George Lucas Educational Foundation
Professional Learning

The Fairy Tale Continues: The Latest on an Innovative School

June 6, 2007

This is an update on the new charter school in north Sacramento we introduced in my first blog post, "A Fairy Tale in the Making: One Woman's Quest to Connect Children of the World."

The school visionaries have hired a bilingual (Spanish and English) principal and have met with eighty parents to launch a strong, collaborative community base for this immersion academy. During this brainstorming session, Linda Ventriglia, the designer of the charter, worked with the participants to develop a cluster mind map of needs and possible solutions unique to their community.

In Ventriglia's words, "We have started with a blank sheet of paper and have tried to envision what a school for the 21st century would look like. We have asked parents the question 'What do you want for your child's future?' Parents are expressing the need for education, too. They want to learn so they can help their children. Parents also expressed the need for a healthy school-lunch program that would give their children choices for a healthy lifestyle. The consensus is that schools today are indoctrinating students, not educating them."

Additionally, the fascinating, yet not surprising, response from the parents in the Latino Leadership group for this growing community is their concern over student commitment to learning, because some students are dropping out of school as early as fourth grade.

Integral to the design of this globally connected charter, the vision for this school in the 21st century will include a computer-based network to facilitate collaborative learning in conversational Mandarin at home between parents and their children. Educational partners in Shanghai and Beijing are already active contributors in the planning process of connecting their children to ours in the classroom through weekly teleconferencing.

One of the most significant challenges is identifying a permanent school site for the immersion academy that will reflect the innovativeness of its original design. The site written into the Mandarin-immersion federal grant already hosts another charter school with traditional classroom setups. Parents in this charter school want the physical layout of the classrooms to broadcast that their children are absorbed in a 21st-century curriculum. The confining space of traditional classrooms in portable trailers is not optimal for inspiring the children to engage in new global learning patterns.

As readers of the first blog may remember, school board approval was an integral concern for the visionaries for many months. However, the adversarial interactions there were emotionally draining for individuals involved in both sides of the conflict. Now, school board members hold the pressing position of determining the level and manner of support for this innovative global charter school. Stay tuned -- and share your reactions to this update.

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