This document will be updated in real-time as we solidify some of our planning. Please bookmark this FAQ for easy access. Also, should you have any additional questions please email or call us anytime.
Why are you blending programs with Sisu Academy?
Both SOUL Charter School and Sisu Academy share the same mission, values, philosophy, and approaches to education. The politics and bureaucracy entrenched within our education system have prevented SOUL from fully realizing our vision. Additionally, Sisu Academy brings three important new components to our program: a boarding option for students (girls) in need, incredibly strong community and national partnerships, and a pathway to building a financially sustainable independent school. Together, we have a well-balanced team, a robust program and will become the most innovative school in San Diego. Integra Schools is pioneering a new model of education. Our vision, as founders, is to liberate students from the indoctrination of educational oppression. By joining forces, we will continue to transform the educational paradigm and empower our students to be humanistic, purposeful change-makers who create real impact in our communities.
Are you a charter school or private school? Why go private?
While we highly value the charter school movement, we will no longer be a charter school. We will pivot from the public charter school sector to a private independent school operating as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. This said, our values are not changing. We’ll still offer a tuition free education and are committed to serving a wide range of students from diverse backgrounds. We’ll still provide an exceptional education that will ensure students have access to colleges, workforce pathways, and other post-secondary avenues aligned with students’ passions. We now can have both credentialed guides (teachers) and subject matter experts guiding our students. We are exactly what a public school is working to become. We are an independent school that will not be limited by the slower moving, outdated public-school system. Additionally, moving from the public school sector to an independent school will allow SOUL to become the fullest expression of our mission and vision.
Where will you be located?
We recognize that the school’s location is a vital component when exploring school options. For the remainder of this school year, the boarding location (Sisu Academy) will reside in Scripps Ranch. We are actively working to finalize where the day program (SOUL) will be located. We have a preference for North County Coastal Communities as the majority of families we serve live in North County. We are looking at a variety of facilities that include colleges, community spaces, churches, and homes for the (boarding option). As a private school that practices an experiential open-walled environment, we have many options available to us.
We are also considering a model where we transport the boarding school students to the day school as there are fewer students in that program and logistically, this makes more sense. All options are being taken into consideration.
If parents have location leads, please let us know as soon as we’re open to exploring all options within San Diego County that would provide the best possible space to build our Integra Schools community. Please send a note to email@example.com.
Why will you be called Integra Schools?
Many of the SOUL students, families, and surrounding community recognize the name Integra. Integra is latin for entire, complete, whole. Integra, our holistic program is the heartbeat of SOUL. Developing the whole being is what we consider to be exceptional education. Beyond offering Social Emotional Learning (SEL), we believe that when students develop the five building blocks: mental power, emotional intelligence, social skills, physical well-being, and personal development, they are prepared to thrive in life and the world. The Integra curriculum will continue to be the heartbeat of Integra schools and also represents the blending of our two programs. With SOUL serving as the day school and Sisu serving as the residential boarding program, comprehensively we will be known as Integra Schools.
Will Integra Schools be a day program or a residential boarding program?
Both. This is what makes our school model truly unique.
What is the purpose of offering residential boarding? Why is that an integral part of your school model?
The model for Integra Schools is to create a community center that serves as a family environment, sanctuary, co-op and college/career assimilation. Our programs focus on the unique needs of our students and their families. Sometimes in order to best serve our students and guide them toward success, they need additional support systems in place. Students from all walks of life, demographics and soci-economic statuses can benefit from a more structured routine. When students lack that structure and consistency at home, oftentimes as a result, their ability to succeed academically and otherwise is compromised.
Sisu’s model was built off the idea that students need a supportive community first and foremost, then the routine of building in life-long behaviors and habits that lead to success. Sisu students’ families are diverse, from a Navy dad who is not able to be physically present with family as much as he would wish and a teacher from Bishops Academy whose student has unique needs and thus experienced bullying in her other schools. There are also students who have been in the foster care system and require wraparound support to ensure their success. This includes a more round-the-clock supportive community before and after school. Additionally, Sisu students are gaining important life skills including picking up after themselves, doing chores, cooking meals, resolving conflicts with roommates, and learning important study habits.
Residential boarding also allows for more flexibility to bring in business leaders and educators to teach outside of business working hours. We have several partners all over the world who are experts in their industry, but who also maintain full time jobs. We are able to expose our students to some of the brightest minds in business and education by offering learning opportunities outside of the traditional school hours.
How do you pay for all this?
