The Presentation School approach

Posted on November 17, 2011 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Eighth graders from the Presentation School visited the migrant worker camp run by La Luz. The students interviewed the workers in Spanish to learn first hand about what the workers experience.

By Beth Fox | Special to The Sun

Why do parents choose The Presentation School? Our school is a great fit for families looking for an academically rigorous independent school that is guided by Catholic values.

Academics come first and Presentation students exhibit high standardized test scores and great success in a myriad of local and national academic competitions. In third through eighth grades, we administer the Stanford-10 because it is the test used by the most academically rigorous public, private and parochial schools nationwide. Our students score exceptionally well when stacked up against students at the top schools in the country.  Last year, 45 percent of our students tested scored in the 95th percentile or higher on either Total Reading or Total Math, which qualifies them to participate in the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Gifted Program – the leading non-profit gifted studies organization in the US. The average Presentation student scored in the 82nd percentile in Total Reading and in the 88th percentile in Total Math.  Incoming students are assessed for math and language arts placement and these placements are re-evaluated every fall. 

Beginning in the intermediate grades, students compete annually in the County Science Olympiad, the County Spelling Bee, the Justin-Siena Math Competition, Sonoma County Science Fair and a handful of regional and national essay, poetry and art competitions. Quarterly academic assemblies, weekly guidance assemblies, bi-monthly showcases, special theme days are just a few of the other ways that we celebrate our students.

Beyond academics, Presentation boasts an ambitious arts curriculum that includes fine arts, drama and music. The school, for the first time this fall, offered a full-scale dramatic production, “Our Town.” In addition, we offer an all-school musical in the winter – “Bye-Bye Birdie” in 2012 – and a school-wide Art Show in the spring. Presentation recently purchased $10,000 of new musical instruments and announced new enhancements to the school’s music curriculum.  All students enjoy 90 minutes of hands-on musical instruction each week including the soprano glockenspiel, the keyboard, the recorder, harmonicas, ukeleles and practice a variety of vocal techniques. We now have one of the best equipped K-8 music programs in the North Bay.

Our students also enjoy a broad athletic program, competing in basketball, volleyball, track & field, cross country, golf and we field a competitive rock-climbing team and a Spirit Squad. We even have our own 40-foot wide traverse climbing wall.
We work hard to make tuition affordable for everyone. Nearly 20 percent of our families receive confidential need-based financial aid and our diverse student body hails from throughout Sonoma Valley, as well as Napa, Petaluma and Fairfield. Approximately half of our families are Catholic, and our faith curriculum includes Catholic teachings, bible history and world religions. Catholic values are embedded in all curricular areas as well.

Presentation offers an unparalleled scope of field experiences.  Our young students travel off-campus to the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, the de Young Museum, the Marin Museum of the American Indian, the SRJC Planetarium and the Environmental Discovery Center. Our fifth and sixth graders travel to Westminster Woods and Mendocino Woodlands for environmental science experiences.  Our seventh and eighth grade field experiences are tied directly to the school’s humanities multi-discipline course curriculum and include trips to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon and Washington, DC.

What else is the school known for? Probably its small class sizes. Presentation averages less than 20 students in a classroom. The school also enjoys a 4.5 acre, park-like campus with a library and computer/technology center, dedicated art and science rooms, a high school size basketball/volleyball court and a theater with full stage.  In addition, there is a dedicated play area for kindergartners, a school garden and extensive fields for athletics.  Come tour the school and see for yourself what makes our school and our students so unique!

Presentation School students visit migrant worker camp
For the second year in a row, eighth graders from The Presentation School have visited the migrant worker camps run by La Luz for a short field trip about the migrant experience.  The students prepare questions in advance in Spanish and come away moved and changed by their conversations with the workers.

Of the experience, eighth-grader Jack Greenberg wrote, “Our class’s recent visit to the migrant worker camp was an amazing experience to say the least.  For weeks prior to the trip we studied questions and responses in Spanish to get ready.  We read a chapter from “The Circuit:  Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child” by Francisco Jimenez to get a feel for the migrant worker life.  Then we read about César Chavez, a great man who did great things for workers and immigrants alike.  Right before we got there, everyone seemed nervous and was reading over their questions trying at the last minute to memorize verbs and conjugations.  Once we got there, we were taken on a tour of the camps. I interviewed a man name named Nico who didn’t speak English but was trying to learn at classes at the camp.  I learned that he enjoys the work, even though it is very difficult, because he gets to send money back to his family in Oaxaca.  I was amazed that he wakes up at 1:00 a.m. and is ready at 1:30 a.m. to start work.”

The eight blue temporary trailers that La Luz provides every harvest season are on West Agua Caliente Road, at St. Leo’s Catholic Church. The 32 young men who stay there pick grapes during the early hours of the morning.

La Luz provides breakfast and lunch and some dinners for the men, as well as English classes, lectures on health issues, and basic medical and dental care.  Operational expenses for the camps are covered by La Luz and from a grant from the Vadasz Family Foundation. 

Beth Fox is the admissions director at Presentation School.

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