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San Juan seeks to implement ‘innovative’ school model in Citrus Heights

By Sara Beth Williams–
San Juan Unified School District’s newly formed Innovation Team hosted a pair of community meetings in Citrus Heights at Grand Oaks Elementary last week, with the intent to gather input on how to improve local schools through implementing an innovative school model.

The Innovation Team has been seeking feedback from across Citrus Heights in order to understand the needs of the current student population at each school site and says feedback shared will be provided back to each school site for future consideration and potential application.

During the March 7 meeting, the team defined “innovative” as a model for a school that would “continually iterate” based on the needs of the students over time. Because innovative infers change over time, the team said community feedback would be a regular occurrence in support of a new innovative school.

The meetings were interactive in nature, with groups of parents, staff and community members coming together to write down their comments on sticky notes. According to a flyer posted to the elementary school’s website, the district is seeking areas of feedback specifically centering around strengths, opportunities for growth, hopes and dreams for the site, and the image of what success would look like with the desired aspirations accomplished.

Specifics about what the school model will look like were not discussed during the meeting, with the district’s current focus being to gather input from community members on what improvements they’d like to see.

The Innovation Team consists of district staff and educators with extensive and varied educational backgrounds and schools from across the San Juan school district. Members were selected through an application process. None of the members were from Citrus Heights schools.

In an interview with The Sentinel, Matt Schupp, an Innovation Team member and fifth grade teacher at Pasadena Avenue Elementary, said the hope for the team and district is for school sites to use feedback to move forward with education decisions in a proactive manner by listening to the voice of the community, regardless of whether or not their respective site is chosen.

Schupp said the district is focusing only on the elementary and K-8 sites, and at this time, has narrowed their focus to only within the city of Citrus Heights. High schools are not being considered.

Related: Vice mayor floats idea to form Citrus Heights Unified School District

In the past, some members of the Citrus Heights City Council have proposed the idea of investigating what it would take for the city to form its own school district, citing low enrollment, loss of students to other districts, and low performance throughout most Citrus Heights schools.

Since being proposed, the idea has been met with conflicting opinions both for and against from former city council members, community members, and former educators.

Three new board members were elected to the San Juan Unified Board of Education this year, and a new superintendent was chosen to succeed former superintendent Kent Kern, who announced his retirement in August of 2022. During an Oct. 13, 2022, city council meeting, new superintendent Melissa Bassanelli pledged to “work in partnership with the city” and “in support of our schools and communities.”

Related: San Juan has 3 new school board members. What will that mean for 2023?

According to the district’s website, the district held workshops at five of the nine elementary and K-8 schools before visiting Grand Oaks. Several more community meetings were planned at Mariposa Elementary and Arlington Heights Elementary, with the last two community meetings planned at Cambridge Heights Elementary on Friday, March 10.

Schupp said the district hopes to select a site for the new innovative school model sometime in mid-March or April.

For those who did not attend one of the district’s community meetings, input can be shared via a “School Reimagining Survey” posted on the district’s website at

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