Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

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By Allison Turkish

Imagine an elementary campus where the children are happy, eager to learn, and love to come to school every day. They are heard by their peers and teachers and get to make choices about what and how they study.

These are just some of the goals of a proposed free non-profit charter school for TK-6th grade students in the Santa Barbara area named Thoreau Community School (TCS).

SBUSD’s School Board will vote on the TCS charter petition on Tuesday, February 23.  If you would like a school like Thoreau to come to our area, would you please write to the Board members and share your opinion?

As part of the Founding Group, I am excited to have the opportunity to bring this school to Santa Barbara. I believe Thoreau Community School will inspire this current generation of children to have a lifelong appreciation of the world around them while learning to be smart, compassionate, creative, and uniquely themselves.  What a gift to our community!

TCS understands the importance of educating the WHOLE child, attending not only to academic needs but also their social and emotional development. 

1.    Our school climate will be characterized by safety, kindness, and joy in learning where every student is known and cared for.
2.    Our nature-based program includes outdoor classroom spaces, frequent participation in a school garden, day trips to spend time in places of wild character. Students will learn to care for themselves, others, and the environment. 
3.    Children will engage in hands-on activities and projects in order to have authentic, meaningful learning.  In addition, our students will have many opportunities to express their creativity through arts education (art, drama, music, dance, etc).
4.    We celebrate diversity and will teach about different cultures.  We believe in JEDI (justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion).

We will be a most awesome school.  If you would like to learn more, please visit our website at https://www.thoreaucommunityschool.org/ (available to read in English or Spanish), call or text 805-243-8940, or email [email protected].


Do you have an opinion on something local? Share it with us at [email protected] The views and opinions expressed in Op-Ed articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of edhat.

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lovesbalot Feb 23, 2021 02:52 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Letmego The CAASP scores have been stagnant for decades for the most vulnerable groups. They have gone up incrementally here and there by a couple points. But when student with learning differences go from a negative 113 to negative 111 on a year they are still failing dismally and are more than 2 years behind. Look at this slide straight from DOE , Likes use original sources and not personal spreads. Here is a link in this article.. go to slide 6 and you will see students with learning differences, english language learners and foster youth have been failing for years actually decades. If you drill down on schools you'll see juniors that only 4% of the juniors at La Cuesta could read at grade level. No A- G for them. No 4 year university and probably won't finish SBCC. Look at graduation rates for these sub groups. Our public schools are legally obliged to give a free and appropriate education with meaningful progress annually. Is 4% literacy rate for a junior in high school acceptable to you? It is not equity or just but yet they keep on doing the same old thing expecting different results.

letmego Feb 24, 2021 09:34 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

The CAASPP scores have not been "stagnant for decades", the test has not been in use for decades. I have spreadsheets that show the gradual improvement with the actual test score numbers for a variety of local individual schools and grade levels. I will not argue with you about students with learning differences but I WILL argue about the general trend. It's going up and has been going up. You can argue whether or not it's "fast enough" or not, but the trend has been improving at most schools, and that's a fact.

SBLetsGetAlong Feb 23, 2021 02:24 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Public schools cost more because it is government full of bureaucrat & extra staffing that private schools do not need nor have.
Teachers Union fights private and charter schools because the districts don’t want you, the parents & public, to know what a lousy job they are doing. They hide behind “lack of funding” yet our district pays 6 figures to the numerous administrators. While teachers complain about not being paid enough.
And the layers of assistants in public school is ridiculous. And now classrooms have “assistants” also known as Curriculum Specialists. This shows that the public schools know they have too many needy underperforming kids that need extra help.

Instead of reallocating resources to help they shovel tens of millions into buying more property, building multi million dollars football stadiums, etc.
instead of fixing, repairing and maintaining the existing schools.

Local Teachers Union donates tens of thousands to their school board choices instead of helping teachers and schools with what they need.

