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Morgan Hill
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August 12, 2022

MHUSD approves alternative school

It’s official: Morgan Hill Unified School District will have two new schools this fall.
Tentatively named “Jackson Achievement Academy,” the MHUSD school board unanimously approved a music and math magnet school that will include a kindergarten through eighth grade configuration. This new school will be in addition to the dual immersion language school, tentatively called the “Morgan Hill Language Academy.”
“In Morgan Hill in particular, these two things of math and music are elements important to the community,” said Socorro Shiels, assistant superintendent of educational services.
The results of a proposition for the new JAA school comes after a community-wide survey conducted in March that revealed parents wanted more options. With a total 687 respondents, 85 percent said they would be willing to provide their own transportation to the school, and nearly 50 percent said they would transfer schools if the right magnet school option were presented.  
Starting in fall 2012, JAA will be housed at Jackson Elementary School and include an addition of seventh graders for year one of implementation. Those students will “roll up” said Shiels for the 2013-14 school year as eighth graders. Morgan Hill Language Academy will be at San Martin/Gwinn Elementary until it is cost effective to move it to the vacant Burnett Elementary School site.
Students currently enrolled at Jackson will have priority to stay at JAA unless they opt for choice placement at another school, said Shiels.
“We are confident that increased options and program variation will engage students, motivate staff and demonstrate to parents that they need not look outside of the Morgan Hill Unified School District to find options for their students,” said Shiels during last Tuesday night’s meeting.
Classes for JAA will focus on individual math instruction each day, with a problem-solving focus and more afterschool options such as the AIM math program the district is already using. With the musical aspect, there will be weekly school day instruction and after school opportunities. State standards however, are still the core of instruction, said Shiels.
MHUSD will look into some ‘cost neutral’ options such as transferring in interested teachers already in the district since natural attrition of teachers (such as retirement), create movement possibilities. The first priority said Shiels, is to name the school’s principal, it is unclear if current principal Elvia Teixeira will remain principal.
The new magnet school could also attract new students to the district, she said at the meeting, an added benefit of more average daily attendance funding from the state.
“One of the most important aspects is getting the teachers on board to see where they want to move to,” said Shiels.
Shiels said “we have whispers” of teachers who have expressed interest in teaching at the magnet school.
Superintendent Wes Smith said there would not be any “huge changes” in year one of the school in terms of facility changes.
“We have some portables there that will allow us some flexibility. We’re confident that we have the space for that,” he said.
Since the district is in talks to bring about a new bond measure to Morgan Hill voters, if approved, bond money could add new additions to the school such as a soundproof band room or a new computer lab.
One ‘unintended’ benefit for holding this program at the Jackson Elementary school site is that it may get out of its second-year as a year 5 Program Improvement (PI), Shiels said.
“We have a good chance to get a new county code,” said Shiels. “It’s an unintended consequence of this change, but not the intended change.”
Each school has a certain CDS code, or number. With a new school could come a new code. Only when the school receives a new code can the school itself be removed from its current PI status. Jackson Elementary currently has an alternative governance committee, which helps monitor the school with a plan until the school receives Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for two consecutive years in testing results.
Board trustee Peter Mandel asked to clarify how courses would be handled.
“Will there be courses that could be taught with a mathematical inclination? Or is it all of the coursework with a math angle, or standard courses and we have math in depth?,” said Mandel.
Shiels said they are conceptualizing ways that classes would reflect both: integration of both math and music into the curriculum as well as in-depth focuses on individual time with each subject.
“I’m very glad that we are trying to maintain our academic articulation,” said school board trustee Kathy Sullivan. “I love that we are looking at adding things to the district. I’m going to ask: is this something staff can handle with the other things that they are facing?”
“I think we see this as an exciting opportunity for administrators and teachers,” responded Shiels. “I feel that this is our opportunity to show the community what we’re able to do and committed to do for citizens of Morgan Hill.”

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