PG&E gives $250,000 to Lucia Mar's Central Coast New Tech High School

clambert@thetribunenews.comJanuary 26, 2012 

PG&E has donated $250,000 to support Lucia Mar’s newest school, Central Coast New Tech High, which will open with its first freshman class of 150 students on Aug. 16.

New Tech High is a small-school program that incorporates high-technology teaching methods — including ensuring each student has a computer — and “project-based learning” similar to Cal Poly’s “learn by doing” philosophy.

It’s located on the Nipomo High campus but is an autonomous school with a separate entrance.

So far, three Lucia Mar teachers have been hired to teach at New Tech High: Jennifer Isbell, currently a Nipomo High world history and sociology teacher; Eric Dunham, a seventh-grade math teacher at Paulding Middle School, and Kurt Payne, who taught life science at Judkins Middle before taking a new role this year at Mesa Middle overseeing teachers in a new training and evaluation program.

Six teachers total will be hired for the school’s first year, all from within the district.

“I really believe in project-based learning,” Dunham said. “That’s where life is heading. We’re giving (students) the upper hand to prepare for the real world.”

Parents Elizabeth and Ron Bartow, whose son, Russell, will start at the new school in August, said they believe the program is “tailor made” for their son, a Paulding Middle School student who likes science, history and public speaking.

“It will create community awareness and problem solving,” Elizabeth Bartow said of the program. “He’ll learn how to work with groups and how to network with others, which is so important in business and in life.”

PG&E President Chris Johns presented the $250,000 donation to Beth Curran, president of the Lucia Mar Foundation for Innovation, during a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday at the new campus. The nonprofit organization was formed to support some of the South County district’s programs.

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