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DPIE Summer Enrichment Academy Adds Options for Dublin High School Students

April 27, 2012

In March, OneDublin.org reported on the new Summer Enrichment Academy being offered this summer to local students (read more…). OneDublin.org Features Writer Michael Utsumi provides background on the Summer Enrichment Academy and talks to DPIE Executive Director Janet Lockhart and Summer Enrichment Academy Principal Bill Branca about the program.

Four years ago, the Dublin Unified School District (DUSD) Board of Trustees approved a plan to adopt refined graduation requirements at Dublin High School. The movement was driven by a desire to increase rigor in the curriculum – specifically to align Dublin High graduation requirements with admission requirements at both the University of California and California State University campuses. Further, the graduation requirements would ultimately equate to those of other high schools in the Tri-Valley. In essence, the Board of Trustees wanted their students to be at a competitive advantage when competing for slots at these institutions.

What coincided in 2008 was a monumental downturn in the state economy and a corresponding decline in property values. The confluence of these events caused a fiscal budget crisis throughout the entire state of California. What followed was a successful passage of Measure L in Dublin, a parcel tax amendment that guaranteed a local budgetary supplement to help sustain many academic programs for the entire school district over the next five years. While not a complete remedy to the state shortfall, it has proven to be a powerful elixir to the overall school district budget dilemma. Numerous programs – both in the classroom and out – have been maintained thanks to the passage of Measure L.

Another event occurred almost two years later that would have further impact upon Dublin High School students. In 2010, the Board also adopted a modified diploma program which would feature three distinct diploma destinations. The new diploma options included: Diploma, Diploma with Distinction and an Advanced Scholar Diploma. The confluence of the modified graduation requirements and diversified diploma options has placed an added level of stress upon the existing infrastructure.

As statewide funding continued to slide in the subsequent years after 2008, the District grappled with the concept of adding a supplementary program that would provide students with the opportunity / choice to fulfill coursework and earn full credit during the summer in order to make other course choices during the conventional school calendar. With that goal in mind Dublin Unified School District (DUSD) Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hanke and Dublin Partners in Education (DPIE) Executive Director Janet Lockhart developed the Summer Enrichment Academy which launches this summer.

Though the desire to formulate this type of program was present for years, it was going to require some creative thinking and long term planning. With budget funding constrained, it was critical that DUSD retain a summer program that offered credit recovery classes for students that needed it.

Prior to joining DUSD, Dr. Hanke was an Assistant Superintendent in the Las Virgenes School District. LVSD is located in Western Los Angeles County and serves cities such as Calabasas and Westlake Village. During his tenure at LVSD, Dr. Hanke became aware of the support offered by the Las Virgenes Education Foundation. LVED is a “mirror” organization to DPIE in Dublin and has been a pioneer in the development of enrichment academies. These organizations collaborate with local businesses/enterprises to provide supplemental support to their local school districts. In short, the Board of Trustees, DPIE and DUSD leadership reached out to Las Virgenes in the hopes of creating a functional summer academy that could be executed in Dublin in the immediate term.

As a result, earlier this year DUSD announced the launch of a Summer Enrichment Academy, with classes starting on June 18. Course offerings will be offered in either one (three-week) or two (six-week) semester classes. The two session classes offered include: Speech & Debate, Spanish 1, World History, Geometry, U.S. History and Honors Chemistry/Lab. Geometry and Honors Chemistry require prerequisites and also require Friday attendance. Otherwise, classes will run Monday through Friday from 8:00AM – 1:00PM.

This is a fee-based program and cost for a 10 unit – six week course is $550.00. Given comparable programs available throughout the Tri-Valley, the costs are very competitive to alternatives. A five unit / three-week course is $410.00. This enrichment program is currently open for registration and is available to students throughout the Tri-Valley. Enrollment for Dublin students commenced on April 22. Classes will be conducted on the Dublin High School campus in the J-K buildings. Students should be advised that the classes are considered strenuous and consultation with their Counselor is recommended.

