Renaissance Academy Charter High School will officially welcome pupils in fall 2004, providing a new highly innovative public school alternative to Topanga high school students. The location of the school, to be determined in the next few months, will likely be on or adjacent to the present Palisades Charter High School campus.
Spearheaded by longtime Topanga resident and Palisades High teacher Paul McGlothlin, in collaboration with an inspired group of other teachers from Palisades High and Santa Monica College, Renaissance Academy is founded on the principle of providing an enriching and challenging øRenaissanceÓ style education in a øsmall schoolÓ environment to students in the arts, sciences and technology.
øLearning from the MastersÓ is how McGlothlin defines the spirit of the new school.
In addition to offering hands-on, interactive learning in required subjects, Renaissance Academy will provide students with the option of receiving joint high school and college credit in courses taught in conjunction with Santa Monica College, and will actively engage ømastersÓ from various fields to serve as øartists and scientists in residence.Ó
The Masters component of the Renaissance curriculum will be guided by the interests and talents of the students, and will give students a chance to work directly with specialists in a variety of areas such as botany, visual and performing arts, and the social sciences.
Renaissance Academy will also expand the use of media and technology in the curriculum beyond basic computer education, research and creative development. Students will be able to interface directly online with masters in various fields, receiving real-time input and feedback on the Internet, and creating virtual spaces online to work with their mentors.
By defining every student as an individual, and using that as a basis for personalizing the education of each student, McGlothlin sees Renaissance Academy as an opportunity to act upon his long-standing beliefäreinforced by 15 years of experience teaching in LAUSD middle and high schoolsäthat smaller schools provide the strongest, most successful, and most productive educational environments for children and young adults.
øThe overriding trend in education is toward smaller, autonomous schools,Ó says McGlothlin. øWith a small charter school you can take all the politics out of education and simply focus on educating the student.Ó
LAUSD music teacher Jeanne Mitchell, who saw both her sons through McGlothlinés Media Academy, and whose daughter will be entering high school in 2005, says she is excited about the Renaissance Academy because øit seems to have all the benefits of a progressive private school, but it is free, and has the umbrella of LAUSD. A smaller high school can guide and inspire each individual student in a way that is really important at this formative age.Ó
McGlothlin has a long history of collaborating with other teachers to develop øschools within schools.Ó He created the øSight and SoundÓ program at Gage Middle School, where he held a position from 1989 to 1995. He is most well known to Topangans as the main man behind Palisades High Schoolés successful Media Academy, which he launched when he arrived at Palisades High in 1996.
The Media Academy gave students with a passion for film and technology an opportunity to integrate hands-on projects with traditional subject areas. Sophomores in the Media program wrote and produced contemporary and historical documentaries each year as part of their English and history course requirements. Students at all grade levels were given opportunities to work on student newspaper writing and publication, animation, and dramatic filmmaking. The program was also fully integrated with the science curriculum, which focuses on exploring local marine and mountain life while incorporating high-tech systems such as GPS and computer modeling into scientific education.
The Media Academy and its complement, the Humanitas Program, came to an end last year, when Palisades High School shifted into its own independent Charter mode.
Simultaneously, Renaissance Academy sprang out of the hearts and minds of teachers who wanted to expand upon the successes of the previous two programs by integrating concepts from both, and generating an authentic small school community for participants.
After securing startup funding from the Palisades Charter Foundation, headed by Debra Black and Ron Wolf, McGlothlin and the Renaissance Academy team received a $450,000 grant from the California Department of Education in spring 2003 to officially launch the school.
Now, a little less than a year later, the teamäcomprised of about a dozen teachers, including Topanga resident Brooks Walker, and former Topanga residents Steve Engelmann and Mary Capelliäis in the process of moving the school from its initial planning stage into the first year of implementation.
The Los Angeles Unified School District Charter Office has received and accepted Renaissance Academyés request for a location on or adjacent to Palisades High. By law, the district is required to place the new school as close to its requested location as possible and the location must be assigned no later than April 1, 2004.
McGlothlin reports that he is øvery pleasedÓ with his latest conversations with the LAUSD Charter Office. He says he is excited about the support Renaissance Academy has received, and hopes the new schoolés location will be identified much sooner than the April deadline.
Renaissance Academy plans to enroll about 400 students, with classes organized of 18 to 24 pupils. Acceptance will be based on a lottery system, with preference given to students who reside within the Palisades K-12 Complex. Renaissance Academy students will also have full access to the traditional extracurricular activities offered by the larger Palisades Charter High School, such as after school sports.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED WITH RENAISSANCE ACADEMY
The next Town Hall Planning Meeting for the Academy is scheduled for Tuesday, February 24 in the Pacific Palisades Library at 6:30 p.m. The library is located at 861 Alma Real Drive, adjacent to the Palisades recreation center. Parking is free.
Topanga families with middle- and high-school aged children are invited to attend the meeting to find out more about the new school, add their own insights, and participate in the development process. Applications from eighth graders, as well as from current high school freshmen and sophomores, are now being accepted and will be available at the meeting.
Parents are particularly encouraged to get involved with various development committees, to contribute energy and expertise to recruitment, fundraising, promotion, facilities and operations, planning and implementation, and curriculum development.
To download the full text of Renaissance Academyés Charter or for a school application, visit their website at www.renaissancehigh.org. To submit applications or to receive additional information, contact their office at 17383 Sunset Boulevard, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272; phone (310) 454-4099 or fax (310) 454-4833.