Going Public With PUSD

Aug 27, 2012

Photo courtesy of

Jim is a teacher at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Dawn is on the board of the Pasadena Educational Foundation.

Together, the O’Keeffe’s have taken on the public school system. Not in protest, but in celebration.

This past May 8th, 200 people split into 50 crews and scattered onto all 28 Pasadena public school campuses. For one day, they followed students, teachers, a custodian, a school board member, parents, a security guard, art instructors, the superintendent, a school psychologist, a band teacher, a coach, and community volunteers. As a result, they have 50 individual stories to tell. (Forty of the crews consisted of professionals, but 10 of the crews were exclusively PUSD students trained in documentary production through special workshops.)

The project website states: “We wanted to capture the complexity and promise of public education in our racially and economically diverse school district—a story both unique to Pasadena and typical of thousands of districts nationwide. We wanted to GO PUBLIC with our public schools.”

The O’Keeffe’s are currently in post-production piecing together what will be their final 2-hour documentary which is intended for theatrical and television distribution. Already, they’ve whittled down 350 hours of footage into 50 short films—individual stories as seen through “50 unique lenses, illustrating the amazing tapestry of lives and educational needs that intersect every day on our public school campuses.”

Photo courtesy of

These shorts are a mere 3-4 minutes long, but having just watched three of them, we’ll tell you, these kids personify determination and perseverance.

The three Travis girls wake up at 4:45 a.m., take time to have a quick breakfast burrito after a prayer of thanks, then are waiting at the bus stop by 6 o’clock. They board the 180 bus, arriving at John Marshall High School an hour later. They take AP classes and are committed to continuing their brother’s creation, the Buddy Club, that mentors students and is a link between students and the administration. Their brother is “happy” his sisters are continuing the club because after the children were shuffled around to different foster homes over a period of several years, he says it was having each other that helped them retain any sense of security and to feel supported.

To get a taste of this formidable task the O’Keeffe’s have undertaken, visit

For further information, inquiry, or to make a donation to support this project, you can email Dawn O’Keeffe at




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