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A New Public K-8 Bilingual College Preparatory Charter School

for the students and families
of Watsonville, CA

Offering an innovative bilingual program, blended learning (online and traditional methods,)  social and emotional connections, 
 art, drama, music and technology instruction in an extended school day and school year.

After a valiant and strong effort to have Pajaro Prep open in Watsonville for the 2012/13 school year,
the ConnectedSchools Board of Directors and parent communty has voted to postpone the project. The economic realities and difficult financial climate along with a challenging political situation, have guided the project in a different direction. The plan is to wait-out the challenging economy, re-group and see where things stand next school year. A heart-felt thanks for your interest and continued support. Please check back here for periodic updates.


Why a New School?

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    We are a group of educators and parents who have come together to address the widening achievement gap for students from migrant, farm working and new immigrant families in the Pajaro Valley area of Santa Cruz county.  These students have been struggling to make significant achievement gains for many years and have remained under-served and in need of a new way of learning. It has been said that education is the global equalizer, and we strongly believe that with a comprehensive and rigorous college preparedness program, children from this area can also reach the success of their dreams. Our motivation is to offer parents and families of Southern Santa Cruz county mainstream free education options that meet their needs that are truly successful at educating their children.
   With a sense  of urgency, we have put together a  new school model that uses innovation and research to directly connect students with challenging academics, high levels of supports, a balance of social/emotional, creative, health and environmental learning as well as strong  parent engagement and connections with technology.  To enhance learning and maintain connections with family and culture and for success in a changing global economy, our students will graduate  bi-lingual and bi-literate.
    Our hope is to  provide  parents and families with a mainstream educational option that works for their students and families and settles for  nothing less than fully preparing each child to graduate from high school and college and have a strong foundation for success and fulfillment beyond.

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Capital Campaign Has Begun!

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Help to provide a new public school option,
that offers college prep  environment and innovative learning systems,  
for parents and families in the Pajaro Valley!

ConnectedSchools has embarked on a one-time capital fundraising campaign to raise needed funds for the start-up phase of the project. As a future public school in the State of California, all of our operating capital will come from standard state and federal allocations. However, these funds are not available at start-up and we greatly need assistance at this critical stage. We are honored to include contributers to our start-up capital campaign in the founding of the school. 
Please click here for more information.

Current Happenings:

Petition not accepted by Santa Cruz County Board of Education
The  Santa Cruz County Board of Education recently voted on our charter appeal. After an extended and thorough process, the trustees voted to not authorize our charter petition at this time.   

This news was especially difficult for a core group of parents in Watsonville who were proud to be supporting a new public school option that offered Spanish language instruction as well as an extended school day and other learning tools that are not currently being offered in the local public schools.  

 

Upon explaining the denial, Maria L. a parent of 3 children who works in the berry fields in Watsonville could not understand the decision. She asked me "how could they not approve this? It is a great plan for a new school. We as parents want this and need this school to give our children a chance at college and a better life."

 

The reasons seem to be complicated. Although wehad an extremely thorough and well-vetted petition, the financial situation of public education in the state of California and the corresponding political climate in the local district may have been too scary for some to allow another charter school to open at this point. Also, although our parent support was strong (200+ at this point...) for many of these parents it was difficult  to have their voices heard due to language barriers, and cultural differences and anxiety around their status in this country and our turn-out at public meetings was often low.

 

The County Board of Education announced that is was "pro-charter" and in fact the Board President, Vic Marani now serves on a state board that will review charter school law and mentioned that his own children attend charter schools. Jack Dilles voted in favor of our petition and said "I agree it's not perfect, but I would like to see this school succeed, and I'd like to give them a chance" Two other Board members have also stated that they are "open to charter schools" as well.  

 

At the close of the hearing, Board president Vic Marani noted that the state's charter school regulations are "fluid" and that he saw the vote as "leaving the door ajar"

for the proposed charter school. 

 

The facts remain that student achievement in the Pajaro Valley remains painfully low, especially with second-language learning students and students from migrant and farm-working families. We know that these children (and all children) can learn and grow at the same levels as students from other ethnic and socio-economic groups. The Pajaro Prep model borrowed from best practices of other schools currently successful at serving a very similar population and who are seeing almost all of their students achieving at very high levels and being admitted college. Our goals were and remain the same:  high student achievement, along with connecting students to the arts, social-emotional learning and technology culminating in complete college preparedness. Our motivation was to offer the parents and families who may not have opportunities to access high achieving schools and a "whole" education an alternative choice in free public schools that works for them.

 

While sad and disappointed, our team and parents are not discouraged. The message from these parents and families continues to be that they want and need another school option that aims high and does things differently than the local district. The  Pajaro Prep's Board of Directors also believes firmly that all children deserve the very best education possible using innovative teaching and learning and will not quite until this happens for southern Santa Cruz County.

 

With a resolution in place from the Board of Directors, our team has decided to wait a year, revise our petition and most likely re-submit. There is hope that this will allow time for legislators to come up with a new plan to fund schools (including charter schools) and will allow us to again meet with the community, listen to their voices and revise our petition accordingly.

 

The process up to this point for me personally as a life-long educator has been nothing short of wonderful! I have had the opportunities to learn a tremendous amount about what successful schools across the county are doing that works. I have also personally grown as both a teacher and a school leader through very rich learning experiences and by visiting and talking with cutting edge charter and traditional public schools. I feel grateful for the time to speak with a variety of parents, children, community leaders, legislators, university professors and even President Obama's Director of the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanics.   

 

However, reflecting back on the past year during this process, I am most proud, most honored by and most grateful for the countless people--teachers, parents, business owners, community leaders, workers and even strangers who have stepped up to offer ideas and input, assistance, encouragement and hope. Gracias de mi corazon! Thank you from my heart! 

 

As we re-group and follow our new path forward, we will continue to keep you informed. As always your ideas, thoughts and energy are ALWAYS welcome.  

 

With a heart full of gratitude,

 

The Pajaro Prep Parents, Start-Up Team and Board of Directors.


Petition submitted to Santa Cruz County Board of Education on appeal
Last week the start-up team was pleased to submit the charter petition to Santa Cruz County Office of Education for their review and consideration. The team feels confident that the County will give a fair and honest assessment of the proposed new school, Pajaro Prep. We would graciously accept the County to be  our authorizer! The public hearing at the county level will be May 19th at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education Board Room. Please come and support Pajaro Prep's authorization.        

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PVUSD chooses not to approve Pajaro Prep's petition...Founding Team will appeal to the Santa Cruz County Office of Education this month

On April 13th, at our final hearing before the PVUDS Board of Trustees we were surprised to learn of the district's staff recommendation and board's decision to not approve our charter petition. While the reasons for denial given were confusing and not legally valid for denial, we will follow our original plan and appeal to the County Office of Education in Santa Cruz County.  We have been notifying the County Office of Education regarding our start-up process and feel confident that our petition will get a fair and honest appraisal.  Because of the 60 day timeline for the appeal process, we have decided to postpone the proposed opening of the school until August of 2012. While many parents, team members and community supporters were disappointed with PVUDS' decision, we remain hopeful and continue to want work with the district in being of service under-achieving and under-served students in the Pajaro Valley!


In the News:

- Appeal to Santa Cruz County Board of Education: HERE

- Public hearing in the news (Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper): HERE

 - Read about our project in the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper HERE.

- The Watsonville Patch covered our public hearing at the recent PVUSD Board of Trustees meeting. Read about it HERE.

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Support the project!

Read about our ideas for "connecting students" to their learning and feel free to leave a comment on our BLOG.

To contact us please click HERE.