Thirty years after he began a career in construction, John Jurisic has finally returned home. He oversees work on the building of the physical education facility at Sato Academy of Mathematics and Science, the newest small high school to be funded by Measure K.
Jurisic, who has lived in Long Beach for 40 years, has been involved in building dozens of schools and other construction projects across Southern California. He started as an assistant to the project superintendent, working his way up to project manager, serving as the school district’s liaison to the building contractor.
"It's great to be here as part of a project that I know will serve students in my home town," said Jurisic, whose grandchildren now attend LBUSD schools. "I raised four children, who all graduated from Wilson High School," he said. "So I have a strong vested interest in public education in Long Beach."
The project that he supervises is the building of locker rooms, showers and exercise/weight rooms on the campus of the former Hill Middle School. Sato Academy formally opened on the campus last September after a one-year transition period when it housed eighth graders and ninth graders.
Today, it has 220 ninth and tenth graders, with a new class being added each year until it becomes a four-year high school with about 1,000 students.
After the physical education building is completed, the old gymnasium will be demolished to make way for more student parking. New California earthquake standards made the original building obsolete and unsuitable for continued use.
"We have had outstanding support from students, staff and parents at Sato," said Jurisic. "People have been so patient and have gone out of their way to make our job easier."
Jurisic acknowledges his life has not always been so easy. As a five-year old, he and his family left Yugoslavia, settling in Long Beach after living briefly in Paris, France and San Pedro.
Tall, athletic and driven to succeed, Jurisic was a basketball star at St. Anthony's High School in downtown Long Beach before he graduated and went to college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
He soon discovered he was more interested in basketball than books, so he quit college to play pro ball in his home country, now called Croatia.
After a year, he returned to America and found work on Long Beach's first major condominium project, Harbor Place Towers, then being built downtown.
Jurisic then worked for a series of construction firms until he became a facilities project manager at Los Angeles Unified School District, where he spent nearly 12 years.
Last year, he finally returned to Long Beach to serve as project manager for the Measure K Sato Academy project.
A resident of Belmont Heights, he said he is looking forward to successfully completing the Sato High School project this summer, and then "doing whatever else I can to make school facilities in my community even better."