Selected readings on US charter schools
What started experimentally with 80 eighth grade students has transformed into five academies: Leading Edge for middle school academic excellence, Pursuing Academic Choices Together home school support grades K-8, Performing and Fine Arts Academy which combines academic study with intensive training in the arts grades 6-12, Virtual Learning Academy for independent study grades 9-12, and STAR Academy for elementary age students.
The programs have their roots in the original 1993 California charter school law and were founded by Ting L. Sun and Charlie Leo. The goal, said Sun, to “provide strong quality programs to meet diverse needs. Twenty years later, we have five unique programs.”
Sun said Natomas Charter’s core tenants help make the difference in the programs’ success. They are parent involvement, community involvement, thematic curricula, alternative assessment, and the use of technology.
“I think one of the most unique things about Charter is the focus and dedication of the students,” teacher Kelly Cullity said. “In general, students are motivated to do well in all of their classes and are willing to work to get what they desire.”
Cullity graduated from Natomas Charter in 2003, and was a student the first year that Performing and Fine Arts Academy opened in 1997. She returned to teach voice after a successful career in musical theater.
“I am the first alumni to come back and teach at Charter, however, many alumni have worked in other capacities at the school in the past years,” she said. “For example, my brother also graduated from PFAA and came back to work as the accompanist for a couple of years before he left to work professionally as a music director around the country.”
Tammy Lee has been the Academy Coordinator at the Performing and Fines Arts Academy for 11 years.
“NCS is different from all other schools because not only have we been recognized locally, statewide and even internationally for our outstanding educational programs, but NCS also strives to create a family-like atmosphere where students develop into outstanding citizens of our community,” said Lee.
One of Lee’s favorite memories of the school is the performance of ‘One Voice’ at the Benvenuti Performing Arts Center.
“‘One Voice’ brought together students from Nigde, Turkey and from the Performing and Fine Arts Academy into an original performance celebrating the core values that teenagers across the world have in common,” she said. “This show demonstrated the power of the arts to bring peace and understanding among all people.”
To commemorate the school’s 20th anniversary, Natomas Charter graduate Colin M. Day created video featuring teachers, parents and students. (posted here)
Source: Natomas Buzz – by Kayleigh Nealon, NCS Intern