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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Creating a New Community School: Sherman Oaks

Great things happen when a community and its educators come together.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team

Sherman Oaks: The Creation of a School

Credit: Edutopia

Since this article was written in 2000, founding principal Peggy Bryan has moved on from Sherman Oaks Community Charter School, but current principal Irene Preciado carries on the school's original vision.


Sherman Oaks Community Charter School in San Jose, California, is what a school looks like when a passionate, creative principal is given free rein by her superintendent to "go forth and be different."

Parental involvement and getting to know the whole child are so valued that teachers make house calls. Teachers are equal partners in running the school and have a daily 90-minute period for planning and collaboration. Technology pervades all aspects of learning and teaching -- an unusual occurrence at a school of low-income students, many for whom English is a second language.

Sherman Oaks students, who are continuously engaged in high-tech, interdisciplinary projects, also reap the advantages of being paired with one teacher for two consecutive years, a practice known as "looping." And they learn in both Spanish and English at a time when California voters and politicians are trying to do away with bilingual education.

Located not far from the companies that gave the Silicon Valley its name, Sherman Oaks has become an oasis of innovation and caring in a low-income, gang-infiltrated part of town that had been without a school for twenty-five years.

The K-4 school reflects the educational philosophy of Principal Peggy Bryan and the teachers, as well as the concerns of parents who were consulted about what they wanted in a new school. Sherman Oaks attempts to meet not just the academic needs of its students but their emotional and social needs as well.

At Sherman Oaks, students, their teachers, the principal, other staff, and parent and community members participate fully in building a powerful learning community.

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