Roseville-based John Adams Academy will open a campus in El Dorado Hills this August.
After being denied by the Buckeye Union School District, supporters appealed to the El Dorado County Office of Education and on Feb. 28 the EDCOE Board of Trustees unanimously approved the charter petition for a three-year term. The school plans to eventually serve students in grades transitional kindergarten through 12th grade.
John Adams Academy was founded in 2010 and is fully accredited by the School Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. It is the only classical education, tuition-free, TK-12 public charter school in Northern California.
Non-secular and non-political, the school operates with 10 core principles in mind to “prepare future leaders and statesmen through principle-based education.” These core values include: appreciation of our national heritage, public and private virtue, emphasis on mentors and classics, scholar empowered learning, fostering creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, high standards of academic excellence, modeling what we teach, abundance mentality, building a culture of greatness, self-governance, personal responsibility and accountability.
At JAA students are referred to as scholars and during a recent campus tour in Roseville, Headmaster Heather Brown reiterated the school’s mission to elevate the educational experience for all children.
In a seventh-grade combined humanities and English class, students worked on a service project for Roseville non-profit The Gathering Inn. Students used Chromebooks to write letters to area stores, asking for fruit and vegetable donations to make meals for an event; others were planning the live student entertainment, including who would play instruments and/or sing in Greek (all seventh graders learn Greek to prepare them for high school). Students also busily planned the centerpieces they would create.
“Tools are given and everything is tied back to their learning,” Brown said. “Everything studied has a purpose.”
Instead of pop culture, school common areas are adorned with quotations by American statesmen and women. In the music room, for instance, Plato is quoted: “Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.”
In the library John Adams’ words are prominent: “I must judge for myself, but how can I judge, how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened and enlarged by reading.”
Every elementary class has an aide to help with literacy. “How can our scholars read great literature if they can’t read?” Brown asked.
Before prom, students take part in an etiquette and dancing class. At school dances big bands play live music instead. “They are exposed to a statesman type environment for a high-end formal event like a prom,” Brown explained.
From bell to bell no cell phones are allowed. “We want them to have conversations,” she continued.
“We support character development as much as academic development,” Brown added. “We use academic and cultural language to elevate them.”
There is a full special education program and elementary students see a dedicated art teacher each week. Every child comes face to face with an instrument and all students take art or music, where history is incorporated. A comprehensive education — where what they’re learning about in one class overlaps with the others — is status quo.
Though not in a union, Brown hires credentialed teachers. Teachers at the Roseville campus — one in chemistry and another in Spanish — have doctorate degrees.
“We are fortunate to bring in that kind of talent,” Brown said. “We don’t have tenure, but we have buy-in.”
All students wear uniforms, which Brown said “provide an even playing field and sense of belonging. That’s really important as part of our culture.”
The former Heald College building in Roseville was purchased by the school to house the JAA-Roseville campus. They have TK through sixth-grade students in one building and grades seven through 12 in another; however, Brown said ideally they’d all be in the same building.
“We are fostering a culture of leaders,” she said, explaining how refreshing it is to see older students with younger, adding, “There are opportunities for mentoring.”
Both buildings have their own dedicated computer labs, libraries and more. The elementary computer lab was donated by the Sacramento Kings.
While JAA-Roseville is growing — there are 32 students in this year’s senior class and an anticipated 64 in next year’s graduating class — the school still has a waiting list. “We had 559 enrolled scholars our first year in 2011 and our total enrollment this school year has grown to over 1,300 scholars with 694 on the wait list,” said Norman Gonzalez, the school’s dean of Operations.
He explained that the effort to establish another campus in El Dorado Hills is in response to the “overwhelming demand from families in the region to have access to our program.”
Since California approved the Charter Schools Act in 1992, charter schools have flourished in the state with 1,184 charter schools operating and approximately 550,000 students enrolled, representing 9 percent of the 6.2 million students attending public schools statewide. An estimated 158,000 students are on waiting lists. Charter schools are public schools of choice that operate independently from the traditional district governance structure, but the school district where the campus resides or the county’s board of education is the school’s authorizing agency. Charter schools are authorized for a period of time and then are either renewed for continued operation or shut down.
BUSD was offered to be the school’s governing body first because the vacant building in the El Dorado Hills Business Park that JAA would like to lease falls within BUSD’s boundaries.
“We submitted our petition to BUSD after we received 359 intent-to-enroll forms from families in that area,” Gonzalez explained. “That number has grown to over 400 intent-to-enroll forms.”
As the authorizing agency, EDCOE will benefit instead. “One percent of our revenue can go back (to the governing agency),” Gonzalez said. “If we draw kids from the region, we’re bringing people into the local district. Home sales would anchor families there and that property tax increase goes to (the governing body).”
Brown will oversee the creation of the JAA-EDH school. A third JAA campus in Lincoln is also expected to open in 2017.
“The approval by the EDCOE Board of Education will provide families throughout the region another excellent educational choice,” Gonzalez told Village Life on March 2. “The decision to open a school in El Dorado Hills has been parent and community driven and that was evidenced by a boardroom full of supporters at the public hearing last month and again on Tuesday afternoon. Parents and prospective scholars came out in the middle of the day to reaffirm their desire for the approval of the academy.
“We also want to acknowledge the EDCOE Board and EDCOE staff who spent countless hours putting in their due diligence to study the JAA petition and verify that the petition met all requirements of law for approval,” Gonzalez continued. “We have been impressed with EDCOE’s professionalism and dedication to the pursuit of excellence for schools in El Dorado County, and we look forward to partnering with them to become another high performing educational option for families throughout the region.”
Next steps include securing facilities in the Business Park to open the school for the 2017-18 school year, he said, adding, “We expect to have additional information on facilities within the next few weeks. This will allow us to finalize our determination regarding start dates, as well as the grade levels and number of classrooms per grade that we will be able to serve in the first year. As soon as we have a clear timeline for moving forward we will make an announcement so families can plan for enrollment.”
For more information visit johnadamsacademy.org.