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Fate of Popular Tamiscal High Wilderness Program To Be Decided Wed.

The Team program, based at Tamiscal High School in Larkspur, faces being disbanded.

The Tamalpais Union High School District's Board of Trustees on Wednesday will hold a public hearing on the fate of a popular program that combines classroom instruction and wilderness trips and community service projects for 24 11th grade students.

District Superintendent Laurie Kimbrel has proposed either maintaining the Team program, based at Tamiscal High School, but making its principles available to a greater number of students in the district, or disbanding the program and using its $260,000 budget and learning principles at three comprehensive high schools.

The budget does not include classified staff, administrative support and facilities costs. Parent and community donations and fundraisers provide an additional $60,000 to $90,000 a year to the program.

As of this morning, the "Save The Team Program!" page on Facebook had nearly 3,600 members and more than 3,100 supporters had signed an online petition on Change.org to keep the 22-year-old program intact.

The district has also received 67 pages of letters from the public in advance of Wednesday's 7 p.m. board of trustees meeting at Redwood High School in Larkspur. A decision is not expected until the trustees' next meeting in March.

The one-year experiential Team program aims to "increase self-reliance and a sense of academic relevance through a variety of real life experiences in community service, career exploration, wilderness adventure and ropes course leadership while providing a demanding college preparatory academic curriculum," according to Tamiscal High School's website.

School district officials, however, say the Team program serves only a one half of one percent of the district's 3,900 students. It has predominantly served white, high-achieving students, and in the past six years there have been only one black student and three Hispanic students in the program, according to data released by the school district.

Since 2009, white students have comprised between 83 and 96 percent of Team program's 24 students, according to the district's data. "With the exception of the current year, low-income students have also been consistently underrepresented in the Team Program," district officials said in a staff report to the Board of Trustees.

Each year, between 80 and 100 students apply for the program and they have a one in four chance of admission through an application and interview process, according to the district. One of Team program's two teachers, Chuck Ford, who is retiring, said the program is based on building student-to-student and student-to-teacher relationships rather than moving students "from period to period to get inputs of knowledge."

Ford said, "The community at large is the classroom rather than 30 desks in a room with a teacher up front. It thrusts kids into a different world." Ford, 67, said the Team program has served 500 students over its 22 years. School district officials agree the Team program meets and exceeds the expectations of its mission for the 24 students who are enrolled in it.

"However, each year leadership fields dozens of phone calls from the 60-75 students and parents who are devastated when they are not admitted," the district's staff report said.

"Team is very successful for a very limited number of students and internal evidence shows we have a greater and unfilled need," the report said.

The district said its enrollment is expected to reach 4,990 students by 2017-2018 and the trustees must find a way to meet the needs of a broader array and greater number of students.

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