Jefferson overhauling its image 

For nearly a decade, Jefferson High School has had a reputation in the community for violence and poor-performing students, but district officials hope a total transformation of the school’s academics and attitude will turns things around.

The Jefferson Union High School District Board unanimously approved a plan Tuesday night that, if approved by the state, will bring in additional funding to establish a smaller learning community structure, along with a new marketing plan to inform Daly City residents of the school’s sweeping changes.

Officials had until Friday to submit their plan for High Priority School Grant funding, which would bring in an additional $400 per student per year for four years, English teacher Ericka Olson said.

The school’s plan, similar to those in effect in a few other schools including Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, would create smaller class sizes and put more emphasis on meeting a student’s individual academic needs. The plan is expected to increase academic rigor, personalize the learning experience and promote teacher collaboration.

Jefferson was already awarded a $799,586 Small Learning Communities Grant from the federal government in September 2005 spread out over five years to expand its "School Within a School" program — which targets at risk youth — to the entire incoming freshmen class of 2007. Since that program started with 40 at-risk sophomores in 2002, the participants have passed the exit exam at higher rates than the rest of the class.

With the addition of the High Priority School Grant funding, school officials hope to parlay that and the recently approved Measure N —a $136.9 million bond measure for facilities upgrades — into a total transformation of the school, said Dr. Alice Campbell, the first-year principal of Jefferson High School.

In addition to changing the academic structure of the school, the plan calls for a public relations campaign to boost the image of the school and increase participation by parents in their child’s education.

Nadine Samorino, the Parent-Teachers Association president for the school and an alumnus of Jefferson’s Class of 1974, said gang activity roughly 10 years ago fed into the "cocktail talk" that kept a negative cloud over Jefferson.

"What would make a difference would be parents coming to the school," Samorino said.

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