The Cat in the Hat was licking his fur and spitting out fur balls (actually strands of black yarn) as he enthusiastically read the Dr. Seuss book of the same name.


While students were concentrating on the lively drama at hand during the Dr. Seuss birthday celebration on Friday, LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy educators were celebrating the school's recent accomplishment: LEPA recently topped all Hesperia Unified School District charter schools with an Academic Performance Index score of 833.


"Our API scores are not only an indicator of our academic success," said LEPA director and founder Debra Tarver who portrayed a kinder, gentler Grinch during the performance, "but the sacrifice and commitment from everyone involved, our students, parents and staff."


"API scores of 833 are really impressive," said HUSD board member Anthony Riley, who attended Friday's Dr. Seuss performance. "There's always room for programs for helping students. When you get successful programs like LEPA it's really good for everyone."


Founded in 2008, some of LEPA's teachers are completing their teaching credential programs at La Verne University, whose professors regularly observe their student teachers at the school on I Avenue in Hesperia. LEPA has received its accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.


Currently offering kindergarten through sixth grades, the charter school will add seventh and eighth grade classes next school year -- for a total of 17 individual classes -- while still maintaining a 20-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. There are only 60 new open enrollment seats available for the upcoming school year, however.


"I believe in leading by example, and quite frankly in an era of big government waste, we need to be better stewards with the public's money," Tarver said. "We need to be looking for new opportunities through partnerships with our host district, universities and the private sector."


While Hesperia's Summit Leadership Academy gets students ready for careers in police, fire or other public safety professions, or the military, LEPA helps get students ready for a college education even while sharing fun with Dr. Seuss rhymes.


"Their really emphasizing academics and an 833 API really proves that," Riley said. "The kids are excited. The parents are excited. Their doing what charters should be doing."