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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 20, 2002 - Issue 59


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Barona Seeks Charter School

by Jill Spielvogel Staff Writer The San Diego Union-Tribune
Learning is fun.BARONA INDIAN RESERVATION – The Barona Band of Mission Indians plans to convert its 33-student school into a local charter school that will serve twice as many children.

The school is a satellite of a charter based in Redding, but organizers hope creating their own charter school will give them more say over the content of lessons and encourage greater community involvement in the school.

Barona Indian Charter School would focus on teaching basics such as reading and writing, math, science and social studies, as well as offering instruction in Kumeyaay culture and language to kindergarten through eighth-graders. The Lakeside Union school board will vote Thursday on whether to grant the school's charter.

A charter school is a public school that receives state funding, but is exempt from many of the laws governing traditional public schools. School districts or county offices of education are responsible for granting charters, and for revoking them if a school becomes financially or educationally untenable.

Barona Indian School – including seven classrooms, a computer lab and a library – is nestled among the tribe's community building, childcare center and museum about a mile past the Barona casino.

Many of the students live at Barona or are children of casino employees. A handful of high school students go to school through an independent-study program, which would not be part of the charter, said Steve Banegas, Barona tribal council member.

As a charter, the school would be open to kindergarten to eighth-grade students, with preference to students who currently attend and those from the Lakeside area.

A successful charter school will provide needed, quality education for future leaders of Barona, with operations that include the multimillion-dollar casino business, a water treatment plant and housing construction, Banegas said.

"This is an investment in the next generation," he said. "I believe it is going to come back to the community."

The school will follow state guidelines for what students should be learning in each grade. In addition, students will study Spanish and the Kumeyaay language of Iipay.

Social-science lessons with the offerings of the on-site Barona Museum, which explains the history and culture of American Indians through artifacts dating back thousands of years and interactive exhibits. The school also has partnerships with the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center and National Wildlife Society.

The tribe has enlisted the help of San Diego-based BWG Educational Consultants, which has helped groups start and manage charter schools, including Chula Vista Learning Community Charter School in Chula Vista and Nubia Leadership Academy and Sojourner Truth Learning Academy charters in San Diego.

While many charter schools start from scratch – without facilities or students – Barona will begin with school buildings, students and strong tribal support.

"They really have all the factors to have a very unique and successful school," said Tim Wolf, a partner in BWG. The company will help oversee school management during the first year, he said.

Lakeside trustees met with the Barona school board last month to discuss their proposal. They suggested some changes, and if they are made, Lakeside Superintendent Carol Leighty expects the board will approve the charter.

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