Jackson Academy of Math and Music Rap
Jackson Academy of Math and Music Rap

Magnet school offers creative learning alternatives

Published in the May 27-June 9, 2015 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Michelle Getty

Photo courtesy Jackson Academy of Math and Music
Students learn to play keyboards at the Jackson Academy of Math and Music.

In early 2012, the Morgan Hill Unified School District sent out a series of surveys to the community to learn what subjects and programs parents would like to see in local schools. The biggest response from those inquiries was that more focus needed to be placed on a K-8 format and math and music in schools. There were also calls for dual immersion programs and technology.

The school district took these requests to heart and began to look at how to form a magnet school, a public school that has a focused theme. The teachers will still use the state mandated curriculum, but tend to incorporate the theme of the school into all subjects. There are no entrance requirements. Parents and children simply must show an interest in the focus subjects and attract a diverse population of students from various cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds.

In August 2012, Jackson Academy of Math and Music opened its doors and acted as the flagship in a fleet of magnet schools in the MHUSD. According to Principal Patrick Buchser: “We have been given the latitude to try a different approach to purposeful learning, focusing on math and music.”

While Morgan Hill residents waited and watched to see how well the new format would work, other magnet programs were in the works, such as P.A. Walsh STEAM Academy and San Martin/Gwinn Environmental Sciences Academy.

The passion and energy Buchser exudes about JAMM is palpable. “I am surrounded by trusting, supportive relationships with our staff, educators, parents and the district,” he said. “Without these vital working connections, none of this would exist and we believe we have something special here.”

Denise Listol, a seventh-grade teacher, said when she listened to Buchser’s philosophies on student learning and social and brain development, she was instantly excited. “Our staff was assembled and given license to innovate and offer a creative alternative,” she said. “I love teaching junior high in the positive vibe we have at JAMM.”

Ashleigh McKenzie, an eighth-grader who will attend Live Oak High School next year, said she likes that it’s smaller and she has the ability to get to know everyone. “There is less drama and trouble than I think I would have had to deal with in a regular junior high.”

The music department at JAMM is growing. The school has partnered in different capacities with Live Oak and Sobrato band programs and the South Valley Symphony. Recently, the eighth-grade class performed with the Live Oak Emerald Regime band. The music staff consists of two full-time general music and band teachers, one part-time band teacher who also teaches at Sobrato High school and another part-time teacher who teaches the Suzuki method of violin and general music to kindergarten and first-grade students. Every student at JAMM is involved with music on a daily basis.

Fundraising to support new magnet programs is a major component of the culture at JAMM. An active Home and School Club was involved with paying for initial music teacher salaries, musical instruments, music festivals and music department supplies.

JAMM’s Home and School Club also fundraises for the other necessary elements needed to run a successful school that now includes a junior high component. While fundraising is the lion’s share of Home and School Club responsibilities, organizing school community events such as their ice cream social and music festival in the beginning of the year, Breakfast with Santa, bingo nights and the last day of school BBQ seem to be crucial components of the school community as a whole.

JAMM’s HSC volunteers are particularly proud of their recent purchase and installation of a digital school sign and message marquee. Their next endeavor is installing brand-new playground equipment to replace the structures that now exist.

Moving forward, JAMM is looking to maintain relationships with community partners, activities and social opportunities for junior high students and supporting an environment where students are alive with learning. For more information about JAMM, visit www.jackson.mhu.k12.ca.us. To assist in fundraising efforts and/or volunteer, email [email protected].

Michelle Getty is the publicity coordinator at Jackson Academy of Math & Music’s Home and School Club. She wrote this for Morgan Hill Life.

You are watching: Community Voices: Jackson Academy of Math and Music working on ‘something special’. Info created by PeakUp selection and synthesis along with other related topics.