September 25, 1998 Vol. III, No. 3

Professional Development Center Launched at Vaughn

Partnership With CSUN's College of Education Aims to Foster Innovative Teacher Preparation Techniques

Cal State Northridge and Vaughn Next Century Learning Center in Pacoima, the most famous charter school in Los Angeles, have agreed to launch a joint professional development center aimed at fostering innovative teacher preparation techniques in a real-world setting.

CSUN President Blenda J. Wilson, Cal State Chancellor Charles B. Reed and Vaughn Principal Yvonne Chan unveiled the venture last week during Reed's Sept. 17 visit to the area, hanging a sign on the soon-to-be-completed Vaughn building that will house the still-developing partnership.

As envisioned by CSUN officials, the center will build on existing joint programs between Vaughn and CSUN, especially its special education department, growing into a College of Education-wide venture in which CSUN teacher prep classes and fieldwork would be offered at the school.

"If you want to do reform in teacher education, we're here to do the work for you," said Chan, who also is an adjunct CSUN faculty member in special education. "We are going to provide you with the battlefield. We have the resources and the facility," she said.

"What we want to be able to do is take our teacher training programs and change them," added Wilson. She toured the Vaughn school with Reed and a contingent of CSUN and area community college officials as part of the chancellor's first visit to CSUN and the San Fernando Valley.

The group toured Vaughn's programs in a makeshift train built by students there, in keeping with their motto, "The Little School That Could." The pre-K to 5th grade school, with nearly 1,200 largely Hispanic and low-income students, has been lauded as one of Los Angeles' best charter school success stories.

Chancellor Reed has made improving California's public schools- and thus the CSU teacher prep programs that supply about 65 percent of California's new public school teachers- his top priorities. He has called for the CSU to both produce more teachers and do so in shorter periods of time.

During the two-hour tour of Vaughn, Reed was clearly impressed with what he saw, including many classrooms run either by veteran teachers who graduated from CSUN and/or newer teachers who are going through CSUN's teacher training programs leading to credentials.

"There is more going on here. There is more spirit. There is more focus on learning than any place I've been in a long time," Reed told the school's staff and visitors during a lunch meeting. He even talked of having Vaughn teachers partner with CSUN education faculty in teaching their courses.

Chan said the Professional Development Center with CSUN will be housed in a new, two-story, multimillion dollar building the school is due to complete by Nov. 1. The building also is slated to house a community library, media center, science lab and several revenue-generating businesses to pay for the facility.

Prior to retiring during the summer break, former College of Education Dean Carolyn Ellner signed a letter to Chan formally committing CSUN to the center concept. Ellner, Interim Education Dean Mary Kay Tetreault, Provost Louanne Kennedy and other CSUN officials joined in the Vaughn tour.

Claire Cavallaro, chair of CSUN's special education department, said the concept would build on ventures like one of her department's existing special credential programs. It trains teachers to serve disabled youngsters who come from diverse backgrounds, and already holds some classes at Vaughn.

But ultimately, Cavallaro said, developing a true professional development center at Vaughn will depend both on such partnering expanding to the rest of the College of Education, and the college's faculty members being able to have a substantial on-site presence at Vaughn.

-John Chandler

September 25, 1998

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