We remember and celebrate the origins of PACE that began with Dr. Nancy Gray, the founder of the program, 47 years ago!

The creation of PACE goes back to 1975 when Long Beach Unified School District faced the reality of court-ordered bussing to desegregate Poly High School. The superintendent of LBUSD and the Poly principal approached Poly teacher Nancy Gray and tasked her with developing a concept for a program that would attract students from other high schools on the east side of Long Beach to attend Poly, at least for a portion of the school day. Nancy Gray, a Fulbright scholar, devoted her life and remarkable talent to education with a bachelors degree in history, masters degrees in multiple foreign languages and a doctorate in statistics. She accepted the challenge and viewed the creation of a new program as an opportunity not only to desegregate Poly High School but also to attend to the unmet needs of students.

Dr. Gray began researching models from all over the

United States, including Pasadena’s Foundation School,

Middle College La Guardia High School in New York, and

Hunter College High School in Long Island, borrowing

features that could fit the needs of Poly. Dr. Gray wanted

to create a concept that would attract an entirely different

type of student, one who would value and benefit from a

rigorous program in classical education. She crafted a

loyalty oath for both students and parents agreeing that

participants would follow a seven-class schedule, maintain

a high standard in attendance and conduct, and adhere to

one of three prescribed courses of study for 11th and 12th

grades, one in science and math, one in liberal arts, and

one in fine arts – taking advantage of the new arts magnet.

The seven-period structure guided her naming of the program: Program of Additional Curricular Experiences refers to the seventh class students take each semester. Advanced Placement courses had never been offered at Poly. She structured specific grade level curricula to begin to achieve the rigor that would characterize this program and free up an elective for the eleventh and twelfth grades. PACE adhered to a modular schedule (which we all now enjoy as the block schedule) that Dr. Gray based upon what was being done at Beverly Hills High School and that allowed for the seventh class. The essential structural components of Nancy Grays’ course of study remain in place today, complimented now by additional course offerings and enrichments. Her insistence upon rigor is undeniably the essence of the program.

Finding teachers for PACE was not a simple task. Dr. Gray relied upon recommendations of colleagues whose standards she trusted. She recruited an initial slate of faculty members with excellent reputations whom she knew could work well with a variety of students from all over the city: Dr. Gray describes the first years of PACE as “the heroic years.” PACE teachers all taught six rather than five classes of 37 students and each year had to waive contract maximums. In interviewing Nancy, she laughed as she said, “when an opening to teach in PACE arose, no one applied.” Those teachers that came willingly developed an intense loyalty to the program. Teaching in PACE was in ways an act of sacrifice; teachers worked hard and often against stubborn opposition to their efforts by others who believed that PACE was siphoning off all the “good” students from the suburban schools and from

the rest of Poly.

Initially, many PACE students were bused into Poly for the morning and could return to their home schools for afternoon classes. By 1994, no students were opting to leave Poly in the afternoon. The safety of the campus and the quality of interaction between students and with teachers was no longer an issue for those who came to experience the program and campus. PACE and its talented student population became an exclusively Poly phenomenon, and its participants now graduated from Long Beach Poly High School with a PACE diploma.

By the fourth year of PACE’s existence, PACE teachers united and went to the administration to ask that Dr. Gray be relieved

of teaching responsibilities to focus exclusively on administration of the program. Recognizing the obvious excellence of the program and the value of her contributions, the district agreed to permit Nancy to focus on the work of recruiting teachers, adding Advanced Placement classes to the roster, and taking care of the multitude of administrative tasks that the PACE

program requires.

Nancy Gray left Poly and PACE after eight years to become a language arts consultant. She has stated that her “years in PACE were the best of [her] career.” All of us in PACE today can only hope that she feels the depth of our appreciation for her vision

and creativity.

*This article was originally written for the 2012 Harebrain by Dr. Michelle Aberle, former PACE Coordinator


The PACE Parent Support Group (PPSG) was officially founded in 2001. The effort began in 1996 as the ‘PACE PhoneBank’ to raise funds to support PACE, later transitioning to the PACE Scholarship Fund and the PACE Parent Advisory Committee. It now functions as one group, PACE Parent Group, a non-profit board consisting of parent volunteers who raise and manage donations in order to provide additional support to the PACE academic and scholarship programs.


Over the years, PPG has provided financial support for numerous educational needs including, but not limited to: mobile computer labs, classroom aides, AP preparation and tutoring, supplemental teaching materials, teacher training and conferences, and field trips. Each year PPG awards at least 10 scholarships to college-bound Seniors.


PACE is a school within a school at a large urban public high school and provides, for free, an education comparable to an elite private school. The PACE program relies on the generous support of its families, friends, alumni, and community. All donations are tax deductible and benefit current PACE students and the program overall. You can make a donation on our website or by mail to continue PACE’s commitment to excellence in education.

Thank you for your generosity and commitment to PACE and its commitment to excellence in education.

2021-2022 PPG Board

Kelly Sullivan, President

  • Parent of PACE Classes of 2019 & 2023

  • Familiar with tennis & orchestra


Kathy Huber-Moses, Scholarship Chair

  • Parent of PACE Classes of 2020 & 2023

  • Familiar with soccer & jazz band

Devon Trunelle, Secretary

  • Parent of PACE Class of 2025

Michelle Pryor, Treasurer

  • Parent of PACE Classes of 2020 & 2023

  • Familiar with lacrosse & MUN

Jyoti Nanda, Vice President

  • Parent of PACE Class of 2025


Dr. Helen Currie, VP Parent Education

  • Parent of PACE Classes of 2019 & 2023

  • Familiar with soccer & jazz band

Faraneh Chamran, Fundraising Chair

  • Parent of PACE Class of 2023

  • Familiar with cross-country & orchestra

Terry O'Dell, Harebrain Chair

  • Parent of PACE Class of 2023

  • Familiar with soccer & jazz band

Can you help?
PPG always welcomes participation, ideas, help, etc. from all PACE parents for every aspect of our PPG work. If you'd like to help in any way, have new ideas for future programs or parent education, etc., please contact any current board member listed on this website and in every issue of the Harebrain. Thank you!