By Edwin Folven, 8/01/2013
Two familiar faces at Fairfax High School will no longer be at the campus when the first school bell rings on Aug. 13, with assistant principal David Siedelman and director of development Joyce Kleifield moving on to new positions.
Siedelman, who came to Fairfax High School in 2005 and helped coordinate campus-wide renovations and the construction of the new $6 million football stadium and athletic field, will be the new athletics specialist for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Kleifield, who served as a community liaison and alumni coordinator in her position as director of development, will be joining the Alice G. Harrison Memorial Trust, a foundation that raises funding and support for programs at Los Angeles High School.
Siedelman and Kleifield stressed that leaving Fairfax High does not mean they are breaking ties with the school. Siedelman will be working to improve sports programs at campuses district-wide. Kleifield is a longtime Fairfax District resident who said she will continue to help the school with whatever is needed.
“I like to say, once a Lion, always a Lion. I really believe that,” added Siedelman, who previously coached high school baseball and served as athletic director at El Camino High School before coming to Fairfax High. “Fairfax will be one of my schools. I will still keep up with what’s going on.”
Siedelman, a self-proclaimed “behind-the-scenes guy,” said he is proud of his accomplishments, but the school’s administration and faculty deserve the credit. Without the guidance of former principal Ed Zubiate and current principal Carmina Nacorda, much of the accomplishments made during the last eight years would not have been possible, he said.
“When I first came here, the first two things I saw were the dust bowl on the football field and what poor condition the facilities were in,” Siedelman said. “When Principal Zubiate came in 2006, we came up with a plan to bring Fairfax home.”
Siedelman said the philosophy was to build on the school’s role in serving the community, and an initiative was launched to ensure the campus was serving students who live in the surrounding neighborhoods. He said the transition took several years, but the student body is now primarily comprised of students from the local area. He added that administrators decided early on that the school needed upgrades that would instill pride in students and promote learning. Siedelman began by working on the school’s infrastructure.
“Basically, it was a way to bring the community back to Fairfax, bring back local kids and make it feel safe and appealing,” Siedelman said. “We re-painted the whole school and re-landscaped. We renovated the seats, the floors and carpeting in the auditorium, and have now moved on to the lighting and sound. We brought the marching band back in 2006 and hired [former music director] Ray Vizcarra. We worked to restore the arts, music and theater. The idea was that if the kids feel safe in school and didn’t have as many things to worry about, they would listen better to the teachers.”
Beyond improving the infrastructure and aesthetics, Siedelman and Zubiate began a campaign to better engage local residents, businesses and civic officials. The assistant principal forged relationships with Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, 3rd District — a Fairfax High School alum — as well as Los Angeles City Councilmen Tom LaBonge, 4th District, and Paul Koretz, 5th District. He embarked on a campaign to improve the arts at the school, and oversaw the construction of a 60-seat, “black box” theater behind the auditorium where small productions are now staged. He also helped launch the media center, where students learn skills preparing them for careers in television and the entertainment industry.
Siedelman said he began overseeing athletics at the school in 2007, and launched a campaign to renovate the locker rooms and football stadium. The stadium project was completed for the beginning of the season last year. Siedelman said plans are currently moving forward to renovate the auxiliary sports fields around the new stadium. He said being involved with school athletics is one of the most rewarding parts of being an administrator, and that his background in athletics has prepared him for his new district-wide position.
Kleifield was hired in 2007 to build more bridges within the community. She started by linking alumni, local business owners and parents with the school. Kleifield worked with community entities such as the Greenway Arts Alliance, Friends of Fairfax and the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce to strengthen the support network for the school. She also liaised with alumni such as Henry Samueli, co-founder and chairman of Broadcom, and jazz legend Herb Alpert, who with wife Lani Hall performed a special concert benefit last October for the school.
“This kind of transformation doesn’t happen without partnerships,” said Kleifield, who added that one of her proudest moments was when the school opened an official community development office in 2010. “That really continued the process of connecting with the community.”
Kleifield said she plans to build the same type of relationships and provide the same support for Los Angeles High in her new position. Siedelman and Kleifield both said that now the groundwork has been established at Fairfax High, it was time to move on to improving schools in other capacities. They added, however, that the work with the community will continue under Nacorda, who has shifted the focus at the school toward academic achievement.
“I am going to miss Fairfax,” Kleifield said. “My son graduated from Fairfax in 2012. It will always be our neighborhood school.”