October 30, 1998
Three City Heights schools will be the focus of an intensive six-year $18-million project which is part of an overall effort to improve the quality of life in the community of City Heights.
Funded by a gift to San Diego State University from Price Charities, the educational project will focus on one of San Diego's most ethnically diverse and economically challenged communities. Sol Price, founder of Price Charities, emphasizes that "while San Diego State has much to offer to the community, it also has much to learn." Price believes that if SDSU faculty and students are more responsible and involved in the operations of inner-city schools. University programs will become more relevant and they will "produce even better teachers."
The project is expected to involve faculty and students from across the University, in, for example, the arts, health sciences, education and business. SDSU has been challenged to work with the schools to create the educational equivalent of a teaching hospital, exposing students and faculty more to the real challenges of inner-city, K-12 schools. More than 400 SDSU students per year and their faculty will teach and learn in City Heights.
SDSU President Stephen L. Weber has welcomed the challenge. "This investment in the people of City Heights by Price Charities will allow us to share University resources with the community and, at the same time, help us to better prepare new teachers for urban schools. A University is a tool for human and community development; we are proud to have our talents put to such good and important use. We are pleased to have this opportunity to be of service to the community of City Heights and its schools.
Knows as the City Heights Pilot, the innovative public-private partnership of a philanthropic foundation, a school district, a teachers' union, and a state university will go before the Board of Education for approval at its September 8, 1998, meeting.
The City Heights Pilot is created under the terms of the collective bargaining contract between the San Diego Education Association and the San Diego Unified School District. Unlike a charter school, the schools are district schools. However, the Pilot has a level of autonomy and authority that is not common in other schools. The Pilot was overwhelmingly approved in a vote by teachers at the three participating schools: Rosa Parks Elementary, Monroe Clark Middle, and Hoover High Schools. More than 4,700 pupils attend these schools.
Marc Knapp, president of the San Diego Education Association, said, "We believe that this is an opportunity for professionals at the school sites to help restructure how the professionals at the University train future teachers. By using our collective bargaining language, we were able to bring this collaboration together to help the children of San Diego." Each of the three school principals worked for over six months with representatives from their staff, SDSU, and the community to work out the terms of the Pilot.
President Weber announced the appointment of Dr. Ian Pumpian as the executive director of the project. Each school-site governance team will help design the new educational programs and services.
According to Pumpian, "SDSU will have more hands on experience and responsibilities. We will work with the schools to create a better connection between elementary school, high school and college. Together, we well learn how to make the curriculum more interesting and meaningful to students and teachers. These schools will be place where teachers will want to work and parents will feel connected. Together we will make sure students learn to read, write, speak and compute more effectively."
Price Charities will hold SDSU responsible for meeting yearly benchmarks as a condition for continued funding. Benchmarks will demonstrate progress in areas such as student attendance and behavior, academic performance, teacher hiring and retention, and community involvement. Rosa Parks and Monroe Clark are beginning their second year of operation and already enjoy tremendous community involvement and support. Hoover has been nationally recognized for its approach to educational reform. Nonetheless, low student achievement continues to be a problem at all three schools. The new City Heights Pilot will improve teaching and learning and promote healthy lifestyles.