The academy will offer dual enrollment classes with Santa Barbara City College, Advanced Placement economics, and opportunities for students to develop business plans and pitch them to potential funders.
The school board previously encouraged Principal Ed Behrens and other officials to get a diverse student population for the academy, which has been a problem in other academies throughout the district.
Behrens said they are modeling the recruitment and application process after the school’s Health Careers Academy so the enrollment will represent the school’s population.
Every ninth-grade student will learn about the academy and be encouraged to apply, through health and AVID classes, and the school will also promote the message through bulletins, teacher announcements, back-to-school nights and PTSA newsletters, Behrens said.
Alex Sheldon, the academy’s director, health teacher and coach, will work with English-language learner and AVID counselors to identify underrepresented students for the academy and encourage them to apply.
Behrens said there will be a lot of support for students in the program, but they are hoping to take students with higher grade point averages.
“We plan to have good diversity in the academy but definitely want to make sure that the students who are entering can do well in AP Macro/Micro Economics and SBCC courses,” Behrens said.
They also plan to have mentors in the community and an entrepreneurship club at La Cumbre Junior High so students get interested early.
This was one of Behrens’ original goals when he first became principal in mid-2011.
“It’s very exciting to have the work that we’ve done hopefully coming to fruition, so thank you for the support,” he told the board.
Asked about cost-per-student, Superintendent Dave Cash said there is “no expectation that a student will be paying anything for this program.”
That is, until graduates become hugely successful entrepreneurs and come back to write a big check, Behrens joked.
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The school board also approved oversight committees for parcel tax Measures A and B, which were passed by voters last November. The seven-member committees for Measure H and I, the expiring parcel taxes, will roll over come July, but some members may leave and need replacing, according to communications director Barbara Keyani.
Former Cleveland Principal Michael Vail and Open Alternative School Principal Karen MacDonald presented a report on the READ 180 program’s academic impacts on the district. The program is aimed at students two levels behind in reading, and there has been growth for all students in the program over the three-year period the district has been using it, they said.
In the 2009-10 school year, 998 students participated, which increased to 1,544 students in the 2011-12 year. Of those students, 75 percent were English learners, Vail said.
“Students who were in three consecutive years of READ 180 were achieving academic gains, as measured in the English language arts section of California Standards Test, higher rates of gain than either non-READ 180 English learners and English-only students,” Vail said.
From that original class of 998 students, only about 300 were in the program for all three years.
The overall performance is still lower, though, and Cash reminded the board that there is still a large achievement gap between different groups of students in the district. He said the district is heading in the right direction, but staff members need to keep asking whether the improvement is fast enough, or whether the interventions are working.