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EDUCATION LEADERS TODAY

T H E M AG A Z I N E F O R C A P TA I N S O F I N D U S T RY www.educationleaderstoday.com

FAME PUBLIC CHARTER FAME understands the importance of cultural acceptance in today’s society and that educating students with that awareness is vital. FAME is the first charter in California to reinforce their students’ heritage culture by teaching Arabic as a second language in grades K-12.


FEATURE | FAME PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL

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FAME PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL | FEATURE

AME Public Charter School

OPTIMIZING STUDENTS’ LEARNING POTENTIAL With the rise of globalism and international pluralism in these modern times, the lines between cultures are at once as prominent and as blurred as we have ever seen them before. The understanding of these various cultures that altogether constitute a single American community is vital. FAME Public Charter School, based in Fremont and San Leandro, Calif., understands these communal needs and provides a place for students to learn where unique cultures can be fostered and thrive. The idea of a charter school as unique as FAME began when CEO and founder Maram Alaiwat had just finished her 10th year in the healthcare industry, a history she began her sophomore year in high school as a dual

by Joel Cornell

enrollment student. After achieving her degree in Health Services Administration at Florida Atlantic University, Alaiwat decided to pursue other interests. She relocated to the Fremont, Calif. area with her family in 1997. Alaiwat surveyed the educational options for her children, before deciding to home school. “All I saw was disheartening,” Alaiwat said. “From inter-district transfers to private options, nothing I found left me with a feeling that my children would be safe, well taught and content. I was in the supermarket, actually, when I bumped into a home school advocate who introduced me to the movement. After talking for an hour, I decided then to join a local home school program.”

However, the laws and standards governing home schooling were quite different then. Alaiwat found herself lost in a sea of other home schooling families. With her pertinent questions going repeatedly unanswered, her curriculum seemingly generic and the company lacking an honest method of support, she started a small support circle of just three families, hers included. This was the first inkling of FAME’s future success. “The families that I began this little circle of communication with also had an Arabic background,” Alaiwat said. “Many of those families weren’t very fluent in English either. They had the same problems that my family did, but they were further hindered by their inability to properly articulate what their Education Leaders Today 3


FEATURE | FAME PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL

It

WAS OUR INITIAL INTENT TO SERVE A STUDENT POPULATION OF 200 STUDENTS, 400 AT THE MOST. WE REALLY UNDERESTIMATED THE DESIRE FOR A NEW SCHOOL LIKE OURS IN THE COMMUNITY, AND WE OPENED DAY ONE WITH 440 STUDENTS. SINCE THEN, EVERYTHING FROM OUR SIZE AND OUR SCOPE TO THE LAWS GOVERNING CHARTER SCHOOLS HAVE CHANGED DRASTICALLY.

problems were. Many were home schooling simply to shelter their kids. I started meeting with them, sharing the resources I had learned about, sharing what few answers I was receiving, and so on. Within the first few weeks, that group rose to nearly 20 families.” As Alaiwat was so persistent in her pursuit of answers and support from the home school program, she became highly familiar with the legal details concerning home schooling in California and also with the program itself. It was only four months

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into her children’s education that she was offered a position with the program. Over time, she became involved with a charter development company that gave her access to all of the information that she was so eagerly trying to obtain in the first place. After being quickly promoted through the charter development company, Alaiwat went on to pursue her teaching credentials. In the spirit of lifelong learning, she later received her master’s degree in education leadership, with an emphasis on charter schools. “I had

been working for this charter development company for two years. Through my experiences, I had discovered just how much of the available resources weren’t reaching the children. Even in this innovative, new company, there were many levels of red tape and management that were entirely unnecessary. It was a huge business and a lot of people, myself included, wound up being swept under the rug.” It was at this critical juncture in 2000 that Alaiwat, along with a few of her


FAME PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL | FEATURE

colleagues, some of whom are still with FAME today, decided to get together and write a charter of their own. Less than a year later, Alaiwat created a not for profit public benefit corporation by the name of Bay Area School for Independent Study, Inc. and the “BASIS”charter was approved . The Bay Area School for Independent Study, aka “BASIS Charter School” became the first independently run home school program in Alameda County. “It was our initial intent to serve a student population of 200 students, 400 at the most,” Alaiwat said. “We really underestimated the desire for a new school like ours in the community, and we opened day one with 440 students. Since then, everything from our size and our scope to the laws governing charter schools have changed drastically. Initially, we had only about 10 percent of the code to comply with, leaving us 90 percent flexibility to serve our community the way we saw fit. As things were going so well, we saw that flexibility as a great benefit. Now, however, the laws require us to comply with about 90 percent of education code that standard school districts operate by.” Within three years, BASIS Charter School grew to over 800 students and was running a large resource center in Oakland, Calif. However, it became clear to Alaiwat that more was needed to help the children that were frequenting the center. “We established the center to help students who spoke little or no English, or students who were at risk of failure due to inability to communicate academically in English, and were expecting a few dozen students to access the center each day,” she said. What Alaiwat did not anticipate was the overwhelming need of families whose students attended the local districts to receive such specialized care. “Within two years, over 270 students were accessing the center daily, and we needed to figure out a better way to serve these kids,” said Alaiwat. In 2005, Alaiwat and her team of committed colleagues petitioned Alameda County for a “county wide benefit charter” that would allow for the establishment of a new, larger school that included both a home school

