Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
The future staff of the new Madera Unified School District Concurrent Enrollment Middle School turn up the ground where the new facility they will be working at will be.
Madera Unified held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for a new middle school that can be arguably described as the most innovative move in the history of the school district.
Set to open in the Fall of 2020, a concurrent middle school, which has yet to be named, will not have its own student body. It will borrow 8th graders from the district’s three middle schools and its country schools.
The emcee for Thursday’s celebration was Superintendent Todd Lile, and he was accompanied by a host of local dignitaries including the MUSD school board and Madera County Supervisors Brett Frazier and Robert Poythress.
Former Madera Unified Superintendent Julia O’Kane and former trustees Ricardo Arredondo and Al Galvez were also recognized. Arredondo was a special speaker for the occasion. The audience also included principal Alyson Rocco and 17 teachers who will make up the faculty for the new school.
Sandra Garcia from Congressman Jim Costa’s office and Mika Flores from Assemblyman Frank Bigelow’s office were on hand to congratulate the district on the occasion.
Madera’s new middle school will be like nothing Madera has seen before. It will have two shifts of students, one in the a.m. and one in the p.m., and each group would have approximately 550 students.
The morning contingent will come from their home schools of Desmond, Jefferson, MLK, and the country schools and then return just before lunch.
The afternoon students will arrive from the same home schools and return at the end of the day.
Since the students will be coming to the new school from a “home school,” a gymnasium, cafeteria and other buildings normally found on a middle school campus will not be necessary at the new school, which will reduce its construction cost dramatically.
Students who attend the new middle school will find the instruction to be just as innovative as the campus configuration. According to Lile, an “innovative real world curriculum will be offered.”
Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Sheryl Sisil, said the school will offer the following six labs of 90 students each: Agriculture, Engineering and Manufacturing, Business and Entrepreneurship, Health Careers and Medical Occupations, Digital and Performing Arts, and Public Safety. Each lab will have three instructors.
According to Sisil, Students attending the concurrent middle school will receive instruction through an interdisciplinary project-based learning approach. Each lab will teach the core subject area of English language arts, one of the six designated electives, and either social science, science, or math as a third core area of instruction.
The reality of a concurrent middle school in Madera rests on a three-legged stool — district leadership, the concept itself, and availability of a site.
First, Trustees Ray Seibert and Ricardo Arredondo and Sisil, who was then Director of College Career and Readiness, took on the task of improving the district’s career school program. From that effort the Career Pathway Movement replaced the old vocational school program, and Sisil announced that “a new day was coming for Madera Unified.”
The second factor in making the concurrent middle school a reality was the appearance of Todd Lile in Madera Unified. The homegrown educator, who was teaching in Clovis brought a new idea to Madera. He had been teaching at a school known as the Center for Advanced Research and Technology — CART for short.
Lile described CART as a “high tech, interdisciplinary, project-based school based on real world problems.”
According to Lile the curriculum was built around several labs that reached out to the community. The environmental science lab partnered with the U.S. Department of Forestry. The bio-medical lab linked with St. Agnes Hospital. A forensics lab investigated crime scenes. Lile suggested that this could happen in Madera. Seibert, Arredondo, and Sisil embraced the idea, and before long, the entire school board bought in.
Next came the third leg to the stool — a place to build the school. It just so happened that when the district negotiated with Madera County for the land for Rose Elementary, it purchased a little over 20 acres. The new elementary school only required 15 acres, which left 5 acres to be used for the concurrent middle school.
Thus the inspiration, the perspiration, and the dedication came together to give Madera Unified what some are saying will be one of the finest Career Technical Education facilities in the state.