The O’Farrell Charter Schools Still Win Big in 2020 | Voice of San Diego

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The O’Farrell Charter Schools Still Win Big in 2020

Students and teacher in an O'Farrell School Classroom
OCS second-graders celebrate their everyday wins in class, prior to the shutdown.

Every school that is still operating had wins in 2020. The O’Farrell Charter Schools — which include The O’Farrell Charter School and Ingenuity Charter School — reflect on their top wins during a turbulent year, and look toward 2021 with optimism. 

Biggest wins of 2020 for The O’Farrell Charter School 

1. We made the 2020 US News & World Report List—For Top 2% of High Schools in California, and Top 3% of High Schools in the US

  • This is the second year that OCS, an AVID National Demonstration School, has made this list. “It is a high honor and testament to our college preparatory program,” said Anne Mathews, OCS Elementary School Principal. 
  • OCS is an elite option for underrepresented students in Southeast San Diego, which brings significant scholarship and college recruiting opportunities to the school. 
  • The school has strong vertical alignment so students move seamlessly from one grade level to the next. “This ensures their academic success throughout their entire school career so that they will really excel in high school,” Mathews said. 

2. We successfully rolled out a fully online program for nearly 2,000 students—OCS had everything in order and ready to go one full month ahead of the governor’s school reopening date.

  • All of our students who needed a laptop were able to receive one for remote learning
  • We distributed hundreds of WiFi hotspots to families who needed internet access
  • The school scheduled pick-up days for families to get the school materials necessary for students to learn from home prior to and during the school year.
  • “Because we’ve developed such strong, trusting relationships with our students and their families, we were able to be very responsive to their needs during this unprecedented time of crisis,” Mathews said. 

3. We continued to have a strong presence at AVID national events

  • OCS high school senior Edil Sufi spoke at this year’s AVID National Convention, and did a fantastic job representing OCS and our AVID program. Edil is the second OCS student to have been featured at an AVID National Convention.
  • Hector Lerma, OCS middle school science teacher and AVID instructor, spoke at the first AVID “NatCon”— a virtual gathering that took place in December. “He shared his incredible journey from being an AVID student himself, to now an AVID educator, and spoke to the importance of students building agency for themselves,” said Jill Andersen, OCS Middle School Principal. 

Biggest wins of 2020 for Ingenuity Charter School 

1. Our inaugural Mindfulness Group helped students deal with 2020

  • Students learned strategies to identify stressful triggers and how to manage them through mindfulness. 
  • Being able to master the skills that keep us in control of our minds and bodies — and being aware of how different environmental triggers impact us — is a huge win, especially this year.
  • Helped our students and families understand that academic success isn’t possible without addressing our own mental health needs. 
  • Our teachers were the biggest factor in making the Mindfulness Group successful. “They know their students inside and out,” said Brittany Fuentes, School Psychologist for Ingenuity and OCS. “It’s an amazing thing to witness.”

2. We were already fully set up for virtual learning prior to COVID-19 

  • Since Ingenuity already operated on a hybrid learning platform, our transition to full distance learning was seamless. 
  • We could also quickly help OCS, our sister school, get up and running smoothly in their virtual learning environment much faster than if they had to do so on their own. 
  • Throughout the pandemic, we continued to innovate and create an engaging, relevant learning environment for all students. We already had the constructs in place to offer all our students an interactive, personalized school experience during the pandemic. 

3. We hired two new teachers and an ELD/SPED specialist

  • Due to our continued success and growing enrollment numbers, we were able to make these three new crucial hires. 
  • Strong parental involvement in our surveys helped us gain a better understanding of our areas of need. The parents’ feedback really assisted us in filling in the gaps in our staff and crafting the best experience possible for our students.
  • We also created our internal Ingenuity Leadership Team, which gives us more insight and actionable ways to achieve our school’s top goals and objectives in 2021 and beyond.

“OCS and Ingenuity really complement each other because we share the same mission statement and core values,” said Katie Reamer, an art instructor and independent study teacher at Ingenuity. 

Above all, both OCS and Ingenuity are united in their commitment to building strong relationships with the community by partnering with students and families. The schools worked hard to underscore this during the pandemic with important offerings like virtual student clubs and field trips; increased student outreach; and flexible, personalized online instruction for all students. 

“We are really proud of our strong collaboration and communication within the schools,” said Nicole Taugher, Ingenuity instructor of four years. “It gives all of our students the opportunity to be successful, no matter which campus they attend.”

Open parking lot with school supplies and teachers
OCS staff and faculty distribute student materials on assigned pick-up days.

For more information about these schools and programs, visit The O’Farrell Charter School on the web at ofarrellschool.org and Ingenuity Charter School at ingenuitycharter.org.