While we are still a nonprofit, we’re trading in our income from tax sources for support from donors of all kinds. Sisu has been diligently creating a fundraising machine that helps them raise funds to remain tuition free. Moving forward, Integra Schools will be accepting donations and impact investments from a wide range of supporters. This will include individuals (no amount is too little), foundations and even some corporations.
With the blending of our programs, we are also utilizing a unique model that Sisu Academy has built that will allow us to continue to offer a free education while earning our own revenue. Additionally, Sisu’s innovative entrepreneurship model gives students never-before-experienced access to real companies launching from our incubator. It also provides long-term operating capital for our school.
Our sustainability model, student and adult entrepreneurial incubator, is set to break even at about eight years. While this is not going to impact the current incoming students, this is slated to become a brand new model for education that will impact future generations to come. What we are creating is a new way for schools to innovate, remain student centered and earn revenue.
Who are Sisu’s current donors and why do they give?
We have a long list of all kinds of donors including individuals, banks and foundations. This has included major gifts ($10,000 or more) from some local supporters like Alliance Healthcare Foundation and the Legler Benbough Foundation. Sisu has also received over $175,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation (a first year grant with future commitments).
Our donor base at Sisu is 60% foundation, 40% individual, 1% corporate. We will certainly be working with more corporate donors with our expansion. One unique part of our strategy, with Sisu’s guidance on donor strategy, is actively targeting individuals who are currently non-strategic philanthropic donors. These donors do not have a set strategy for how they give, but have capacity to make an impact. These are also called Non-Traditional donors.
The merger between SOUL and Sisu will be largely beneficial for our fundraising momentum as we have several donors who are interested in contributing but were waiting for Sisu to show longitudinal success. Now, with our new model, we are primed for partnering with these larger donors. These donors are interested in programs that impact communities directly - they want to see the community betterment - they also like to give to programs that serve non traditional students, teach social emotional learning and entrepreneurship. The list of individuals and foundations that we are currently in conversation with include: Irwin and Joan Jacobs, the Epstein Foundation, the Parker Foundation, the Girard Foundation, the Jewish Community Foundation, San Diego Women’s Foundation, Fred Pierce, Malin Burnham, Neil Senturia, Phil Blair, Linda Katz and many more (some of these are current donors).
Lastly, what our donors like about our model is the sustainability of funding and continued revenue generation outside of donor dollars. Donors like to see that we are not relying on donation dollars exclusively.
Who have you established partnerships with?
USD, UCSD, SDSU, Drucker School of Management, Gonzaga University, Mira Costa College, Kitchens for Good, Alliance Healthcare Foundation, Legler Benbough Foundation, Rancho Santa Fe Foundation, San Diego Venture Partners, San Diego Grant Makers, Jewish Community Foundation, the San Diego Food Bank, KPMG, Salesforce, Altitude Learning, the Charles Koch Foundation, Cathay Bank, Banner Bank, Mechanics Bank, Pacific Western Bank, Comerica Bank, Mission Federal Credit Union, Next Ed Research, Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce, San Diego Workforce Partnerships, Mission Edge, the Hive, CRC Foundation, Cane Cares Foundation, San Diego Center for Children, BLCI, Reality Changers, Oasis, Goodwill San Diego, San Diego Public Library’s, Autism Tree Foundation, Mission Driven Finance, San Diego Makers Guild, STEM Ecosystem, Fleet Science Center, and more.
How many students can you accommodate this upcoming year?
Our target enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year is 65 students, which includes up to 15 residential boarding school students. However, the amount of students we can accomodate is dependent upon money raised and budgetary requirements.
Which grades will you serve?
Integra Schools will be both a middle/high school serving students in grades 7-12. Beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, Integra Schools will primarily serve students in grades 7-11 (including SOUL’s 12th graders). The following year, we will add grade 12.
A cornerstone of SOUL is the conscious and intentional school culture. Can we expect that culture to continue to be cultivated at Integra Schools?
Yes! Both SOUL and Sisu share the same values and commitment to school culture. Our foundation will always be rooted in our conscious and intentional school culture. We will continue to provide a positive environment where students, guides, and the school team honor our guiding values of mindfulness, authenticity and safety. The new freedom of our program will allow us to strengthen our culture even more. Because this is an “opt in” school, meaning all students attending have the desire to come to Integra Schools and contribute to building something unique for themselves, we will continue to foster the same strong culture that makes our program so unique. We are also now an official, “No Place for Hate” program with the Anti Defamation League. While bullying of any kind is not tolerated, this program allows our students to explore the impact of hate on the world. We will also continue to challenge our own held beliefs in a safe and supportive way. Respect for self and others is a trademark of our students and team who have the grit and determination to work through life’s challenges. Together we are certainly stronger.
