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 SDCOE Holds Symposium for Educators in Charter Schools

More than 120 educators from charter schools throughout the region got together Aug. 21 to learn and network at a symposium organized by the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE).

The Curriculum and Instruction Network for Public Charter Schools Symposium featured learning sessions selected with the help of officials with the California Charter Schools Association. Topics included new state standards, new assessments, fiscal information for charter schools, and learning leaders.

“SDCOE is making every effort to embrace our charter schools,” said Paige Metz, health and physical education coordinator for SDCOE. “We want to make sure that we make a difference in the education for all students in the county, including those that are enrolled in a charter school.”

The offerings at the symposium were designed to meet the diverse needs of charter schools, which are public schools that operate independently from the chartering school district or county office.

Because they run their programs independently, charter schools often don’t have access to the same resources that other public schools can get from their district offices.

“There’s a special set of needs,” Metz said.

There are about 120 charter schools in San Diego County, including Literacy First Charter School, which is chartered by SDCOE.

“I love that it’s geared toward charter schools because sometimes we are left out of the loop,” said Lori Belzman, curriculum coordinator at the School for Integrated Academics and Technologies. “We all felt motivated to go back and put some of these things in place.”

The school, also known as SIATech, had a team of six educators at the symposium.

This was the first time SDCOE has sponsored an in-depth curriculum and instruction symposium specifically for charter schools. However, over the last several years, SDCOE personnel have organized shorter networking meetings.

The symposium featured a keynote speech by Alex Kajitani, the former California Teacher of the Year known as The Rapping Mathematician. He told the story of writing his first rap song, “Itty Bitty Dot,” to help students remember how to add and subtract numbers with decimal points. 

“Rap music can make anything cool,” he joked.

There are two more similar symposiums planned for charter schools this school year: Dec. 11 with a keynote speech from Doug Fisher and March 25 with a keynote speech from Margaret Heritage.