Field Notes from School Visits in San Joaquin County

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March 30, 2012 The Central Valley is know worldwide for agriculture, but in the last 3 years, they've also been growing charter schools. Last week I visited 5 charter schools in San Joaquin County that have been operating for less than 4 years.

Three of the schools I visited were dependent charters. I learned that Pittman Charter is a turnaround school that converted under NCLB. They are now offering science at every grade and building out a bilingual, dual immersion program. They have a beautiful campus in a rough part of North Stockton, and are determined to serve students their better as a charter. Nightingale Charter is lead by a group of teachers that are committed to offering Project Based Learning. Primary Years Charter School offers International Baccalaureate for grades K - 5. Many of their students feed into the 6 -12 IB learning community program at Franklin High School -- Stockton Unified's large comprehensive high school.

I also visited 2 fully autonomous charters located in Stockton's city core: Stockton Collegiate International Elementary and Stockton Collegiate International Secondary. They are both International Baccalaureate programs that were started by former teacher from Franklin's IB program. They opened in 2010 and are now serving more than 760 kids in grades K-12.

Like many independent charters, SCI has gotten creative with their facilities. The two programs are spread across three buildings downtown, including a historic bank building that was built in 1925. They struggled to get a conditional use permit for the sites, but they are now a welcomed part of the downtown redevelopment. SCI qualify for SB 740 lease reimbursements, but like too many charter schools, have been frustrated by the California Department of Education's inability to disperse the funds for their lease reimbursement.

Despite that challenge, SCI is committed to offering a rigorous public education for students in Stockton. I was very impressed by the student work that was present on nearly every wall. The school offers arts and language at every grade, including French and Spanish. Their principal, Scott Luhn, also is encouraging all teachers and every grade to organize at least to field trips, with students recently visiting the Stockton Symphony.

It was great to learn about the new and growing charter schools in San Joaquin County.

Want to have your school highlighted on our regional website? Send me an invitation!

Laura A. Kerr
Regional Director, Northeastern California