Public school is a travesty laced with curriculum designed to not educate your children for success. Public schools are government job security with a lot of “poor me” from those employed at the district.

You knew the shortcomings before becoming g a public employee. Stop whining about it and do your job which is to do what is in the children’s best interest, not yours.

dukemunson Feb 23, 2021 01:23 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

...which is why teachers unions spend millions of dollars lobbying against them. But hooray...Teachers unions!!!! Fighting to keep our schools closed and to limit kids educational options and opportunities!!!!

GoletaMan Feb 23, 2021 10:07 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

I was interested until I read #4. If I wanted my child indoctrinated by left wing politics and ridiculous ideology that actually promotes racism to grade school children....I'd just send them to public school.
Imagine a school without petty politics of adult children...when you mention Shakespeare and Pascale before describing to me your feelings about "inclusion" and "diversity"...then I will listen. And please stop with the "children get to make choices about what and how they study...." The whole point of school is to teach our children how to think critically and how to study. Letting them decide what they think is important at 10 years old is a recipe for disaster.

PitMix Feb 23, 2021 01:21 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

VOR, exactly right, and kids start learning racism from the adults around them from day one. I grew up as a white kid in Hawaii, and it looked to me like dark skin ruled in our community. Then one day a black kid from a military family showed up at our school, and I figured they would crown him king. But instead they called him the N word. Where did those hawaiian and filipino kids learn that stuff if they were never around black people and didn't have access to TV in those pre-cable days? Gotta be from their parents from day 1.

sacjon Feb 23, 2021 10:56 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

LETMEGO - for racists and simpletons, those ideas are very threatening. God forbid our kids learn to treat others the same regardless of sex, race, religion. How dare us leftists try to teach our kids common decency and acceptance of others?

letmego Feb 23, 2021 10:42 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

I can't speak for all local elementary schools, but "justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion" are being taught in my kids' regular public elementary school. And it's been that way for many years.
- Justice - treating all students equitably so that they feel safe and secure
- Equality - equal access to opportunities to enable students to fully participate in the learning process
- Diversity - accepting and embracing different cultures
- Inclusion - An inclusive classroom is a general education classroom where students with and without learning differences learn together

What on earth is controversial about all of that?

GoletaMan Feb 23, 2021 10:31 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

sacjon, thank you for reinforcing my points. You know nothing about me, history, racial injustice; or the 1950's for that matter. My kids will not participate nor will they be affected by this ideology. I wish you and your children all the best.

sacjon Feb 23, 2021 10:13 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

GOLETAMAN - Gross. Thinking inclusion and diversity and learning about other cultures is "left wing politics" is pretty 1950s. Would you prefer we never discuss other cultures, or racial injustice? You know, just ignore everything that isn't white?

Lorax Feb 22, 2021 10:54 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

The Thoreau Charter proposal may help prevent more exodus from The Santa Barbara School District.
Many people are unhappy with the leadership and manegment of the SBUSD. If they were graded by the results of their programs and standardized testing results, the Board members would all get "F's"
What the SBUSD is doing now with the exception of two schools doing well, Franklin and Washington Elementay Schools is both inconsistant and inefective in producing good results. Even Pre- Covid before distance learning, the results were very poor.

letmego Feb 23, 2021 10:49 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

The elementary school test scores have been generally improving across the board for several years - since the implementation of the CAASPP test. Obviously, we don't have data from last year or this year, but prior to that, there was steady improvement. Washington has a much smaller percentage of students in poverty and a lot more money - hence the better scores. Franklin ALSO got a LOT of extra outside funding to implement the systems that improved their scores. Unfortunately, most of the remaining schools have neither the money from the families to do what Washington does NOR do they have the external funding to implement the Franklin interventions. Understand that all schools try to do that. They look at these successes (and the similar successes of Adams, previously), and try to use the funding they have to get the most bang for their buck.

And it was working (albeit slowly) before the pandemic with gradually improving scores in ELA and math. (I have spreadsheets).

