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School Board Voices Support for Proposed Entrepreneurship Academy at San Marcos

Board approves new course in small-scale food production at Santa Barbara High

San Marcos High School plans to start an Entrepreneurship Academy in the fall, where students will take marketing, finance and business development classes.

A final decision will be made at the Jan. 22 Santa Barbara school board meeting, but members voiced their support for the program on Tuesday night.

Principal Ed Behrens said Santa Barbara is an entrepreneurial town with many startup companies, so it’s fitting that students learn about and explore that.

The academy will offer dual enrollment courses with Santa Barbara City College, including introduction to marketing, online and mobile marketing, introduction to finance and banking, and introduction to entrepreneurship and innovation. As seniors, students will take Advanced Placement economics, work with Kids Helping Kids, and take a business plan development class, which includes pitching their ideas to potential funders.

“So a final thing that might be an outcome for some students in high school could be that they come up with a concept, someone funds their concept and they leave high school starting their own business,” Behrens said.

Ninth-graders will apply for the academy, which has three years of classes and extra activities, Behrens said.

Board members were overall supportive of the plan, but stressed the need to get a diverse student population for the academy, which has been a problem in the past.

“From the start, it has to be reflective of the school’s demographics,” board president Monique Limon said.

Behrens said he aims to have 50 percent Latino students enrolled, with outreach and organizing clubs at middle schools.

The current proposal would require eligible students to have a 3.0 grade point average in honors and college preparatory classes and an interest in entrepreneurship and business.

Behrens noted that the number of accepted students would depend on the level of interest, and whether more than one section of each class can be offered.

New Santa Barbara school board members Pedro Paz and Gayle Eidelson join their colleagues during Tuesday night's meeting in supporting Santa Barbara High School's new small-scale food production course. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)
New Santa Barbara school board members Pedro Paz and Gayle Eidelson join their colleagues during Tuesday night’s meeting in supporting Santa Barbara High School’s new small-scale food production course. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

He has selected Alex Sheldon, a San Marcos health teacher and coach, to be the academy director.

Teacher Jamie Devries, who is also the director of Kids Helping Kids, will teach AP economics, and Russ Granger will teach marketing, Behrens said, adding that they want to pursue internships, job shadowing and community partnerships once the academy gets officially approved and under way.

Some community funding has already come forward. The Orfalea Foundation has given $25,000, The Towbes Foundation has given $5,000, Mike Pugh has given $5,000 and Sharif Alabdulwahab has given $4,000.

In other news at Tuesday’s meeting, the Board of Education unanimously approved a new course at Santa Barbara High School in small-scale food production. It’s similar to a dual enrollment course that used to be offered with SBCC, but the school has much more control over the curriculum with its own class, Assistant Principal Elise Simmons said Tuesday night.

Teacher Jose Caballero said dual enrollment was no longer an option for this course, and the school wanted to keep a course focused on sustainability and food production. It focuses on growing food — from seed, to soil, to harvest — in urban and suburban environments.

The school is also brainstorming for a Culinary Arts Academy in the future, which would incorporate this class well, Simmons said.

Caballero said a class like this is teachable anywhere with dirt and open space, and isn’t dependent on greenhouse facilities, though Santa Barbara High has them.

In the past, students have grown food in the campus’ gardens and greenhouses for the cafeteria, and now that the kitchen remodeling project is finished, Caballero hopes to partner up again.

The only costs are an estimated $500 to $1,000 in materials each year and the teacher’s stipend, which was raised through grantwriting by the Green Academy. The class is open to all interested students, but juniors and seniors are most likely to enroll.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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