CONCORD -- Although it still looks the same on the outside, a transformation is underway inside Clayton Valley Charter High, which officially opened Monday.

A new administrative team has taken over at the old Clayton Valley High campus, led by Executive Director Dave Linzey. Linzey was hired by the school's independent governing board based on his strong track record of turning around underperforming schools in Southern California, and he is not wasting any time.

This summer students are taking online courses at home to make up credits if they failed courses required for graduation, and incoming freshmen will come to the campus at the end of the month for a mandatory transition program aimed at preparing them for high school.

In addition, new ninth-graders have the opportunity to earn extra credit for their math and English classes through an online summer bridge program that allows them to work at their own pace and fill gaps in their knowledge, or study at advanced levels if they are ready.

The fall term will start Aug. 15 -- earlier than other schools in the district -- so students will finish their finals before winter break. The year will end May 31, giving students a head-start on finding summer jobs.

Linzey said he's pleased to be working with a group of teachers who took the remarkable step of voting to convert the school to a charter, overseen by the Contra Costa County Office of Education.


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"They are definitely focused on taking Clayton Valley to being a great high school and meeting the needs of students," said Linzey, as he settled into his office Thursday. "We'll run a tight ship with discipline. We will enforce the dress code. It's important to have a safe learning environment where distractions and disruptions are handled and managed well. Kids who are repeatedly disruptive will have counselors to work closely with them."

Parents are enthusiastic about Linzey's ability to implement new ideas, such as the summer programs. When the school was part of the Mt. Diablo district, changes often went through long bureaucratic processes that were frustrating to parents and teachers, said parent Alison Bacigalupo.

"The amount of stuff that's happening this summer is so exciting to me -- the things that Mr. Linzey put in place quickly," she said. "It gives me such faith that he really does care for the students, and we are not going forward with business as usual. For everything we're doing, he has a cool, interesting way of thinking about it. Even right down to our food service provider. The kids might actually want to go into the cafeteria and eat the food."

April Winship, who is coordinating volunteers, said she gets two or three e-mails a day from parents who want to help, including some whose children have graduated or not yet reached high school age.

"I do think it's really important that we chose our own leadership," she said. "Then you're taking ownership for what's happening, and that's really cool. We're kind of taking charge of our destiny."

Teacher Neil McChesney, who helped spearhead the petition that led to the charter conversion, said he is impressed with Linzey's experience and believes in his ability to help realize the vision of the charter organizers. That vision includes academic rigor that is relevant, along with establishing caring relationships with students.

"To be honest, the proof will be in the pudding next year," McChesney said. "He has a staff that is absolutely ready for change and ready to do the work to make Clayton Valley great. And if he can tap into that -- and I know he has already galvanized our small steering committee team -- then I think it's going to be amazing."

ONLINE:
More information about Clayton Valley Charter High School are at http://claytonvalley.org.
For additional details about the new administrative team, read the Assignment blog at www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment.