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
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
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.