Voice of Reason Feb 23, 2021 08:30 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Why is exodus from a failing institution a bad thing? While many public institutions like the our school system seemed to be getting by okay, a crisis like this pandemic hits and really shines a spotlight on inadequacies, inefficiencies, and failures of these institutions. In the case of the public schools, it laid bare that the education and wellbeing of our children is NOT their #1 priority. If the education and well being of our kids is not the #1 priority of public school districts why should they get a monopoly and control over our educational tax dollars?

Ahchooo Feb 23, 2021 07:52 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

The charter school would still be part of the district, so the students would not technically be taken away. But it’s bound to affect the other schools in the district, if the highly motivated families all congregate at a specific school.

a-1614056021 Feb 22, 2021 08:53 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

How are students chosen for charter schools? Do they have to take all applicants until they are full? Or do they get to select which students they think will do well there? Can they disinvite troublemakers?Are parents required to volunteer time helping at the school?

lovesbalot Feb 22, 2021 08:23 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Surprisingly public schools cost more than private school according to the latest Dept of Ed. (DOE) data shows that governments spent an average of $14,439 for every student enrolled in K–12 public schools in the 2016–17 school year. In comparison, Just Facts estimates that private schools spent an average of $8,039 per student in the same year. Monies rarely make it to the classroom in public schools. We need to make systemic changes to the public system, it is expensive , and in many ways ineffective and does not meet the needs of those with learning differences, english language learners or foster youth. Our children are suffering and not able to read by end of the third grade; many not able to take a-g courses or attend a four year university. Systemic change is long overdue. The system is broken and expensive and not meeting student's needs.

PitMix Feb 24, 2021 07:49 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

10K voucher goes to the school, right? Parents don't get to keep the money as a windfall. I've never heard of a voucher system that gave away more money than the school needed- you take the voucher and give it to the school of your choice. Post some links if I am wrong.

Voice of Reason Feb 23, 2021 10:15 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Oh, okay. You made several posts about poverty being the issue, now it's unmotivated parents. Sorry, trying to keep up. BTW, a $10K voucher would help a single parent who works many hours to pay rent... One thing you may be missing is you're only looking at current non-public school options. Do you know how many will pop-up, ready to serve parents and place kids as their #1 priority? Some would also be geared towards parents with long hours or non 8-5 schedules.

PitMix Feb 23, 2021 10:00 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

VOR, a 10K voucher to send your kid to a private school does not fix kids with a single parent home that has to work many hours to pay rent. A parent that may not have much education themselves. Highly motivated parents of any income level can make sure their kids get a decent education. The question has always been how to motivate the parents that lack it. We really talking social work, not education here. Vouchers will not address that problem.

Voice of Reason Feb 23, 2021 09:51 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Pit, image then if those families in poverty had a $10K voucher to send their kid to any school? Or not even attend an actual school but use the vouchers to put together a small family/friend cohort and home school. If poverty is the problem, money should solve it.

PitMix Feb 23, 2021 07:36 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Yes, because the schools can fix the learning problems caused by families in poverty. Not. Public schools could save money by eliminating the food programs they need to help hungry students. That would help the bottom line, right?

Voice of Reason Feb 23, 2021 11:10 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Or, RHS, with the "easy" kids voluntarily switching to charter/other schools the public schools system would able to better focus on and help the "difficult" students (vs. now where they so easily fall through the cracks).

RHS Feb 23, 2021 10:42 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Public schools could pay teachers less, do less maintenance, eliminate nurses and nutritionists and kick difficult students out of the facility which would save money for the time being. We now have (using the "charter school" model a competition for the most teachable and cooperative students and families that will leave the hard job to the public schools (as "proof" that they are incompetent. Is any advocate of "charter schools" demanding that they take in anyone who applies and promising to keep the student enrolled no matter how s/he behaves?

