Tonight, at a special meeting, the Northern Humboldt Union High School District will begin to consider a proposal to charter a new high school in Samoa — called the Samoa Beach Academy — that would have a strong career and technical education (CTE) focus.
Citing Samoa’s additions of new residences, businesses and growing development in general, the petitioners say there is “a strong community need” for workforce-ready high school graduates. They express a desire to expand immediate employment opportunities for high school graduates in an area that has high poverty rates, adding that their curriculum would also help college-bound graduates quickly secure a high-paying job to better afford college tuition.
The actual location of the desired facility is unclear. The charter proposal submitted to NoHum includes a letter of intent to rent a specific facility owned by Danco Builders, but an address was not included. That letter describes that the space includes a few classrooms, laboratories and common rooms, as well as office spaces and restrooms. Elsewhere, the proposal indicates that the space requires further construction, noting that “the facility, at completion, will be a state-of-the-art, modern, innovative career technical institution with classrooms, learning laboratories, and hands-on workshops.” The lease of five years was set to begin on January 1, 2021.
The Samoa Beach Academy was registered as an incorporated nonprofit in May of 2020. The address registered to the institution is 5251 Ericson Way, Arcata, which is the address of Danco Builders headquarters. One Samoa Beach Academy board member, Julianne Eagle, works as a communications director for Danco. The Outpost reached out to Eagle and other members of the Samoa Beach Academy to inquire about the location of the facility and how its construction will be funded, but did not hear back by publication.
Lead petitioner Catherine Scott, who was formerly superintendent of the Southern Humboldt Unified School District and now owns a consulting business, submitted the required and nearly 300-page charter proposal to NoHum in November. The proposal can be viewed in the agenda for a Tuesday, January 5 special board meeting, where the petitioners will present their application to the community and address questions from the board.
Here’s their mission:
Samoa Beach Academy provides students a safe, innovative, hands-on and student-driven trade and college preparatory high school with robust extracurricular and athletic programs. Our collaborative team takes a holistic approach to education to instill our students with integrity, respect, and compassion. Located at our unique, state-of-the-art campus between the Pacific Ocean and Humboldt Bay, we graduate young adults who are both academically prepared and career-ready for their future.
Specifically, the petitioners hope to begin by offering three CTE programs — building and construction trades, health and science medical technology, and business and finance — but noted in the proposal that more pathways might be added as the school grows. All students would take a CTE survey class as freshmen to learn about the three pathways before choosing one area of study to pursue during their remaining three years of high school. The curriculum will also include an internship in whatever area of CTE each student chooses, and the Samoa Beach Academy hopes to partner with College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State University for dual enrollment options as well.
Additionally, the school would aim to teach all subjects with CTE in mind, including those not traditionally related to CTE, such as social science.
Students could instead opt for their college-bound program and complete A-G requirements for a state university while dabbling in a chosen CTE trade. The school promises to offer advanced placement courses for interested students, noting that if enrollment in those classes is low there will be an opportunity to take them online.
The location seems to have heavily influenced plans for the charter. The proposal references Samoa’s demographics — in terms of poverty rate and top vocations — to explain the choice of a CTE curriculum, which the petitioners selected by reviewing the occupations by median earnings of Samoa residents. With beach and bay access, the school also plans to utilize the unique location for educational purposes, by completing biology labs in the bay or practicing construction in sandy areas near the beach.
The Samoa Beach Academy’s mission mentions a holistic approach to learning, which they’ll integrate as a “sound social emotional learning program.” That would include the opportunity to participate in thrice-daily mindfulness practices, which are 10- to 15-minute breathing and focusing sessions, and the use of “mindful language and vocabulary” — like “anchor breathing” (breathing technique) or “heartfulness” (meditation strategy) by teachers. The program would also include the option to participate in monthly restorative practices circles, during which students would be invited to express appreciations of each other and then voice and resolve conflicts with one another. The school promises to train faculty in these areas and offer mindfulness workshops to parents, too.
The charter’s team and independent board hope to open their school for the fall 2021 semester, and though the charter’s first year of enrollment would cap at 150 students, the size of the school would grow over its first five years until reaching a maximum capacity of 400 students.
The proposal defined the charter’s budget for its first five years of operation, which total an estimated $1,625,714 for the 2021-2022 school year and grow to $4,404,095 by 2025-2026.
NoHum currently includes two charter schools for high-school-age kids, Laurel Tree and Six Rivers Charter High School. Six Rivers is a dependent charter school, and has a more involved relationship with the district than more common, independent charter schools do. Arcata High School shares its campus with Six Rivers, so students there can enroll in AHS classes, and Six Rivers administration and student representatives participate in NoHum board meetings.
NoHum Superintendent Roger Macdonald briefly introduced the charter proposal at a board meeting last month. Macdonald said he expressed interest to the petitioners in partnering with the new charter school in a similar way to Six Rivers, but that they’d prefer to create and operate the school independently.
Though most large high schools in Humboldt County do offer some CTE-related classes and programs, Samoa Beach Academy would be the first to offer CTE as its primary curriculum.
The NoHum board has until March 6 to make a decision to approve or not approve the charter. The board meets via Zoom — link here — tonight at 5:30 p.m.