Laid-off teachers launch a private nonprofit school in Roseville

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 - 8:31 am

A small group of enthusiastic unemployed teachers and a veteran administrator from one of the area's highest-performing schools have teamed up to start a private nonprofit school.

Six teachers, laid off recently when Horizon Charter closed one of its programs and shuttered a school, have decided to open the Hawthorne Academy in the former Roseville Community Hospital site at 333 Sunrise Blvd., in Roseville.

The school is scheduled to open in August.

"This has been the dream of a couple of us over the years," said Janel Catalano, who will be the vice principal and a teacher. "My colleagues and I have similar interest and goals. We love children and know what children need."

The group tapped one teacher's mother – Pat Teilh – to be principal. She had retired as principal of Rocklin Academy Charter Schools four years ago. Rocklin Academy schools have consistently had some of the highest Academic Performance Index scores in the region.

Teilh called the Hawthorne Academy teachers "high-caliber" and "enthusiastic" and said she was excited about working with them. "I wanted to help these teachers," she said.

The teachers – who can't make use of federal or state funding because the school is private – are taking out loans and raiding their savings to make it happen.

Each will make about $49,000 annually and won't receive a raise for three years – the amount of time they estimate it will take to fill all the seats at the school.

Catalano said that they've gone over the budget meticulously and are sure they have enough money to cover everything, including the used furniture the school will use.

"We are just thrilled to be teaching," she said. "This is a legacy we are working on. Being such a great place to work will make up for all the headaches."

Tuition at Hawthorne Academy will begin at $6,200 for the youngest students and go up to $6,600 for middle school kids. The teachers expect the tuition for high school students will be in the $7,000 range, Catalano said. There will be sibling discounts.

The school will be small – only one class per grade level with 20 or fewer students per class – with only a principal, office manager and part-time vice principal. It will begin as a K-8 and eventually expand through 12th grade, school officials said.

There are no plans to add more classes per grade. "The plan is to keep that small community," Catalano said.

The educators will use elements of Horizon's accelerated learning program – Core Knowledge Curriculum and project-based instruction – and improve on it, Catalano said.

The only other area school to use the Core Knowledge Curriculum is Rocklin Academy, Teilh said. "Out in the world today you do not work in isolation," she said. "We want to prepare them for their future – working with committees and groups. That's how we accomplish things in our society."

All students will have Spanish language classes every day and will have all-day enrichment classes on Friday, Catalano said.

Struggles to maintain enough supplies, materials – even curriculum – in public schools persuaded the teachers to open a private school instead of a public charter, said Catalano.

"There is so much red tape and so many guidelines and categoricals that budgeting is a nightmare," she said.

Catalano said the nonprofit private status will allow teachers to have control over their decisions and stay focused on the needs of students.

The teachers will work as a team, with the five founding members serving as an advisory board to the school board.

The unemployed-teachers- turned-employers will hire two or three new teachers, depending on the number of students the school enrolls. Teilh said teachers are already inquiring about positions.

The school also is generating a lot of excitement from Horizon parents with displaced students, as well as families outside the program, the principal said. "They can't wait," Teilh said.

Getting accepted to the small, private school won't be as simple as signing up, however. Students who apply must go through an interview.

"We are actually looking for kids who are truly interested in learning and asking questions," Catalano said. "Part of the interview will be asking them questions that relate to their previous experiences."

The school will share the campus with Roseville Gateway Center of Sierra College and some other offices. It will be self-contained, separated by fencing and gates, and will have security, Catalano said.

Hawthorne Academy will fill the space on the campus formerly occupied by a culinary academy. The cooking school wasn't there long and had recently renovated classrooms and kitchens.

"We are very fortunate," Catalano said. "We will be able to have a wonderful hot lunch program."

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