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Cottonwood Creek School to Offer a Unique K-8 Education Experience

May 13, 2018

DUBLIN, CA–If one has been traveling in the vicinity of Fallon Road and Central Parkway, the evidence of progress in unmistakable. Nestled adjacent to the Jordan Ranch neighborhood, construction on the new school has continued since the summer of 2016. In three short months, the doors will open for the 2018-19 academic year. But the development plan for Cottonwood Creek School began many years before. The design element was accelerated by replicated some of the plans from Amador Elementary School – the first primary school built with multiple stories. Secondly, the program space was expanded due to a K-8 configuration as Cottonwood will be approximately 20% larger than Amador.

We met Principal Brett Nelson in 2012 when he was employed to lead Dougherty Elementary School. He has been tabbed to build a staff from scratch. Equally important is that Mr. Nelson must deliver a standard and vision that can be embraced by the entire school community. We recently sat down with him to gain his insights.

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OneDublin.org: Cottonwood Creek will open in about three months.  Both personally and professionally, how do you feel about the opportunity to usher in a brand-new school site?

Brett Nelson: “Professionally, opening a school has been a great experience, as I have had to move out of my comfort zone as administrator. There are many facets to opening a school; construction, purchasing, facilities, program, hiring and each has detailed decision making. For example, what kind of feet go on the chairs in the classroom: although it might seem a simple decision, color, finish and the kind of flooring the chairs are on all come into effect.

“Personally, this opportunity has been very rewarding. At the conclusion of each sub-project there is a strong sense of gratification and a feeling of true ownership to Cottonwood Creek School.”

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OneDublin.org: One of the intriguing elements is the potential to become an International Baccalaureate.  For those new to the concept, how does this differentiate from California State Standards?

Nelson: “Cottonwood has announced its candidacy for IB. What does this mean? It means we will be working toward becoming IB. This means that all students will have a holistic skills-based educational experience. Students will have designated and integrated instruction in Music, Science, Spanish, Engineering, Design, and Performing Arts. This will be supported by a Makerspace, Science Labs, Music and Band rooms, and professional development for all teachers. It is important to understand that all students will be taught California State Standards. In addition, they will have exposure, through the IB program, to a worldly education that prepares them for higher education.”

“Students will be able to:

  • ask challenging questions
  • think critically
  • develop research skills proven to help them in higher education

“With students completing an IB program in K-8 they will be on track to successfully enroll and complete the IB Diploma Programme.

“The International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) is recognized and respected by the world’s leading universities, and evidence suggests that higher rates of DP students go on to university and higher education study than non-IB students.”

OneDublin.org: K-8 schools are not necessarily a new idea, but it is different.  Beyond the immediate task of assembling a staff, what other challenges are you anticipating?

Nelson: “Staffing a school and building teams has been a little challenging, however, the biggest challenge as we move forward will be developing and fostering a school climate. As a new school with a new staff we have and will continue to meet and plan how we will start as a vested group with common goals. My primary objective for our k-8 school is that we open as a community that includes students, parents, and staff. A strong sense of community and support is essential to students learning at high levels and loving to learn.”

OneDublin.org: When you can pause for a moment and dream, what is your overall vision for Cottonwood?

Nelson: “On our website I have posted our school’s Mission Statement: Cottonwood Creek School provides a safe, positive learning environment that develops self-motivated, independent, and enthusiastic learners who strive toward academic excellence, social responsibility, and personal growth. The goal of the faculty, staff, and parents is to provide a program designed to meet the academic, social, emotional, and physical needs of each of our students and help them use their skills for the betterment of our world society.

“What this means to me is that when a student promotes from Cottonwood they will have had the best educational experience possible. They will have created memories of the many activities in which they participated and will be more than prepared academically for the next stage in their education. Achievement is important, but I hope that students at Cottonwood will not just be successful but love to learn and be able to apply their knowledge and skills to the real world and wherever life takes them.”

As Dublin continues to grow, the school district expands with it. But Cottonwood Creek will not be any ordinary school. And if you see coyotes wandering along Central Parkway, don’t be alarmed. This is the mascot name for the district’s newest school.

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