SRFACS Mission Statement
At Santa Rosa French-American Charter School (SRFACS), we are committed to providing a strong academic curriculum in French and English, with an emphasis on critical thinking and the sciences. With this solid foundation our students will be well positioned to thrive in the global community. By developing important life skills, including organization, discipline, and responsibility, SRFACS will help foster open-minded citizens of tomorrow.
Navy Blue and White
Ever wonder about the beautiful SRFACS logo that you see all around town? It was created for the school by local artist Alissa Feldman.
TK - 6th grade
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday
8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
8:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
7 - 8th Grades
Monday - Friday
0 period: 7:20 - 8:07 (optional)
1 - 6 periods: 8:15 - 2:10
Le Point March 6, 2014 Article about SRFACS
English translation follows each page
The Schools that Have Proved Themselves
The French system seduces California
Solutions. At Santa Rosa [French American] Charter School, the students follow the National Educational Programs [of France].
By Sophie Coignard
Special Envoy to Sonoma Valley
On this wintery day the sun shines over Sonoma Valley, the epicenter of viticulture in California. Parents and students chat in the entryway before the school bell rings at 8:30 am. In English. That’s normal because this scene is happening 85km north of San Francisco. In the teachers room, discussions are underway around cups of coffee. In French. All of them arrived less than two years ago, one from the académie d’Orléans, another from Seine-Saint-Denis.
In the hallway, the students greet the principal in French, “Bonjour, Pascal!”. Pascal Stricher, 52, was in charge of a branch of the Lycée Français de Los Angeles, then the International School of Toronto, before gaining enthusiasm for this unique experience. In the big cities of the US, notably New York City, immersion schools have the wind in their sails. The American curriculum is taught in French here at the Santa Rosa school, but on the other hand it is also recommended that each educator scrupulously adhere to the French curriculum. In each country or each state, each county determines what the students must learn. A terrible factor of inequality, an educator at the national level concocted with important academic standards is perceived as both exotic and reassuring.
It’s an extraordinary story that should warm the heart, in mainland France, to all those who have the teaching profession [written in their DNA]. Even more unbelievable is that only 10% of the students come from French-speaking families. Like Roger, a cardiologist originally from Lebanon who moved to California 25 years ago. He had sent his older children to spend a year in his native country to be sure that they mastered the language of [the writer] Molière (French). The younger ones, well, they just had to cross the street.
This peerless public school opened its doors in September of 2012. At the end of the first school year, it was already necessary to set up an admission lottery, due to being unable to accommodate all the applicants. Next year, the wait list will get even longer, as seen by the pile of applicant packets submitted prior to the February 14, 2014 deadline. The word of mouth also works among the American educators: “We have received over 100 applications to fill three positions for English teachers, “ Pascal Stricher said delightedly. 80% of the classes are in French and 20% are in English.
The bell rings. In [all the grades], everyone quietly tidies up. As soon as they are in place, the Kindergarten students come to recognize their first name. The educator speaks to them exclusively in French.
In first grade, the children get started in their French-brand workbooks: in American schools, these specially lined objects don’t exist, because cursive is not taught. In the room next door, 2nd grade, the library shelves are stuffed full of brand spanking new French books, purchased by the State of California: “Jambes Rouges, l’apprenti pirat”, “Moi j’adore, la maîtresse déteste”, “Georges le dragon”.. “The American books are very expensive”, notes Pascal Stricher, “which allows us a little extra to buy additional books.”
The 3rd grade students discover the joys of the epithetical qualitative adjective. Sandrine, who came from Tours at the beginning of the school year, finds her students to be more undisciplined and more creative than in France.” All my students are English speakers, they were used to being valued for whatever their performances may be” she explains. “I realized this, and I think we should do this more in France.” One also has to adapt to the local peculiarities: for example, in California allows parents to the classroom to observe, Another stunning thing from the land of individual initiative, participation in the union is mandatory with monthly dues in the amount of 90 dollars (a little less than 70 euros).
This establishment, which is a combination of elementary and middle school, had been [previously] classified as second-to-last in the entire district two years ago. Families fled it and the administration considered closing it. Some parents in the neighborhood lost hope. Above all, those who went to a French preschool, created in 2006 by a French woman married to an American man, Emmanuelle Benefield, known as Ma Petite Ecole.
Among these folks, Najine and Nas. This couple of Iranian ancestry wanted a French education for their daughter. Nas, an IT engineer, grew up in Montreal. He speaks [French] with a beautiful Québec accent, he makes in his bakery in the back of his garden a bread worthy of the best Parisian teachings and seems unbeatable on the wines of his region. “We heard about a charter school system”, he explains. “It is related to public schools but works with a specific focus. It is an official of the education system who spoke with us. We then proposed to create an establishment where everything happens as if it were a public school in France” “The document that we drew up and constitutes the charter was over 300 pages”, Najine added.
In order for the administration to take them seriously, it was necessary to gather the maximum number of signatures from parents in the area. “One of our friends had the movie theater in the downtown area,” continued Najine, “I don’t know if it is because Nas cooked delicious grougères (French cheesy breads) but we filled them room right from the very first meeting.” Faced with such a lengthy petition, the administration was convinced. They proposed to the signatories an effort to host this experience in a school with a bad reputation, which had been considered for closure. But the largely Hispanic inhabitants of the neighborhood did not appreciate this initiative. Those who wanted to keep the establishment in its prior state engaged in an effort to derail the opening of the Santa Rosa French American Charter School. A media kerfuffle replaced the advertising campaign: many parents rushed to enroll their children in the new French school.
Some of them, like Jackie, are so motivated that they make the one and a half hour round trip between the house and the school. “It’s a very interesting laboratory”, observes Christine Paugam, the pedagogical counselor general at the French consulate in San Francisco. “This unique project in its way has permitted the public school district of Santa Rosa to recover students who were previously diverted to private schools.”
Why do families that have no connection to France choose this different kind of school, where they don’t speak the same language as they do at home and where the education programs are concocted 10,000 km away?
The argument for academic rigor comes to mind. “For me it doesn’t have to do with simply learning to think in another language,” explains Cindy. “I think that this system is more serious, more solid and more coherent.” The fact that there are journals, homework and an effort to learn cursive are determinant.
Second motivation: openness to the world. “Their field of study is not confined to the boundaries of our country,” explains Rachel, a lifelong California resident. “I wish for my two children to have a school that opens their spirit.” It was also what this diplomat wanted, whose last assignment was in Brussels: “Our three children were in a French-speaking school. When we returned we wanted to move to the West Coast, anywhere between San Francisco and Alaska. We chose Santa Rosa specifically because of this public French school.” The financial element is also important: “We left San Francisco when our fourth child was born,” stated Alice. “It was impossible to pay $20,000 per year per child for all the years of their schooling.” And also there is Elisa, severely handicapped, who doesn’t get to choose her daughter’s school. She lives just across the street. “I was very concerned when I heard about the closure. And I was skeptical when I heard that this French school was going in here. Two years later, my daughter speaks French fluently and that is very impressive to me.”
Because they don’t have any particular connection to France, many of the students will reintegrate into the American school system in high school. With some French [experiences] that will have brought them a different approach to teaching.