DISCLAIMER: Friends of King is a 501-C3 Non Profit. Text and images have not been supplied to the O’Grady campaign by the Non-Profit FOK. Mention of FOK and how proud Tomas is of it should be not be construed as an endorsement by FOK. “There is nothing that can’t be made better, reformed, improved, or reinvented as long as the adults in the room are willing to leave their ego at the door.We parents and teachers did just that at King Middle School and we accomplished something amazing. We can do the same at any city department. I know people at the D.W.P , B.S.S, D.O.T, good people who long for a better way of doing things. We can do this. I am an innovative disruptor.” Tomas O’Grady
Six years ago when confronted with the option of sending their daughter to the local public middle school (Thomas Starr King Middle School) or taking the private school route, Tomas and his wife Justine regarded the institution as “simply not good enough.” Dr. Murphy, principal of King Middle School at the time, challenged the pair to convert apathy into action and in response “Friends of Thomas Starr King Middle School” was born. The non-profit built one edible garden that began the transformation of a school suffering from a low morale and low API to a campus full of inspired and motivated faculty, parents, and most importantly, students. The schools API went from 678 to 843 – an API miracle.
A simple garden sparked a renaissance; teachers brought their classes to the garden and created a new environmental studies magnet. Special needs classes also had an inviting and cheerful outdoor space. Many of the teachers were praising Tomas’ involvement, including David Eagler
“I’ve never met anyone that brought so much into this campus as Tomas.” – David Eagler, TS King Teacher
The impact of this garden was not restricted to just the campus. In 2012, teachers and students made a sculpture using styrofoam trays from the school’s cafeteria as a representation of the amount of waste produced from a single days use. This sparked school district Superintendent John Deasy to announce the elimination of all styrofoam trays from LAUSD. Appreciation for the passion, involvement, and efforts is continuous with current principal Mark Naulls:
“In all of my years with the district, never have I experienced so much energy that is the parent community at this school, led by Tomas.” Principal, Mark Naulls.
Below is the TEDx talk by Tomas about Enrich LA and about King Middle School and how it all happened.
Click here to read article by Steve Lopez of the LA times about Tomas and his work at King.