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New Jerusalem: Salvation for charter school in Manteca
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The Manteca Unified School District said no. The San Joaquin County Office of Education, in a kinder and gentler manner, also delivered an unequivocal no vote.

The third time may be the charm for Great Valley Academy as it continues to go courting for a school district to sponsor its proposed campus in Manteca. This time, the object of its attention is the small country school district of New Jerusalem in rural Tracy.

And the potential union appears very promising as evidenced by a number of indications.

•For starters, New Jerusalem Superintendent David Thoming is recommending to its three-member board of trustees approval of Great Valley’s charter application.

•While Great Valley was going through the approval rounds at Manteca Unified and the appeal process at the Office of Education when Manteca turned down the application, New Jerusalem was keenly watching in the wings and waiting for the results that could open up an opportunity for the two educational institutions to initiate discussions for a possible partnership between the two.

•New Jerusalem already has a reputation for being charter-friendly when it comes to schools.

•New Jerusalem has seen firsthand the impact of Great Valley Academy’s Integrated Visual Leaning method of improving students’ learning. One of the district’s students was referred to Dr. Eldon Rosenow, a longtime Modesto optometrist who founded Great Valley Academy, with positive results.

While Thoming has made known his recommendation for approval, the actual vote for Great Valley’s charter application with New Jerusalem will take place on April 14 and not at the regular school board meeting scheduled at 6 o’clock this evening.

New Jerusalem is a small school and Thoming is the only staff working in his office, “so it has taken us a little bit longer to get the papers done, the superintendent explained during a telephone interview Monday while he was on a business trip out of town.

However, the three board members will still discuss the Great Valley agenda item but no action will be taken at this time, Thoming said. The “approval meeting” will take place at the April 5 regular meeting of the board, he said.

Thoming said that when Great Valley was going through the process with Manteca Unified and the county Office of Education, “we kept an eye on that.”And when the appeal at the county level fell through, the two prospective educational partners then made the move to “see if we can do things together,” explained Thoming.

The superintendent explained why he is recommending approval of Great Valley’s charter application.

“I’ve spent quite some time over the last month or so at the Modesto site and I’m really excited about having the opportunity to work with Dr. Rosenow. His philosophy on education is really similar to our approach to education and we’re very excited to form a partnership with them,” Thoming said.

New Jerusalem also had an opportunity to work with Rosenow when a student was referred to the longtime optometrist for assistance using the pioneering IVL learning method.

“The student is already responding to that, so we’re very excited about moving forward” in the proposed partnership with Great Valley for the chance to provide more of the same learning opportunity for New Jerusalem’s students, stated Thoming.

The feeling is mutual, according to Rosenow.

“They (New Jerusalem) were waiting on what the county would do. When the county decided not to charter us, we had this (applicaation with New Jerusalem) already in the works, so the next day we turned in the paper work.” Rosenow said.

“Part of the deal was, we’ll teach some of these (learning) systems if they help us do the charter,” Rosenow said.

The New Jerusalem board members like Great Valley’s proposal and are “very interested in the whole thing,” he added.

They did not even consider going on to a higher appeal with the California Board of Education since Governor Jerry Brown got rid of “all the traditional people sort and the charter-friendly people,” Rosenow explained.

“This way, we’ll keep it local. And as it turned out, (New Jerusalem) wanted to learn more about our system of schooling and wanted us to be incorporated. It’s going to be a mutually official kind of thing,” he said.

It was a law office that played match-maker for Great Valley and New Jerusalem which are both clients of the firm. From that point, the two educational institutions contacted each other and “see what’s going to work out.”

New Jerusalem School dates as far back as 1876

“Our district has been around since 1876,” Thoming proudly stated.

According to the New Jerusalem’s web site,, the school was founded that year when Henry Ebe, a German Baptist farmer, donated the land for the first schoolhouse.

“This was the beginning of a long tradition of quality education. New Jerusalem School reflects the area’s strong sense of community. Many of the grandparents, and even great-grandparents, of today’s students attended NJS,” according to the school web site.

In addition to the New Jerusalem K-8 elementary school, the district also oversees the K-12 Delta Charter School. Thoming describes the high school portion of Delta Charter as a “hybrid model” with some students spending time on campus and others studying part-time online. Delta was established in 2001. Prior to that, there was a New Jerusalem charter school which was a home school, but that has since been converted to a site-based school.

New Jerusalem Elementary School’s web site profile describes itself as “a ‘country’ school, both geographically and culturally. This means that we adhere to traditional values including emphasizing student responsibility and resourcefulness, treating one another with dignity and respect, involving and communicating with parents, and maintaining high academic standards within a caring and thoughtful environment. We like to think ourselves as a ‘school family.’ Crime, drugs, gangs, weapons and such are NOT a part of our school environment in any way. Nor is there any tobacco, smoking or alcohol on our school campus.”

The school also proudly states that it has a “well-stocked, modern library housed in a building recently purchased as a joint project among the Parent-Teacher Club, the school district, and the charter schools.

They also have such programs as Accelerated Reader, sports including volleyball, basketball and soccer teams for both boys and girls, tutoring at many grade levels, a GATE program, and offer “Strive for Excellent” awards for good students’ work. Students take part in the San Joaquin County Artist-in-Residence program where professional artists provide instruction to the students. Every classroom is also wired for high-speed Internet access, and students have access to a computer lab with 35 work stations available.

New Jerusalem school district has three members on the school board: president and chairman Charles Petz, board clerk Stephen Bogetti, and member William Koster.