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  • RENÉE C. BYER / rbyer@sacbee.com

    First-graders line up for lunch at John Adams Academy in Roseville. At the month-old charter school, named after our second president, Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey" replace textbooks. Amid the national debate over the role of government and the meaning of the Constitution, students discuss "restoring America's heritage" and becoming "servant leaders."

  • RENÉE C. BYER / rbyer@sacbee.com

    With Lincoln and Washington looking on, Kyla Watford, left, Hannah Biagi, center, and Paige Waid, all 11, perform a skit in a social studies class at John Adams Academy.

  • RENÉE C. BYER / rbyer@sacbee.com

    Nicholas Martin, front, Jonah Lay, center, and Cameron Pedro, all 11, perform a skit on hunters and gatherers in a recent social studies class at John Adams Academy.

More Information

Founding Fathers inspire Roseville charter's curriculum

Published: Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011 - 3:59 pm

Dead presidents grace the walls of Roseville's first charter school. Its school colors are red, white and blue.

Instead of textbooks, its students will read the primary writings of the Founding Fathers, along with such classics as Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey."

John Adams Academy is only a month old and already the students are talking about "restoring America's heritage" and becoming "servant leaders."

As conservatives and liberals across the country tussle over the proper role of government, the Constitution – and its interpretation – has become a hot topic. So perhaps it's only natural that the Sacramento region now has a school whose curriculum is centered on America's Founding Fathers.

The school's reading list includes the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, John Adams' "Thoughts on Government," and "Common Sense" by the firebrand revolutionary Thomas Paine.

Founder Dean Forman said he wanted to honor Adams – the nation's second president and a champion of American independence

"I wanted to put a name on a school that was worthy of more than a footnote in history. Without his services, we wouldn't have America today," he said.

Forman said the charter school is a good fit for Placer County. The county is one of the state's most staunchly conservative.

Forman is former chairman of the Placer County Republican Party. He was on the board of United Families International, a nonprofit public policy group that advocates anti-abortion stances and the sanctity of heterosexual marriage.

He also served four years on the Roseville Joint Union High School District board, where he supported teaching students contrasting views to evolution.

Despite his political background, Forman said his charter school won't teach a political viewpoint; Adams students will study the Constitution in its entirety.

The school was started to develop "servant leaders" – people who put the public good ahead of private gain, he said.

The 603 students who filled the classrooms on opening day show there is a need for the school in the community, he said. "The underserved include those not happy with current educational choices, those who want a more rigorous education," he said.

Eighth-grader Hannah Griffith said she came to the school looking for a "fresh start" after being bullied at her previous school.

Emily Stroh, also an eighth-grader, said the kids at John Adams don't cuss. She prepared a PowerPoint presentation to persuade her parents to let her attend.

Some of the students said the smaller class sizes allowed teachers to offer them more individual attention than their previous schools.

On a recent Tuesday, a sea of students dressed in red, white and blue moved from class to class. In Erin Benson's first-grade classroom, students were divided into groups with names like "The Uncle Sams," "The Yankee Doodles," "The Stars and Stripes" and the "Bald Eagles."

The patriotic theme of the classrooms, which are decorated with flags and red, white and blue on just about everything, carries over into the halls where prints depict the country's founding.

Students jump to their feet and offer a greeting when adults enter the classroom.

Principal Nathan Rose said more than 1,000 teachers applied for 25 teaching positions at the school. Although some had been laid off at other schools, others were looking for a change.

Third-year teacher Katie Roskelly applied to the academy because she liked the idea of using classical literature to teach social studies. She said that by the end of the school year, the students in her classes will have read nine books selected from a list of classics compiled by school leaders.

The school's reading list is extensive: from Roman and Greek orators to the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita, the Chinese Tao Te Ching philosophy, the Quran and about 700 other titles.

The teachers at the school – called educational entrepreneurs – have a great deal of latitude in designing lesson plans and the texts they select.

Charter experts said they weren't aware of other charters in the state with a similar curriculum.

"Charter schools enjoy flexibility and autonomy in their curricula, choice of materials and teaching strategies, per the Charter Schools Act," said Vicky Waters, spokeswoman for the California Charter Schools Association.

Waters said that charter schools must show children are learning in order to have their licenses renewed. "The ultimate test will be the school showing results with their students," she said.

JOHN ADAMS ACADEMY

What: An independent school chartered through Loomis Union School District that uses classic texts and the original documents of the Founding Fathers as teaching tools.

Where: One Sierragate Plaza, Roseville

Contact: (916) 780-6800

Reading list: Find a link to the academy's reading list at www. sacbee.com/links.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Diana Lambert



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