Fame Charter Schools Partner in Success:

Online Purchasing Systems by Joel Cornell

A decade ago, Guy Stokley’s graphic design firm was approached by a local school. What was supposed to be a routine website for one school turned into something much greater that is now being used by many. The initial website development project led to the creation of backend software used for management of student funds and the procurement and distribution of nonconsumable school resources like textbooks. The program also provided tools for teachers to efficiently request materials and vendor course instruction. With a concentrated development phase, that program quickly became popular as OPS. “Charter school leaders in particular are always very good at sharing success stories and solutions with other schools,” Stokley said. “We saw how well the program was working, so I ended up hiring a group of programmers to redevelop the software from the ground up. This allowed us to offer this solution to other schools and continue its development indefinitely.” Today, OPS is a proven program for managing student funds and educational resources, as well as detailing accountability. As a sophisticated financial tool, OPS enables school administrators to manage purchasing and accounting functions down to the individual student level. OPS fosters local empowerment and accountability by allowing administrators to track and manage the entire purchasing process and circulation of library resources. Teachers can place orders and reserve library resources for their students 24/7 through the use of a secure, web based user interface. To avoid duplicate data entry, OPS is capable of integrating with most student information systems (SIS) as well as importing data to various school district accounting systems. Emphasis is placed on security and time efficiency. The time saving tools and proficiency added make this system incomparable to any other system available on the market today. You can learn more about OPS by visiting ops-online.com.

OPENING SPREAD: (LEFT) Maram Alaiwat at the Arab Gala Dinner in San Francisco, where she was awarded the globe pictured for “enhancing the Arab narrative.” Mayor Gavin Newsom kicked off the inaugural celebration of Arab Heritage Month in San Francisco, and the first Arab Gala to be held in City Hall. Alaiwat was also honored and recognized that evening by the California State Senate for exemplary service to the community and “dedication to serving the Arab Americans of San Francisco.” (RIGHT) Front view of FAME Public Charter School. OPPOSITE PAGE: Pictured here is Maram Alaiwat, founder and CEO of FAME Public Charter School with her son, Amru, who she credits as the inspiration for her work. Alaiwat became involved in the home school movement after surveying public education settings for her son and feeling unsatisfied with the available options. Ultimately, this dilemma motivated her to pursue the long and ambitious path to the establishment of FAME Public Charter School.

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FEATURE | FAME PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL

THIS PAGE: (TOP) FAME Public Charter School’s Leslie Street Campus in Fremont, Calif., the second campus to open in Fremont in less than three years. Students on the play ground are “cheering for charters” during National Charter Schools Week. (BOTTOM LEFT) Students at FAME’s Leslie Street Fremont Campus work diligently in their classrooms. Over 200 students currently attend FAME’s newest and smallest school site. (BOTTOM RIGHT) The boys of the graduating class from FAME’s Fremont location on Kearney Street. The boys are pictured here after the ceremony with their social studies teacher, science teacher, PE coach, psychology teacher and English teacher. OPPOSITE PAGE: Students at FAME’s San Leandro campus enjoy a new, state-of-the-art playground. The San Leandro campus serves 240 students and is located on the grounds of a community church in modular buildings. The hilltop location and serene environment make this location a highly desirable option of parents who are concerned about safety.

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and a sited based program. FAME, an acronym for Families of Alameda County for Multicultural/Multilingual Education was born. FAME Public Charter School became Alameda County’s first county-wide benefit charter and the first charter in the state to reinforce their students’ heritage culture by teaching Arabic as a second language in grades K-12. FAME Public Charter School now caters to over 1,500 students, 700 of which are home schooled, and 800 of which are located amongst FAME’s three different school sites. In analyzing why FAME has had such success and growth, the Fremont and San Leandro communities are a clear, key factor. Fremont, Calif. has the single largest concentration of

Afghans in the United States. “Much of the immigrant population, Arabic or otherwise, was leaving the traditional public school system,” Alaiwat said. “Some left for safety, some for security; many were refugees coming from overseas. They already felt discombobulated and lost in the system, fearing that they would lose their cultural identity and their values by allowing their children to integrate into the traditional school system. By the same token, we cater to especially high performing students, Olympic athletes who train eight to 10 hours a day, particularly gifted kids, etc. who need to home school to achieve their goals. Our unique community focus, Arabic immersion program, extended school hours and


