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Al Friedenberg, 62, will retire from Grant Elementary in June after 39 years in the education system.
Photo by Parimal M. Rohit
Al Friedenberg, 62, will retire from Grant Elementary in June after 39 years in the education system.

News, Santa Monica, Schools

Al Friedenberg Says Goodbye To Grant Elementary After 17 Years

Posted May. 23, 2012, 2:03 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

How does one walk away from a job he has enjoyed for almost two-thirds of his life and not have fond memories of his experiences? For 62-year-old Al Friedenberg, a journey that he embarked upon at the ripe age of 23 is on the verge of coming to a happy end as the long-time principal of Santa Monica’s Grant Elementary School has announced his retirement at the end of this school year.

Serving as Grant’s principal since 1995, the West L.A. native and Venice High School graduate dedicated 39 years of his life to public education and dedicating himself to providing an ideal learning atmosphere for many of Santa Monica’s elementary students.

Looking back upon his days in Santa Monica, Friedenberg is pleased with the progress he made as an instructor and administrator, telling The Mirror about how honored he was to have lived the life he did and the fortune he had to be a principal at Grant.

During his journey, Friedenberg always made sure that the schools he worked at never forgot who was the top priority: the children.

“When I got to Grant in 1995, it had a good reputation. It always had a good reputation. But when I was interviewed for the job, a big panel, maybe 12, 13 people, including parents and teachers and district people, every question that was key was a question about grownups and adults,” Friedenberg told The Mirror. “No one was talking about kids. To me, one of the first things I noticed was this school wasn’t as kid-centric as it should be.”

He added that he wanted to make the school a more exciting place for students to learn. Among the new initiatives he brought to Grant Elementary: a science camp and theatre production for fifth graders as well as a talent show and sports leagues.

“You engage kids, they stay out of trouble,” Friedenberg said. “I wanted people to really be there.”

In creating an environment fostering engaged students who enjoyed coming to school everyday, Friedenberg shifted Grant’s curriculum away from traditional practices and instead established a mission that was better rounded.

“My vision for the school was that we were capable of doing great things,” he said. “There was a change from a sort of traditional staff to a little more avant-garde. There was a change from a curriculum I consider traditional and safe to one that was more open-ended.”

Along the way, Friedenberg believes he built and fostered quite the community at Grant, where current students enjoy learning and graduates find ways to stay in touch with their former principal.

“I don’t know that a week goes by that I am not in touch with a former Grant student who is now in college, certainly high school,” Friedenberg said. “It’s interesting that wherever I go, I bump into people. I’ve stayed in touch or they’ve stayed in touch with me. What Grant has become is this huge community. The parents like each other. The kids are respectful. What I’ll miss is the everyday interaction. I’ll miss the day-to-day buzz.”

Starting his career as a teacher in Thousand Oaks in 1973, Friedenberg moved on to become a principal in the Thousand Oaks area before coming over to Grant Elementary.

“In 39 years, I never disliked what I did. I always could wake up and say ‘this is what I should be doing,’” he said.

When asked what he plans to do after Grant goes dark for the summer in June, Friedenberg prodded that he would probably bury himself behind a newspaper.

“I’m probably going to perfect going to places like Coffee Bean, reading the sports page,” he joked.

Joking aside, he said he would still work part-time advising administrators, write some curriculum, perhaps lecture a little more, and, of course, travel.

“I’d love to just get in the car and go somewhere for three weeks and not make reservations anywhere, just wing it,” he said.

Post a comment


May. 23, 2012, 5:19:52 am

D'Lynn Waldron said...

The Santa Monica Symphony is dedicating its Saturday May 26 concert to Principal Alan Friedenberg. The concert will begin at 7:30 pm in the Civic Auditorium with a presentation by Rich Capparela of KUSC and Mayor Richard Bloom thank Principal Friedenberg on behalf of all the Grant School parents over the years. Principal Friedenberg will then conduct 'The Star Spangled Banner. Admission to the concert is free and children are always welcome.

May. 24, 2012, 1:39:40 pm

Carmen Gentry said...

My children attended Grant Elementary under Principal Friedenberg up through the fifth grade and then we moved out of state....What a fabulous educational experience Grant School was...not only for the children, but for the parents as well...I admit that I did not fully appreciate all that Grant offered, and stood for, until I experienced a school system that was NOT child focused and as forward thinking as Grant School and it's leadership. Alan, from myself and my children (Caylan and Haley), now college students...thank you for your vision and your leadership....We have never forgotten our Grant experiences, and as a parent I personally commend you for your commitment and your steadfast leadership. God bless!!

May. 27, 2012, 9:04:45 pm

Brian Luckhurst - Home Exchange 50plus said...

I would like to wish Al a long and happy retirement and if he has a bucket list of things he wants to do I hope he is successful in crossing them off and enjoys doing so. Brian

Jun. 6, 2012, 5:06:03 am

CeCelia Jones said...

Mr, Friedenburg is a FANTASTIC principal he was there for all 3 of my children he had just began at Grant when my oldest was in there he is now 22. Now my baby boy is leaving Grant . I would like to say thank you mr Friedenburg a job well done you work is COMPLETE now it's time to put the dodgeball away

Feb. 25, 2014, 7:29:50 pm

D Perez said...

When my child attended Grant Elementary, she was bullied and tormented by her peers. Her teachers, from kindergarten to the fourth grade, all took no action against the harsh bullying she experienced. We had to take the matter to the principle, Alan Friedenberg, who dismissed our troubles as exaggerations. I had seen with my own eyes boys and girls in my daughter's class chase her down and beat her, and he accused us of exaggerating. We received no help from the school staff; people sworn to support the needs of children. We finally had to move our daughter to another school.

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