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Bay Area School of Enterprise seeks charter renewal

Submitted by on 1, January 12, 2011 – 12:02 am3 Comments

Families packed Tuesday night’s school board meeting to ask the board to renew the Bay Area School of Enterprise’s charter.

The board will discuss a five-year renewal of the decade-old non-traditional high school’s charter at its next meeting; approval will be considered on February 8.

Parents, students and alumni of the school talked about how it has put students on a path to college who might not otherwise be, and how it has inspired a love of learning in youth who had been struggling in school.

“My son had a zero GPA when he came to base,” Kassie Maurer told the board. “Now that he is in BASE, I see an extreme change in him. He is engaged, and he wants to go to college.”

Student Daniel Zuranich, a junior at BASE, said he came out of middle school with a 0.8 GPA. At BASE, he has a 4.0.

“BASE has kept me on the right track and has not stopped pushing me.,” Zuranich said “It’s one big family, and they ensure that every individual has what they need.”

Created by 10 students and a pair of adult staffers with Alternatives in Action, a nonprofit that operates Home Sweet Home preschool and other youth programs, the school opened in 2001 as the first student-initiated charter school in the country. The school works on an “enterprise learning” model that melds traditional subjects with social action projects and efforts to build youth leadership skills – and a drive to push students toward college.

The school has bolstered its child development, multimedia and legal studies offerings in recent years and secured $1.3 million through this school year to support after school programs and other efforts. Projects the school’s students have engaged in include the popular Project Youthview film festival and local political candidate forums. Students at BASE can also attend college classes through the Peralta Community College District.

“I’ve even trained adults on how to do youth development,” said senior Aarron MacNamara, as he listed off colleges where he’s applied. “BASE has helped me grow into the person you see before you today.”

The school’s 113 students come from Alameda and Oakland. About a third are African American and nearly half are Latino. Eighty-two percent qualify for free or reduced price lunches, the yardstick schools typically use to measure poverty.

Ninety percent of the school’s students come with skills below grade level or are behind in credits, and 30 percent come having attended three or more high schools. Nearly a quarter have been wards of the court or are in the foster care system, and 11 percent are on probation.

Last year, more than half of the school’s 23 graduates were accepted to a four-year college or university, and the school saw a 71-point jump in its Academic Performance Index score, which in 2009 had fallen to a five-year low (though Patricia Murillo, executive director of Alternatives in Action, said the school’s small student population causes big swings in the data).

One additional statistic: Ninety-two percent would be the first members of their family to attend college.

The school’s impact stretches well beyond the Island’s borders: Founding director Page Tompkins formed the Reach Institute for School Leadership in 2007, with BASE as the lead school. The institute, which now works with 18 Bay Area charters, offers intern credentialing and teacher coaching and mentoring programs and was featured in a 2007 op-ed in The New York Times.

Here in Alameda, the school is looking to work with Island High School, the alternative district school with whom BASE will be sharing space, to create an innovative educational model for high-risk youth.

School board trustees praised the charter and its students for their work.

“You’re inspiring to all of us,” school board vice president Margie Sherratt said.


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