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USA Punjabi Charter School To Open In West Sacramento


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Punjabi charter school to open in West Sacramento

By Melody Gutierrez

West Sacramento will be home to the first public Punjabi charter school in the country this fall.

Approved by the Washington Unified School District board this month, the Sacramento Valley Charter School will teach the language and culture of Punjab, a region in northern India and Pakistan.

The publicly funded school will be independently operated by a newly created Punjabi nonprofit. Serving kindergarten through sixth grades, the nonsectarian charter school will be located on a property owned by and next door to the Sikh Temple of Sacramento in West Sacramento.

The school will expand to seventh and eighth grades over the next three school years.

"This is an opportunity to create the best possible school for my kids and the kids in our area," said Amar Shergill, a board member of the Sacramento Valley Charter School. "The fact that it happens to be a school offering Punjabi language education is nice, but the primary focus will be to provide an excellent education."

The Punjabi school is the latest on a growing list of public charters catering to one race, ethnicity or other subgroup, although they are by law open to anyone.

In Sacramento, a Hmong charter opened last summer in the Pocket neighborhood. In February, the Sacramento County Board of Education approved a multicharter school system aimed at closing the achievement gap between African American and white students in Sacramento County.

These charters and others across the nation have raised questions about whether this is essentially creating segregated schools.

Proponents say they are fulfilling a community need and identifying the students they will serve, as outlined in laws governing the creation of charters.

Opponents argue that schools catering to one race or ethnicity are inherently less accessible to students outside that group.

Critics vocalized their concerns during the creation of the Hmong and African American charters. The Punjabi charter, however, was approved June 9 with little criticism.

"Ensuring our kids can speak a second language and have an opportunity to understand a different culture will provide them a leg up as they compete for jobs in the 21st century," said Dave Westin, board president of Washington Unified.

Trustee Adam Menke was the lone board member to vote against the charter, saying he had concerns that the Punjabi school would not be able to attract a diverse student body that mirrors other district campuses. Menke also said he had reservations the charter could get up and running in just a few months.

"I feel it's best to have diverse schools," Menke said. "All these cultures need to be together to work out their similarities and differences."

Menke said now that the charter has been approved, he plans to work with school leaders to ensure its success.

Sixty families signed a petition expressing interest in the school, Shergill said. The Punjabi charter will open in August with 120 students. Last week, the school's board of directors hired Michael Ettner to be principal.

Bobbie Singh-Allen said she plans to enroll her two boys, ages 9 and 11, who are Indian American and white. Singh-Allen is a member of the Sikh Temple in West Sacramento and said her children are learning the Punjabi language on Sundays at the temple.

"I see this as an exciting opportunity to offer something unique," she said. "The congregation has been raising a lot of money to provide the initial seed money. It's something that has been a priority for the congregates for several years. This is a major accomplishment for our community. This is an immigrant success story."

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/06/27/3729139/punjabi-charter-school-to-open.html#ixzz1QVp16RNW



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