SBLetsGetAlong Feb 22, 2021 06:56 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Public education and anything public is becoming a joke.
Teachers union does not care about children.
That is their job, but they decided they are too good to be around kids.
Public schools snd SBPHD have been persecuting private schools and cohorts from day 1 trying to prevent people from educating and socializing children which has repeatedly been pointed as as extremely important for children’s development.
I say vote for tax credit and take your kids where you need to. Heck, leave SB & CA. They clearly don’t value children’s health or academics as evidenced by text scores & total lack of leadership from the people who are suppose to take charge in emergencies.

Instead they all sit on their hands except to block and mock those that are trying to help kids.

Shame on you SBPHD & SBUSD & Teachers Union.

dukemunson Feb 23, 2021 09:03 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Pitmix - what are you talking about? Are your saying California is the only state with poverty? And as such when looking at test scores is the only state where certain scores should be taken out? Do you actually Re-read anything you write... because it’s truly nonsensical!

PitMix Feb 23, 2021 07:38 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

California student scores, for middle and upper class students, are just fine. It isn't until you include low income students that the average scores drop and make that state look bad. Poverty is the educational problem, and schools can't solve that.

mp805 Feb 22, 2021 04:17 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

You need to correct number 4...you don't believe in equality, you believe in equity if you follow the JEDI program. Equity and Equality are two different things according to social justice. Do your research!

lovesbalot Feb 22, 2021 04:12 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Public education would benefit from being more personal and offer interventions to students sooner rather than the current, "wait to fail" policy which basically steps in to over personal interventions when students hit below 25%. We need to meet students needs and offer strategies that work for different learning styles. For teachers of diverse students , it is especially important to use a broad repertoire of strategies. Some children may be global thinkers; others, more analytical. Some children may learn best from lecture and reading; others, through manipulatives and other hands-on experiences. Some children may thrive on competition; others achieve far more in cooperative groups. Currently SBUSD is not meeting the needs many of it's students particularly students with learning differences, english language learners and foster youth. At La Cuesta, only 4% of the juniors are reading at grade level. SBUSD needs to offer a different approach and focus on meeting students needs . Students wouldn't be leaving if their needs were being met. Systemic changes are needed on top of adding alternatives.

citizenSB Feb 22, 2021 03:56 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

The comment made by RHS "Are you hiring on the basis of the experience of the teachers'" in my mind is completely wrong, it should be "Are you hiring and maintaining the best teachers". As long as public schools continue with the Last in in first out approach to cutting staff with no meaningful teacher review and termination I will never support public schools.

ChemicalSuperFreak Feb 22, 2021 10:13 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Exactly. I've seen bad tenured faculty at the university level, where they've amounting to nothing more than dead weight---some even acquiring bad teaching habits, making it an overall negative to the institution. They were great once, but then became uninterested at some point to the detriment of their students.

sblocal1967 Feb 22, 2021 02:45 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

This is a pipe dream. Democratic led school boards are funded by teacher unions who back left leaning politicians who want a large voter base. How do democrats increase their voters base? By making sure kids are not properly educated and rely of big gov't handouts = poorly run public schools. If non-lefties ran the school boards, then you would have a much better public education system and no need for alternative schools. Your tax $'s would not be wasted on "feel good" programs that actually hurt the very people they are supposed to be helping. Teachers would be allowed to teach and pass/fail kids based on merit. Vocational programs would be re-introduced for kids who want to go into different career paths that do not required a bloated college education.

Voice of Reason Feb 23, 2021 09:53 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

It's the California way Duke, keep doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result. But it will be different THIS time, just vote for me again and I promise it will be different....

dukemunson Feb 23, 2021 09:09 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Hey there’s Florida at #3! And this is from 2019! with an extra year of school in the books one could reasonably assume they stayed near top! Cali on the other hand... well... hey... it’s ok... at least you did your part Pitmix to champion and celebrate the school board election and the status quo all through summer and Fall... thanks again for that!

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