The founding group began in the summer of 2001 with the original purpose of working with Vallejo City Unified School District (VCUSD) to get a public school in the new community of Hiddenbrooke. Over the next 3 1/2 years, the discussion and the group membership changed in many ways due to several factors including the State’s take-over of the district. In January 2005, the remaining 2 members of the group organized a door-to-door count of all the children in the now 5-year old community. This effort provided hard data that we gave the state administrator when we met with him to discuss the school. He was impressed with our efforts and with the demographic data provided, but he was very direct and stated that there were no plans to build a district school in Hiddenbrooke in the foreseeable future. The group then discussed pursuing a charter school and Dr. Damelio suggested we consider a model called Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound.
Over the next few months, the founding group expanded. We developed a mission and vision for the school, wrote a successful federal grant application, wrote an outstanding charter petition, collected signatures and presented the petition to the District in October 2005. The founding group now included the general counsel for a local northern California school district, a charter school administrator who holds a masters degree in educational leadership; a project-based learning specialist who works extensively as a Project-Based Learning (PBL) trainer and curriculum coach for the Buck Institute and the New Technology Foundation; and an educational consultant who has served as the reform coordinator for Bay area districts and who coordinated the design and implementation of school-wide Literacy assessments.
The petition was denied in January 2006, and at the same time Dr. Damelio announced that he would build a regular public K-5 elementary school in Hiddenbrooke. However, we did not give up on the charter because by then it had become a critical opportunity for our city. We continued out efforts – we brought in more community members to our cause and worked tirelessly to tell the whole city about our school. We circulated a petition supporting the school and attended countless community events to tell the entire community about Expeditionary Learning. Then, early in the spring of 2007, we re-approached the VCUSD to share the results of our petition to explore how we could get the charter school approved. Our efforts were rewarded on May 2, 2007 when the VCS Charter was approved by the VCUSD Board of Education. Vallejo Charter School opened on August 22, 2007 with over 200 students. Our future had begun!
We believe that all children can succeed, and we believe that Vallejo Charter School is a vital, positive piece of the complex efforts that will forever change education in this city.