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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RHS Feb 22, 2021 09:59 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Are you paying your staff well, do they have benefits such as sick leave, vacation, retirement? Are you hiring on the basis of the experience of the teachers or on their political support of your agenda? If you have such enthusiasm for elementary education why don't you work within the rules and support public schools that are for all, not just the selected few that you propose to favor? Public education is one of the great reforms of the United States. We do not profit by undermining it with claims that some people are going to "do it right" while the great majority of educators are left suspect. I will not support this effort nor should the broader community.

a-1614018047 Feb 22, 2021 10:20 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

RHS, are charter schools not public? You are quite dismissive. In general, traditional public schools in California can leave much to be desired. I'm not sure how anyone could argue that the variety of needs of all students are met, some students need a different approach. It is a good thing to have alternative options. No one is forced to use them.

RHS Feb 22, 2021 12:58 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

No one is forced to go to Laguna Blanca either. The idea of too many/most charter schools is to create an elitist/superior student body by attracting the talent and family support from local "public" schools. This leaves those schools even more behind in their ability to educate the community that depends on them. The idea of "charter schools" being akin to "public schools" is much the same as the "academies" that now take all the best high school athletic talent to prepare them for success in sports while depriving the local school of the spirit and joy of a successful school activity that all would benefit from and which would give spirit to the community.

dukemunson Feb 22, 2021 01:04 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

RHS - I see your point...but I think having options is nice. Not everyone needs (nor wants) the exact same education system that each school in their district provides. I for one think 7 hours of school per day (and starting at 815am) is crazy. Science has shown that we shouldn't be waking kids up as early as we do. I understand that many parents need those hours though and are happy with it. I am equidistant though to 4 elementary schools...it would seemingly be doable (and nice) if in our SB/Goleta bubble we thought outside the national system that has been in place for seemingly ever and created some options. I'd prefer the year round school too! Why do 2.5 month Summer? Lets have a school that does a 1.5 month summer and spreads that last month off throughout the year (longer winter break, Spring break, etc). That's a win for X number of parents and kids.

lovesbalot Feb 22, 2021 11:37 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

This is exactly what Santa Barbara Unified School District needs. It is similar to Open Alternative which tragically closed by our former Superintendent despite overcrowded room full of parents and students begging to keep it. Thoreau Charter will be a safe and meaningful space for many students but particularly those with learning differences who fall through the cracks at SBUSD and excel at project based learning in smaller setting, valuing social justice, equity and learning from nature. Students with learning differences, english language learners and foster youth have fallen through the cracks at SBUSD because many need a different approach to literacy and learning. Love this and need this .

dukemunson Feb 22, 2021 12:54 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

I'd love love LOVE more school options! As long as we aren't nabbing funding from other schools, adding more options is a huge win! I'd love a charter school for my kids that spent more time outside and was more like 5 hours per day instead of 7. Let's get away from the idea that choice is bad in our local education and create additional (free!) educational opportunities...why do we insist on this one size fits all 815am to 3pm model in which it's almost entirely (other than recess) conducted sitting at a desk. We've held onto it for too long!! Bring on the Thoreau school, bring back OAS and get Trivium a better location!!

dukemunson Feb 22, 2021 09:29 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

845pm - we have friends at trivium that love it (when it was in person at least), which is a charter school that is open 2 days per week. Not sure exactly how they word it to to the state to get funding and only be two days per week, but the understanding is they teach certain subjects and you are supposed to home school the others. Two days a week didn’t work for us (3.5 or 4 days though would!) but I appreciated the 9am start and the outside the box thinking.

So... there is certainly no hard and fast minimum hours... and as such let’s stop getting stuck in this box of making it political. It’s ok to have options and choices... and no they don’t all have to be church based... let’s have flexible schedules to accommodate kids as best as we can. Yeah it means our taxes go up a little and not all the new money goes to existing public schools. Sorry teachers union and anti tax crusaders!!! It’s time to put our kids first... and to hell with the teachers union!!!

dukemunson Feb 23, 2021 09:15 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Sbtownie - it seems like a really nice spot, and I think they had just added a 3rd day in person pre-COVID (which might have compelled us to switch as 2 days just didn’t work for us). As with most charter schools the facilities aren’t great... but hopefully someday our leaders actually decide to care about education and allocate some more money for it (and don’t let the teachers union syphon it all directly to them). Options are good... one size fits all education isn’t to anyone’s benefit. And as we saw this past year, our school districts are too big to succeed... they crumbled and failed us all, most notably and tragically our children!

PitMix Feb 22, 2021 01:39 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Be interesting to see if they can pull it off. They want to have an outdoor campus downtown somewhere but really how many suitable sites are there in that area? Indy had more info on the proposal.

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.

letmego Feb 22, 2021 03:59 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Sacjon, some organizations rank Texas schools better than California now.

That aside, I'm not sure what planet SBLOCAL lives on. We have a lot of vocational programs. Construction, automotive, cooking, medical, computers/IT.

Also, the effectiveness of retention (failing kids) isn't clear. There are plusses and minuses to the practice. Failing (or promoting) kids without intensive intervention is pointless. And intensive intervention is expensive.

sblocal1967 Feb 22, 2021 07:33 PM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

Texas and Idaho have very healthy public school systems. Arkansas and Miss are very poor states and do a lot more with their money than CA. I do not think this is a laughing matter. What the elected officials, school admin and SBTA Union are doing is complete fraud. Capps is the worse of them. She is fully paid for by the teachers union and only looks out for their interest. She is using the School Board as a way to climb the political ladder. By showing her loyalty to the people who give her money she then will get more financial backers to represent in higher offices. It is a shame that the the School Board is polluted with this type of scum.

PitMix Feb 23, 2021 07:49 AM
Op Ed: A New Community School for Santa Barbara Children

I notice you don't post references for your ludicrous assertions. Idaho, Texas, and CA are all ranked in the 30s for K-12 education. Idaho doesn't even have the excuse of large urban populations so they must be really underfunded. Here's the link to US News and World Report.
https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/rankings/education

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!

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....

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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!

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?

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).

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 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 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 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 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 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.

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?

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.

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.

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?

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).

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