To help us better understand the genesis of this program, OneDublin.org reached out to DPIE, Executive Director, Janet Lockhart.

OneDublin.org: How was this program moved from concept to execution?

Janet Lockhart: “It really turned out to be a perfect storm of events. We knew that we wanted to initiate this type of program as none had previously existed in our District. While speaking with Dr. Hanke and exploring his previous experiences in another district, we realized that a ‘blueprint’ potentially existed for us. We needed to pursue it.”

OneDublin.org: What are your expectations for this first-year program? How will you evaluate its success?

Lockhart: “From a headcount and fiscal standpoint, our minimum threshold for summer enrollment is 250 students. At maximum, we can probably accommodate about 400 students. The challenge may be to ‘level out’ the number of students per section of coursework. Obviously, if there is vast under-enrollment in any subject, we may have to elect to eliminate that offering this year. Conversely, if there is a higher than expected interest in a subject, we will articulate our plans.”

OneDublin.org: Why is the success of this program vital to the District overall?

Lockhart: “We are living in very exciting times with heightened expectations for all of our students. At the same time, we all need to grow and embrace change. Unfortunately, this change may include trying to accomplish more with less. The fiscal reality is that school districts across the country must accept the reality that they may be receiving less funding for public education. We are fortunate that our Board of Trustees and Superintendent understand this concept and that we must think outside of the box in order to move forward.

“This is an entirely unique concept. Enrichment is a summer program that is not impacted by remediation. It is a voluntary program meant to benefit certain students that want to fulfill regular requirements during this time period. It is a fee-based program and certificated staff is choosing to participate in this academy. It is a program with many tentacles and someone needs to direct it.”

DHS Assistant Principal, Bill Branca will serve as Principal of the Summer Enrichment Academy. Mr. Branca attained his B.A in Business Administration from the University of Nevada, Reno and subsequently earned a Master’s degree in Administrative/Educational Leadership from Sierra College. He has served as a classroom teacher and was an administrator at Truckee High School, prior to coming to DHS seven years ago.

OneDublin.org: Online registration just started, but how is enrollment looking? Do you have enrollment minimums for each class?

Bill Branca: “Yes, it just started, but we’re gaining positive numbers every day. Ideally, we’d like to have at least 30 students per class offering. What I’ve sort of discovered over the years in Dublin is that many families/students make their commitments very close to the deadline. That said, I know that we are receiving interest outside of our district, as well.

OneDublin.org: As a virtually new program, what are your aspirations and how will you evaluate its success?

Branca: “I suppose that we’ll ultimately evaluate the enrichment based upon the number of students enrolled and the number of grades that we issue. However, the most important facet or result of this program is that is it will ultimately open up the fall schedule for numerous students that choose to take advantage of this program. We want the student to have the entire experience. What better way to clear that path by taking a class during the summer to clear room for an elective?”

OneDublin.org: Looking ahead, what else might this program potentially offer?

Branca: “I definitely think that we will have the opportunity to expand our offerings. Some of this may include programs in both Engineering and Robotics. I can also see an opportunity to open up a Drama program that would include students from both Fallon and Wells. While the MS schools may not receive transcript credit, they payoff would include a production after the six-week curriculum. We just need to keep our eye on building competitive and engaging programs.”

Open enrollment for the Summer Enrichment Academy for 2012 is now open. Registration for all students is available at: https://dublin.mylvef.org/

Summer Enrichment Principal, Bill Branca, is encouraging all families with any questions to contact him directly at: brancabill@dublinusd.org or 925-833-3300 x7023. Please act quickly as enrollment for certain sections are filling rapidly.

Editor’s Note: Ironically, both interview subjects were also recipients of the Annual DUSD Recognition Program on April 24, 2012. OneDublin.org congratulates both Bill Branca and Janet Lockhart for this recognition and their ongoing service to our school district.

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