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Publication Date: Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Summit charter high school poised for opening Summit charter high school poised for opening (May 28, 2003)

** About a third of Summit Prep students live in homes where Spanish is the primary language.

By David Boyce
Almanac Staff Writer

At Summit Preparatory High School, the motor is running and they're preparing to head out on the highway. The new charter school is scheduled to open with just over 100 freshmen in September in downtown Redwood City.

There is still much to do to prepare for opening day, said Diane Tavenner, the school's director, but the basic elements are there. The school has a full roster of students, the necessary funding, a faculty nearly all on board and a two-year lease on a two-story, 14,000-square-foot former office building.

"Everybody is incredibly excited," Ms. Tavenner said. "The faculty is ready to get started. ... Everybody is upbeat and positive and just really excited."

Although during Summit's planning stages, organizers were accused of trying to establish an elitist school -- with primarily high achievers from the Portola Valley, Woodside and west Menlo Park areas -- student enrollment statistics show the school will be more diverse than expected.

The largest contingent, 52 percent, of Summit's class of 2007 lives in Redwood City. Sixteen percent are from Menlo Park and 15 percent from Portola Valley. Five percent of the students live in Woodside and 3 percent in Atherton.

Of the 109 students who applied, 55 are boys and 54 are girls. About 35 percent live in homes where Spanish is the primary spoken language. Forty-two percent of the incoming students are studying Spanish as a foreign language. Spanish language classes will be a requirement for all students, Ms. Tavenner said.

The school held seven informational meetings over the winter, including four in Redwood City, two in Portola Valley and one in Woodside. Two of the original organizers, Portola Valley residents Chris Buja and Sharon Lockareff, are on the school's board of directors.

Had more than 100 students applied before March 15, the school would have had to conduct a lottery, but only 80 had applied. Ms. Tavenner said she expects several no-shows in September to bring the enrollment down to 100 students.

About 40 students are expected to attend the school's summer bridge program. The program is intended to introduce students to algebra in preparation for fall classes, said Ms. Tavenner. Enrollment is determined, in part, by the results of an evaluation requested by Summit from a student's eighth-grade math teacher.

With a student-to-teacher ratio of 25:1, the school needs four teachers. Three members of the faculty -- the biology, math and English teachers -- have been hired, with the social studies teacher likely to be hired soon, Ms. Tavenner said. The Spanish teachers will be part-time employees.

Ms. Tavenner has a master's degree in education administration from Stanford University and 12 years of experience in education, including teaching at an inner-city school in Los Angeles and four years as a vice-principal with Mountain View High School.

Over the last few months, she has been hiring teachers, enrolling students and organizing a human resources department, a school governing structure, a budget and a student database, in addition to preparing a curriculum and a professional development program. "It's amazing when you stop to think of what goes into this," she said.

The site of the school for the first two years will be 201 Marshall St. in Redwood City, which Ms. Tavenner said is fitted out with all the necessary infrastructure. But it's an "empty box," she said, adding that everything -- from desks to garbage cans -- has yet to be bought.

The school will add one grade level each year until it tops off with a senior class. Total enrollment will be limited to 400 students, Ms. Tavenner said.

As a charter school, Summit is a public school that is exempt from most of the rules set out by the state's education code. It is chartered by the Summerville Union High School District in Tuolumne County.

When its charter expires in 2005, state law requires Summit to request a charter from the local high school district, the Sequoia Union High School District.

Alice Miller, the Bay Area representative for California Network of Educational Charters, or CANEC, said Ms. Tavenner and representatives from the other three charter schools in the district met recently with Sequoia superintendent Pat Gemma.

Ms. Miller said Mr. Gemma was "very gracious" and interested in working with the schools and avoiding the kinds of controversy that characterized the district's earlier relationships with charter schools.


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