.


Board President Jamela Smith-Folds felt the building was pretty but missing color, echoing comments made by some community members at the May 25 meeting who felt the lack of color made the building look “bland.”

But Clerk Demetrio Gonzalez-Hoy, who ran the meeting in place of Smith-Folds, said he was a fan of the chosen option and its colors because it reminded him of Hispanic architecture.

That is “maybe why a lot of the students in this community like (this option),” said Gonzalez-Hoy, pointing out the school’s large Latino population.

Board members liked designs presented but also asked district staff and project architects to be mindful of cost.

New Pinole Valley High School principal

Months after Pinole Valley High School community members showed out in support of retaining Principal Kibby Kleiman, the school board announced the hiring of a new principal.

The board voted in closed session to appoint Todd Irving, already a principal in the district, to Kleiman’s position. Kleiman’s demotion next year was announced at a March 6 board meeting.

Irving, who became the principal of the charter school Leadership Public Schools in 2021, has over 30 years of administrative experience. These include stints at districts in Southern California and Tennessee.

Irving has a reputation for “his ability to engage culturally diverse communities and help schools transition through change,” according to his biography for Leadership Public Schools.

Pinole Valley’s student makeup is similar to WCCUSD’s — diverse — but does have a slightly larger distribution of African American and Filipino students. Enrollment among Hispanic or Latino students, however, is about 10% less than the district, according to state data for the 2023-24 school year.

Irving’s current school mostly serves Hispanic or Latino students, making up 95% of the student population in last year’s count. Under his leadership, district staff noted the school culture, student engagement and “higher-level thinking” in last year’s annual charter review.

Trustee Leslie Reckler abstained from the appointment and Trustee Mister Phillips was absent.

Recognizing El Cerrito High School’s jazz ensemble, cheer team

The board recognized the achievements of students from El Cerrito High School’s jazz ensemble and cheer team, both of which were recognized for their talents on the national level.

The El Cerrito High jazz ensemble was selected to perform at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, a conference attended by over 15,000 people, according to the organization.

The group is the first jazz group to be selected from a Bay Area school and only one of three high school jazz groups that will perform.

The board also recognized the school’s cheer team for being awarded first place for hip-hop dance at the JAMZ Cheer & Dance competition and third place at JAMZ National.

The cheer team placed first in last year’s October regional competition and third in January’s national competition.

The jazz ensemble and cheer team both performed for the board.

Richmond Steelers recognition

The Richmond Steelers, a youth football organization, was recognized at Wednesday’s board meeting for becoming national champions last year.

In 2023, the organization’s U9 team first won league and regional titles. Then, in December, went on to win the national championship.

Players were called up one at a time and presented a certificate of recognition.

STEM Fair recognition

Various students competed regionally and statewide in STEM fairs that drew praise from the district.

Of those that competed, 12 students won awards at the Golden Gate STEM Fair this year. Three moved on to the California Science & Engineering Fair, which included nearly 900 students from hundreds of schools.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is May 29.

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