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City of Franklin school microcity gets help

By Ben Lumpkin
Thursday June 21, 2001

Things haven’t come easily for the City of Franklin Microsociety Magnet School. 

When the school, located at Virginia Street and San Pablo Avenue, opened its doors in the fall of 1999, the federal grant money awarded as part of its “magnet” status had yet to arrive in the mail, said Addie Holsing, an educational consultant who works closely with the school.  

Franklin teachers had yet to be trained in how to implement the microsociety model: an innovative educational philosophy that calls for making the school a mirror image of the community around it – with banks, businesses, a city council and so forth – so students can see how the skills they are taught in school are applied in “the real world.” 

Teaching materials were bare bones, with little money allotted for extras such as art supplies and library books. 

“Franklin has sort of been the stepchild of the school district because they weren’t sure we could create a community and pull this off,” Holsing said. 

But even before the school opened its doors, the community came together to lend its support, said City of Franklin Parent Coordinator and PTA Co-president Marissa Saunders. 

Parents volunteered to clean the rooms of the old school building – which the school district had been renting out before increased enrollment spurred the creation of City of Franklin in 1999 – desk by desk. They volunteered to weed the gardens and spread a new coat of paint where needed.  

Through the school’s outreach efforts, businesses and organizations stepped forward one by one to offer their support. 

The League of Women Voters volunteered to help with the school’s election day, sending its members to explain the duties of various civic offices and to oversee the school’s election process.  

The Chamber of Commerce invited students to run a booth at the Berkeley business fair each year. Volunteers from UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science visited classrooms to make science-related presentations. This past year, the congregation of the Church By The Side Of The Road raised $3,000 to pay for a fourth grade field trip into the Sierras. Franklin students spent three days panning for gold while they learned about the role of black and Latino cowboys in California history. 

Just this week, Check Center, located on San Pablo Avenue, four blocks south of Franklin, announced that it had raised $1,600 to buy 100 dictionaries for the school: 10 for each classroom. Until now the school has made due with a handful dictionaries contributed by parents, Saunders said. 

“We’re coming up with a wish list and (the community) is checking it off,” Saunders said. 

Franklin students made colorful signs asking check cashing customers to set aside a few dollars for their school. Nearly 200 customers made donations ranging from $1 to $50, said Check Center manager Vanessa Calhoun. The store matched its customers’ contributions to bring the total to $1,600, she added. 

“The customers loved it,” Calhoun said. “We still have customers coming in – even though we’ve met our goal – saying, ‘No, I said I was going to give.’” 

With the donations still flowing, Calhoun said she is in discussions with the City of Franklin to determine how it might make use of another contribution in the future. 

Collaborations like this advance the City of Franklin’s education goals in more ways than one, Holsing said Wednesday. By playing a role in the school’s outreach efforts, Franklin students learn a powerful lesson about the importance of collaboration in advancing the goals of a community, she said. 

It helps the school “turn out the inclusive, thinking young people that Berkeley values as citizens,” she added.