Charter school settles down, draws praise

It may have been nomadic, but Summit Preparatory High School has established itself as one of the state’s elite charter schools.

Summit was named a Certified Charter School this week by the California Charter Schools Association. Only about 10 percent of nearly 1,000 charter schools statewide have received the honor, according to CCSA.

Though charter schools continue to garner mixed reactions when compared with their public peers — particularly at the high school level — Summit Prep has set a high standard, the association said.

The 400-student Redwood City school is “paving the way for continued success and accountability in California’s charter school movement,” CCSA president Caprice Young said.

The certification comes less than a year after Summit found a place to put down roots. The school has had three homes in four years, principal Todd Dickson said.

In 2003, Summit began its operations in an old bank building in Redwood City, paid for with community fundraising. After three years there, the Sequoia High School District, which sponsors Summit’s charter, moved the school to a set of portable classrooms shadowed by Sequoia High School.

Last year, the district offered Summit space in a building at 890 Broadway. It has agreed to keep the school there for at least five years.

Meanwhile, the school has racked up honors and recognition for its esteemed education, Dickson said.

Summit Prep ranks among the top 50 high schools in the state. It is the first school in San Mateo County to receive a 10 out of 10 ranking on the Academic Performance Index. And in the wake of an EdSource report last year that called the state’s charter high schools deficient in mathematics, Summit Prep was named one of three national finalists in the math portion of the Intel Schools of Distinction Awards, Dickson said.

The fact that Summit was able to maintain a certifiable standard of education without a real campus would surprise anyone but Dickson.

“I think the biggest part is our world-class faculty,” he said. “I would put us up against any faculty.”

Dickson said 95 percent of the teachers at Summit Prep have master’s degrees in education from Stanford, Harvard or Columbia universities. All teachers teach the subject they’re credentialed in, he said.

“They’re drawn to this school because we provide teachers with various opportunities,” he said.

Nearly all Summit students end up going to four-year colleges, Dickson said. This year, more than 350 students are applying for 100 spots in next year’s freshman class, he said.

maldax@examiner.com

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