Manual Arts High School - {subtitle}


A geographic area where:

  • Disenfranchised youth and young adults have mobilized into over 1,200 gangs with over 98,000 known gang members, creating an unprecedented pattern of violence and destruction;
  • There are an average of more than 600 homicides a year;
  • Inner-city concentrations of poverty, crime and racial tension have created the antithesis of the perfect environment for learning.

Despite these circumstances, Manuals Arts High School Principal, Dr. Ed Robillard, chose not to use these valid reasons to under-deliver on the promise of academic excellence for his 4,000-member student body.


Dr. Robillard had been appointed as principal of the second-lowest academically performing high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Over 90% of the student body was eligible for the “Free or Reduced Lunch” program (i.e., a statistic that suggests an economically disadvantaged population).  Despite the numbers, a psychological tenet - “The Pygmalion Effect,”  taught to Dr. Robillard by The Pacific Institute during his doctoral program at the University of Southern California - challenged the principal to hold onto a mental picture of excellence for Manuals Arts and to just keep chipping away at it.


The API (Academic Performance Indicators) scores demonstrate the power of holding a picture and getting faculty, staff and students to share in it. The outcomes were undeniable, the methodology unconventional, and the steadfast commitment to excellence unshakable. Dr. Robillard has a knack for believing in and committing to the achievement of the “impossible.”  Using the momentum of both aspiration and the common denominator, the curriculum of The Pacific Institute, Dr. Robillard began facilitating every member of his faculty and staff through an education process that had everybody believing that the impossible was, at minimum, plausible!  According to Dr. Robillard,

While the 21 Keys curriculum was personally beneficial to staff members, the real benefit of the curriculum was to communicate my vision and value system to the entire school.  There was a definite shift of thinking, over four years, from a fear-based culture typical of many inner high schools to one of high expectations of students and school performance.”


The methodical gallop towards academic excellence, taken by the faculty and staff of Manual Arts caused a cultural shift that sustained itself beyond Dr. Robillard’s departure. The School District decided to build another High School, West Adams Preparatory High School, which stands just a few miles away from Manual Arts. They also decided to have Dr. Robillard serve as its principal. Dr. Robillard was asked to design and staff the new school from the ground up. With a student population make-up of 93% Latino and 7% African American, located in another economically disadvantaged area of Los Angeles, West Adams stands as an oasis of opportunity. Once again, Dr. Robillard implemented The Pacific Institute’s high-performance thinking curriculum to the faculty and staff. This time it deployed The Pacific Institute’s youth leadership development curriculum, PX2, to the student base.  According to Dr. Robillard:

“After our first year at West Adams, we achieved a 91.4% attendance rate. This was one of the highest rates in the whole district.”