Mountain View Voice

News - September 17, 2010

New charter school seeks high school district's OK

School would focus on foreign language, sustainability and tech

by Nick Veronin

There could be a new charter school in town. Citing a need for Silicon Valley students to better understand global culture and issues surrounding sustainability, a Sunnyvale man is setting his sights on the Mountain View Los Altos High School District to house his proposed charter school.

Bruce William Smith, who splits his time between Sunnyvale and Irvine, said he has worked in education for 17 years and has taught in public, private and charter schools in California and South Korea. He plans on bringing plans for One World Preparatory School, a chartered five-year secondary school, to the district "later this month."

Smith said that reform is needed. He would not disclose the school's potential financial backers, but said he has interviewed about 20 teachers already.

"There is a lot of waste in public education," Smith said. He said he believes that public schools spread resources too thin and that his school would "try to do fewer things and do them well."

Barry Groves, superintendent of the Mountain View Los Altos district, said that he knew little about the proposal.

Although he was hesitant to say more about Smith's school before seeing the proposal, Groves was skeptical about One World finding space in his district.

"We do not have any room at our schools. That is why we passed Measure A," Groves told the Voice via e-mail, referring to the school bond voters approved in June to help build new classrooms and laboratories at both district schools.

Smith said the One World Preparatory School would require students to take a foreign language course every year and in later years take a second class, such as history or geography, which would be taught in that language.

"I don't think people can really understand life in the 21st century or understand other cultures unless they understand another language well," Smith said.

In keeping with his vision of a global school that prepares students for the future, Smith said he hopes to cut back on textbook costs by going digital with lessons and course reading.

The school would also de-emphasize physical education and sports in favor of more academics. Smith said in the seven years he spent teaching in South Korea and in his observations of foreign classrooms, there was not nearly as much time spent with athletics as there is in the U.S.

"PE will not be a major focus of this school," Smith said. He doesn't think physical education does much to prepare kids for college or careers. "It's not that we don't want them to be physically active. I just think you have to look at ways that are effective in promoting that."

Students would be encouraged to engage in physical activity in their free time, Smith said.

Superintendent Groves said that currently both Mountain View and Los Altos high schools offer four years of foreign language instruction in Spanish, French, Latin and Japanese. The district promotes sustainability through "Green Teams" at all of its schools," he said.

About half of the students at Mountain View and Los Altos high schools engage in sports, according to Groves. In a previous interview on athletic achievements in his district, Groves said more physically activity is often tied to better academic performance.

Comments

Posted by Why here?, a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Sep 17, 2010 at 3:41 am

MV Voice, there are quite a few questions worth asking Mr Smith here.

If it's a local charter school, where is the local need? Do the MVLA kids have that much less exposure to foreign languages than other districts?
If he sees this as a general problem in Silicon Valley, why not a county level charter?
Did Mr Smith (a non resident) line up any sort of community support before laying out his plans and interviewing teachers?
Finally, a 5-year public high school? Who's going to pay for the 13th grade? :)


Posted by Levi, a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Sep 17, 2010 at 11:16 am

I don't know much at all about the proposed school but I can answer two of the questions posed by the St.Francis Acres resident above:
- County charters have different application and implementation rules than district charters. My understanding is that the county would prefer to charter schools that will have multiple locations throughout the county as opposed to single location schools. The preference is for single location schools to go through their local district so that the county is not "stepping on the toes" of the districts.
- The school is 8th through 12th, there is no 13th grade.


Posted by Still Why Here?, a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Sep 17, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Thanks for the clarification on county level application.

Regarding the school grades, I guess my question is now who's going to be paying for the 8th grade? The high school district is in charge of only 9-12, the 2 feeder elementary districts are in charge of K-8. Something doesn't add up here.


Posted by Chris Kuszmaul, a resident of Willowgate
on Sep 17, 2010 at 4:04 pm


I have worked with Bruce in the past, and have seen a number of charter school efforts attempted in our area before. I have also been a PTA president and presently teach in the area.

I am familiar with One World School as it is being planned, and am very positive about the value of the school. I would not characterize the school as a foreign language school, so much as a school that targets standards that have been established internationally.

For example in mathematics the school would operate relative to mathematics standards established in Singapore and the UK, as well as the US.

I strongly encourage prospective parents and patrons to pursue this opportunity for our community. I have worked with many great educators in my life. Bruce is the best there is.

Chris Kuszmaul


Posted by Parent, a resident of Waverly Park
on Sep 29, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I think Bruce should establish a small, boutique, private school, and offer generous scholarships for those who cannot afford the tuition. He can raise funds from foundations (Gates Foundation funds small innovative schools), wealthy "angel" donors, etc. A charter school WILL take resources away from our local public high schools--it will be to the detriment of many for the benefit of a few. I do not think this is a good trade-off in a district that enjoys outstanding public schools. The need is not great enough to offset the costs. It would appeal to parents looking for a niche education. I think they should pay for the privilege. Besides -- there is NO available space in our district, which is why voters recently approved Measure A. Not to build a charter school, but to provide adequate facilities for our local schools. I think it would be outrageous for the taxpayers' allocated funds to be taken and basically given to a charter school that no one asked for.


Posted by How about talking to the community?, a resident of another community
on Oct 1, 2010 at 12:06 am

According to today's article in the Mercury News:

Web Link

"As of Thursday afternoon, Mountain View-Los Altos Superintendent Barry Groves said he had not yet seen a proposal for the school or heard from its organizers. "No one has ever talked to me, the board members or anybody" about One World, Groves said."

Why isn't Mr Smith talking with the community he deems in need of his charter school?


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