New charter school seeks high school district's OK
School would focus on foreign language, sustainability and tech
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.