Kevin Kassebaum has hit the ground running since coming on board at Sonoma Charter School (SCS) this summer, replacing Paula Hunter as principal. SCS, which is one of the oldest charter schools in the state, came under fire last year for how little its demographic population matched the neighborhood in which it is located.

Kassebaum has staged his first attack on the issue with the hiring of new teacher Ashlee Drady. The bilingual Drady received her master’s degree in bilingual/multicultural education from Sacramento State University. She has BCLAD certification (bilingual cross-cultural language and academic development), a multiple subject credential and a single subject teaching credential in Spanish.

“Ashlee is a terrific hire for us,” said Kassebaum. “We have wanted to reinstate Spanish instruction in all grades and increase the services we provide to students for whom English is not spoken at home.”

Drady received her bachelors of art in Spanish and global studies with an emphasis on Latin America from UC Santa Barbara. Prior to coming to Sonoma, she taught kindergarten for three years at Sunnybrae International Baccalaureate World School where she also served as the ELAC (English learner advisory committee) president.

Drady is currently assessing all of SCS’s English-language-learner students as well as developing a curriculum for Sonoma Charter School to reinstate its Spanish instruction in all grades. Other changes in the works include partnerships with La Luz Center to offer programs on the SCS campus and more outreach events like the school’s successful back to school fair in August.

Kessebaum is quick to point out that SCS’s current kindergarten class is 46 percent English-language-learners (ELL), a significant increase from previous years and a match with the town’s larger demographic picture.

SCS is a Montessori-based charter public school with open enrollment, based on a lottery system. The school is located on Sonoma Highway in Boyes Hot Springs. The school is currently almost at capacity with 230 students in grades K-8. The school was founded in 1994 by a group of Sonoma Valley parents, teachers and community members who were seeking an alternative educational opportunity that could serve the families within the Valley and the surrounding areas. The school emphasizes the arts, and uses multi-age classes to teach a project based, thematic and integrated curriculum.