FAME PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL | FEATURE

In

THE EARLY 2000s, WE SAW THE STRONG NEED, AFTER EXPERIENCING SUCH A MASSIVE TURN OUT FOR OUR LANGUAGE CENTER. BUT, WHAT WAS NEEDED WAS SOMETHING NOT ONLY BIGGER, BUT MORE ENCOMPASSING AND MORE LIKE A TRADITIONAL SITEBASED SCHOOL SETTING...WE WANTED TO PROVIDE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS, AND FORTUNATELY THAT’S WHAT WE OFFER TODAY.

flexibility were a real attraction for many.” Language has always been a large focus with FAME. As many students didn’t have the necessary English language skills, they were unable to take the state required standardized tests. FAME transformed from a home school movement to a full service language center where credentialed teachers would take additional time with students who were learning English as a second language. The first center opened in Oakland, Calif. before the transition to San Leandro and then Fremont. Their intent was to serve as a drop-in center for the

community, expecting five to 10 students daily. In the center’s first month of operation, they had over 70 students showing up daily. “In the early 2000s, we saw the strong need there after experiencing such a massive turn out for our language center,” Alaiwat said. “But, what was needed was something not only bigger, but more encompassing and more like a traditional site-based school setting. We wanted to cater to this large population of families who wanted their kids in a more traditional school environment, but were not wholly comfortable with their kids integrating into such a large, sometimes

cold system. We wanted to provide the best of both worlds, and fortunately that’s what we offer today.” The Arabic immersion program is the first of its kind in the U.S. that is augmented by a first class, traditional school system for students K-12. Though the school has a focus on Arabic studies, their population is still made up of largely non-Arabic students. The English language development program does not focus solely on Arabic students, but all students whose first language is not English. Amongst the educators and staff members at FAME, students have access to

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FEATURE | FAME PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL

Our

LANGUAGE PROGRAM NOT ONLY HELPS THEM RETAIN THEIR CULTURAL HERITAGE, BUT MAY IMMERSE THEM IN A NEW ONE. ARABIC IS THE 5TH MOST SPOKEN LANGUAGE IN THE WORLD. A KNOWLEDGE OF THE ARABIC CULTURE AND LANGUAGE IS GOING TO BE AN EXTREMELY VALUABLE ASSET FOR THE STUDENTS IN THEIR FUTURE.

a cast of mentors who cumulatively speak 14 different languages. Apart from the traditional site-based school is the FAME home school, or independent study program. This gives each family a standardized launch pad with resources of the highest caliber from which to personalize their child’s education. Each student is on an individual education plan that is implemented by the parents and sustained through frequent meetings with credentialed teachers. Whether that student needs language, remedial or advanced support, each family can detail their child’s education path to their own unique needs. FAME offers access to expert tutors and education contractors who can work with independent study students to make their learning plans a reality. The vast list of vendors includes educational facilities and field locations offering everything from music studios and ice skating rinks to math labs and ecology walks. All the while, the family works alongside a credentialed FAME

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staff member to ensure that each program meets state content standards. “The number one thing that we’ve found parents to value the most is the assurance of their child’s safety here,” Alaiwat said. “It’s not simply physical safety they appreciate, but the mental, emotional and cultural safety that we provide as well. Forty percent of our student body is of Arabic descent. Our school uniform policies are such that they allow for unique cultural attire, so no aspect of their culture is denied to them. The fact that our student body is so diverse means that the common perception of our students as different unites them as a family. This sense of safety encourages students to excel, especially when they haven’t been able to excel before due to emotional or cultural reasons.” “Our language program not only helps them to retain their cultural heritage, but may immerse them in a new one. Arabic is the fifth most spoken language in the world. A knowledge of the Arabic culture and language is going to be an extremely valuable

asset for the students in their future.” FAME Public Charter School does its absolute best to try and accommodate everyone involved like they would their own family. The students spend the majority of their day at FAME, so the faculty maintains the close, familial connection they feel is necessary to the educational process. This allows the students to feel like they’re not just a part of the school, but that they help in contributing to its growth and diversity and gives them some feeling of ownership over their own means of education. ELT THIS SPREAD: Photos from one of FAME’s many multicultural events. During this “Cultures Around the World Event,” students shared art, food and dance from various countries around the world. Many students came dressed in their cultural attire and participated in tribal dances to reflect their love for heritage. Also pictured below are stations reflecting music and art from countries and regions including Jordan, Russia, Mexico, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia.


FAME PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL | FEATURE

Education Leaders Today 9


FAME Public Charter  

FAME understands the importance of cultural acceptance in today’s society and that educating students with that awareness is vital. FAME is...

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