Why is there a light plane in the school yard and Where is it going?                                  @sparvell

downey1 downey2

Downey High School is one of two senior high schools located in the Los Angeles suburb of Downey, California, and within the Downey Unified School District. It is located at 11040 Brookshire Ave.

At the present time the school has an enrollment of about 4150 students, the majority identify as being Hispanic and the majority of students are on free or reduced lunch programs.

Whilst the student population has changed significantly over the last couple of decades, it is interesting to note that the sense of ‘We are still Downey’ not only persists but has been strengthened.

Downey High School is a big, bright and impressive place. I couldn’t believe there was over 4000 students hidden somewhere on this campus. The original school was built in the early 1900’s and the newest facility opened in September 2014.

The more I listened to District IT Lead Joshua and Assistant Principal, Allan Tyner, the more I started to understand what seemed to make such a large and diverse campus work….a sense of connectedness through community.


This is a school with deep respectful connections between the school, its community and its district and these are long standing ties. People tend to stay and invest deeply. Members of the school board are re-voted in over decades, ex-graduates return as new teachers, school leaders are grown within the schools and a culture of unconditional mutual respect is articulated between all stakeholders.

This culture, is the culture which allows for innovation to find traction.


Let’s not kid ourselves here, for any school to dare to ‘do different’ and to ‘lever digital’, it takes money or strong partnerships. Downey has approached innovation, like it seems to approach all major decisions, conservatively, cautiously but with an eye to sustainable improvement…they are betting on long term sustainable growth not short term splashes.

I visited the Food Tech learning space and what a great flexible learning areas. Features were:

  • Abundance of natural light.
  • Public touch screens with wireless display
  • Image scanners for display eg food labels
  • 360 video cameras to record lectures or for teacher feedback/ lesson reflection
  • Kitchen spaces intentionally designed to reflect home settings not commercial kitchens
  • Flexible furniture- tables could be folded up, height adjusted and moved quickly
  • Chairs could move and adjust

The school provides strong programs to ensure career and college readiness including sports, academic, music and engineering. The robotics and engineering lab featured commercial 3D printers, robot ‘battle zones’ and awards aplenty!

There is an authenticity to the ‘college ready, career ready’ mantra, from the light plane located onsite for the aeronautics students through to the remarkable auto-shop .

The District is working toward rolling out high speed, reliable wireless to schools in the district and this will enable the school to fully exploit O365, OneNote and other solutions. The District is looking for its next device purchase as it moves towards greater school provided device density for students. Presently Chromebooks are running Microsoft O365 but the leadership were very impressed with the benefits of digital inking at the recent Microsoft OneNote supported RedefineLearn Conference held at St Thomas School, Medina, Washington.

Google apps were initially quick to deploy and provided solutions for collaboration but over time the school has found it ‘needing more’ and with O365 collaboration now intuitive with OneDrive, this is proving a strong case for moving forward. Staff have been loving Microsoft SWAY and especially Office Mix with its Powerpoint heart and new analytic backend to track usage.

A big win for Surface 3 in the area has been the ability to wirelessly project to the many public screens without the bandwidth consumption sometimes experienced with Apple TV. The schools has many touch enabled public screens throughout learning areas.


Downey High School is a school with a community that is clearly ‘bought-in’ for the direction it has set and has the support of the district.

So, where is this plane going?

Anywhere it wants to!

Downey High School

Distance from home 1,129 miles

School website: http://www.dusd.net/downey/

#msftedu #showcaseschools

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