What will the educational program consist of? What is the educational approach/philosophy?
Integra Schools will offer a comprehensive project-based, experiential curriculum that is innovative, dynamic, and college, career, and life preparatory. We will continue to focus on the holistic development of our students through our proprietary Holistic Program, Integra. With regards to the core academic curriculum, we will continue to offer RARE(E) Explorations: an acronym coined at SOUL that depicts what we consider to be exceptional learning: Relevant, Applicable, Relatable, Experiential, and Engaging. Students will engage in a series of vigorous projects designed to improve the students’ lives, the community or world in some way. Additionally, Integra Schools will place an even greater emphasis on Entrepreneurship.
Overall, Integra Schools takes a multiple pathway approach ensuring all post-secondary options are illuminated. While students will be 100% college ready, they will also have the ability to build businesses and start a career upon completion of high school. We recognize that four year institutions will not be the post-secondary path for all students. As a result, Integra Schools places a personalized focus and is dedicated to supporting students in their individualized pathways. All Integra Schools graduates will be prepared for the college arena, have an entrepreneurial mindset and skillset, be self-sufficient, employable, and well balanced.
Will you still be WASC accredited? What about offering UC A-G courses?
Yes we will maintain accreditation as going from the public sector to an independent school is considered a substantive change to our WASC accreditation. In other words, our accreditation is expected to transfer over. Given the unique circumstances regarding the blending of our programs, we are working to ensure that the substantive change is applicable. Once our accreditation for Integra Schools is verified, we will confirm with the community.
As long as our accreditation transfers over, so will all of our UC A-G courses. Each year we submit additional courses for UC A-G approval. Additionally, Integra Schools will offer far more than A-G courses. This even includes our partnership with UCSD Extensions which allow our Integra School students to take UCSD courses, at no cost, during their time at Integra Schools.
What if my student has an active IEP or 504? What will the Special Education Program look like at Integra Schools?
When education truly becomes individualized, every student will have a personalized education plan that provides an overview of the learner including: his/her learning style, areas of strength, areas for growth, unique areas of need, accommodations, goals both academically and holistically, etc. Integra Schools seeks to support each learner by providing a student-centered approach to education.
The Integra Schools Leadership Team is working to develop the policies, procedures, and protocols surrounding Special Education and 504 Plans. We will meet with individual families to whom this applies to discuss student needs and, as a result, put a plan in place to support the academic/holistic development of the student. Overall, Integra Schools is committed to providing an inclusive environment that honors and promotes the success of every learner.
Who is the ideal Integra Schools student?
The learners who will thrive in our program are those who recognize that the current system is not serving their academic and holistic needs. As a result, these individuals are seeking an educational experience that is tailored to their passions and purpose while also preparing them to thrive in life and the world. Our ideal learners are generally those who are dissatisfied with the traditional education methods and instead value an innovative approach to education. These learners value collaboration, creativity, cooperation, divert thinking, problem solving, a hands on approach, being challenged, performance based assessments, activism, as well as being in service. These learners also see the value in an education that is focused on the development of the self, supporting their mental, emotional, social, physical, and personal growth.
How do I enroll my student for the 2020-2021 school year? Is there an application process?
The application process is currently as follows:
Apply online to indicate interest https://www.integraschools.org/apply
Current SOUL and Sisu students will get priority during the application review process
Acceptance date deadline T.B.D.
How many seats are available? If you become full, will it go to “lottery”?
We are anticipating filling all 65 seats. We will not have a lottery, but will maintain a waitlist once our program is full. Our school is an opt in program, which means that both students and parents must want to be part of the program and interested in actively contributing to its creation. We intend to develop a strong community of parents and students who want to be on the ground floor of creating something new, innovative and disruptive in education.
How can I contribute to this exciting model?
It takes a village. The future of our community depends on the collective support of everyone involved. There are various ways in which you can contribute your time, talents, and/or treasure. If there is a specific way in which you’d like to offer your time/talents, please connect with us and let us know by emailing, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is a link to information about donating to our nonprofit. https://www.integraschools.org/donate
How do we get more information?
Join our mailing list or visit our website. https://www.integraschools.org/