New K-8 private school to open in Rocklin

Former Horizon teachers start fresh with no administrators
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
-A +A


Hawthorne Academy Open House

When: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, April 24

Where: The Hawthorne Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2213 Sunset Blvd.

Enrollment: Online at, or by calling Janel Catalano at (916) 303-3392.


Less than a year after Rocklin lost Horizon Charter Schools’ Accelerated Learning Academy, a new K-8 school staffed by former ALA teachers will open its doors.

Started by four ALA teachers hoping to carry over their old curriculum but leave the administrative problems behind, The Hawthorne Academy of Arts and Sciences has enrolled more than 50 students since February, or roughly half its goal.

Vice Principal and teacher Janel Catalano said the school will open Aug. 12 as a small one, with a maximum class size of 20 and a total of 10 staff members – all teachers. She and her colleagues were originally mentored by Pat Teilh but will not have an official principal. Instead, Catalano said they will divvy up administrative duties – one teacher will handle attendance, another will manage the business side of operations, another will be a public relations officer and so on.

“The purpose of us doing a private school instead of a public school is the very fact that we wanted to cut off all of the administrative, high-end pay and divide it among ourselves,” she said, and the hope is that all that money will go toward curriculum and classroom experience instead.

Catalano said all of the teachers accepted a significant pay cut, agreeing to a $35,000 salary and investing some of their own money into the school to help it get started. The school’s approval as a 501(c)3 is pending and its income will come from tuition, ranging from $6,200 a year for lower grades to $6,600 for middle school students. The 2013-14 budget is estimated to be about $500,000, though Catalano expects this to exceed $1 million once enrollment nears capacity. She said much of this expense comes from the school’s focus on programs.

“It’s based on the fact that you get a Spanish immersion teacher. All the classes, from kindergarten through eighth grade, will have a daily Spanish class,” she said. “We’re partnering with Sombrero Time, so by the time they’re in fourth grade, they should be fluent in Spanish.”

When seven former ALA teachers met at Catalano’s house in November, she said, they agreed on a vision of a project-driven curriculum that would focus on in-class and in-depth learning through longer class periods for older students and smaller class sizes. Three of those teachers have since dropped out for financial or other reasons, but with control over their own funding, she said, the school’s staff can teach as they see fit.

“They’re longer courses, so it can appeal to our projects-based learning philosophy … Instead of, ‘Teach to the test and memorize, memorize, memorize,’ the way we teach is based on doing,” she said. “We believed that, now that we’re a private school, we can really teach the way we want to and not have to stick to any particular guideline that administration puts down on us … Our goal is to get to the standard that’s offered, and have those kids that can go beyond it.”

Catalano said the school has finally settled in a former Phoenix Schools building at 2213 Sunset Blvd., but until it establishes a reputation for itself, she credits supportive parents with keeping the project alive.

“It’s sort of a shock that we’ve made it this far because of all the bumps in the road to get here,” she said. “We’re all putting our money into this to get it started, and then the families have graciously said that the will begin paying their tuition in May instead of waiting until August.”

One of those parents, Adam Hahn, said his son had been signed up for preschool at ALA, but when administration decided to move the campus 15 miles away to Carmichael, hefollowed the faculty when they started a new school. He signed up his son for first grade in February after an information session.

“We were impressed with the Core Knowledge curriculum that they used,” he said. “And then we heard from another parent that a number of these faculty had left ALA after its debacle and wanted to start up their own school with advanced education, small classrooms, Core Knowledge curriculum. And we said, ‘Yeah, we’d definitely be interested.’”

The school will have an open house at 6 p.m. April 24, and regular tours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays or by appointment.