September 10, 1998
A Solid Foundation
By Beverly Gray
Until recently the Milken Community High School was housed in cramped rows of portable bungalows. The high school's students spent their day in what looked like bunkhouses at a summer camp. Several of the portables are still in use until finishing touches are completed on the Mulholland Drive campus. But with the dedication this weekend of three intricately connected structures on the hillside above the 405 Freeway, Milken High seems like a real campus at last. And so a celebration is in order.
No one is prouder of how far Milken has come than Dr. Bruce Powell, the school's president. But Powell, who has been at Milken since it opened its doors in 1990, makes clear that this institution is far more than brick and mortar. Milken is the realization of a dream, envisioned by Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin of Stephen S. Wise Temple and championed by Metuka Benjamin, veteran educational director of the Stephen S. Wise Temple Schools. Long before the spacious new buildings graced the Sepulveda pass, the school was turning out graduates who combined academic excellence with a thorough grounding in Judaica. The new facility, insists Powell, "is simply the house for the largest non-Orthodox Jewish high school in the United States."
Still, Powell is happy to show off the buildings in all their glory. Touring the campus, he frequently stops to shmooze with faculty members, most of them young and all of them exuberant about the opportunity to make the space their own. Physical Education coaches are laying plans for the new gym and weight room. A music instructor, overjoyed by his acoustically designed rehearsal and performance spaces, mulls over where to locate a practice room. Six librarians prepare for the day when their shelves will be filled with 25,000 books and their on-line capabilities are up and running.
Physics teacher Sonny Ahad, who hails from Burma, greets Powell warmly in halting but correct Hebrew. He's one indication that morale among Milken's science staff is running especially high. When the campus was in the blueprint stage, science teachers received carte blanche to work out the best possible configuration of the space allotted them. The result: a biology lab with built-in aquariums, as well as chemistry and physics rooms stocked with sophisticated equipment. It's a far cry from the old days, when students had to be shuttled across the freeway to do their labs at the University of Judaism.