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Catholic Voice
March 20, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 6   •   Oakland, CA
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Ellen Crnkovich, principal of Wood Rose Academy; Jose Maria Madrid, vice president of Madrid-based Fundacion Arenales; and Daniel Soliño, principal assistant and third-grade teacher, at the school in Concord.

Spanish foundation collaborates with Wood Rose Academy

Concord's Wood Rose Academy, a private Catholic school founded 23 years ago, has entered into collaboration with Fundacion Arenales, a Spanish educational institution. Wood Rose, which serves preschoolers through eighth-graders, is the first school in the United States to join with the Spanish organization.

Fundacion Arenales promotes high-quality academic education and, according to its brochures, promotes "values related to a job well done and carried out with a sense of cooperation with others."

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Wood Rose Academy
4347 Cowell Road, Concord
The introduction between the Concord school and the Spanish group was made by a Wood Rose mother who had studied for her master's degree with the vice president of Fundacion Arenales. A job transfer brought the family to the United States.

After email and phone conversations, Jose Maria Madrid, vice president of the foundation, visited Concord last March.

"We have seen there were a lot of synergies between Wood Rose philosophy and the way the school works with our schools," Madrid said. He and Wood Rose Principal Ellen Crnkovich saw ways "to improve and share experiences."

Crnkovich returned the visit later that spring. "I traveled to Madrid with our first grade teacher, who has been with the school 18 years. We toured two of the schools in Madrid."

They came home, Crnkovich said, "with stars in our eyes. The schools they have there are amazing."

Wood Rose Academy maintains its status as a nonprofit corporation. Crnkovich said she would expect the school's board of directors to include more people from the Spanish foundation. "We're working toward that," she said.

Madrid, the foundation vice president, was back just about a year later, on a trip to meet with leadership at Wood Rose, and to visit potential partner schools in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Among the first fruits of the collaboration are two teachers from Spain who have joined the faculty at Wood Rose. Daniel Soliño is teaching third grade and serving as assistant to the principal, and José María Pellico is teaching second grade.

Student teachers from Spain have also come to Concord.

The next wave in the collaboration is coming this spring, when fifth-graders and sixth-graders will welcome new classmates — two brothers from Spain — as exchange students.

The Arenales Foundation educational program highlights a personalized education, with high-caliber academics, promoting collaboration and Christian values. Each student has a mentor to help keep track of progress in the classroom, and toward one's goals.

The parents' role as the first teachers of their children is honored, with conferences, workshops and meetings with teachers.

It dovetails nicely with Wood Rose, which has valued classical education. Additionally, Wood Rose has a thriving preschool —the school's office will relocate on the campus to make room for an additional classroom of preschoolers.

Fundacion Arenales was founded in 2008. In rapid succession, more than a half dozen schools have opened in Madrid. Sometimes they are new schools; two aging religious orders are passing administration of the school to the foundation, with sisters, as they are able, remaining to teach, Soliño.

The foundation's nine schools in Spain serve 5,000 students with 500 professionals. Schools in Munich, Germany; Sofia, Bulgaria; and Luanda, Angola, are in the building or planning stages.

Both Wood Rose and its new collaborator value a robust faith life. Wood Rose's chaplain is Opus Dei Rev. Mark Manion, from the order's community in Berkeley. There's Mass once a week; and an opportunity for Eucharistic Adoration after school. In addition to daily religion classes, parents are engaging in formation classes with Father Manion.

In Spain, the foundation schools pray in the morning, pray the Angelus at noon, and pray at the end of the school day.

In Spain as in the United States, there are three types of schools: public, charter and private. But the Spanish charter schools allow for the teaching of religion. Eight of the foundation's Spanish schools are charter schools.

The public administration, such as a city or school district in Spain, provides 60 percent of the charter school's funding.

The foundation sets aside 20 percent of each school's annual budget for financial assistance; it fits nicely with Wood Rose's commitment, through tuition exchange programs, to assist families who wish to send their children to the school.

The foundation and Wood Rose are working together on a plan for a new building on the Concord site. The plan includes a chapel. Students now gather for Mass on the playground, where they sit in folding chairs, and kneel on rectangles of carpet.

A capital campaign to fund the project, which also includes 12 new classrooms and a kitchen and dining room, is proposed. The plan is to serve 300 students. The K-8 school has 89 students; the preschool is licensed for 56 children each day. With some remodeling of existing space, that number will grow to 72.

In addition to mentors, the Wood Rose Spanish education program will be enriched. Opportunities may come up, too, for exchange student programs.

"Fundacion Arenales has so much business acumen to be able to envision a project and actually make it happen," Crnkovich said. "It's one thing to have a dream, and another to actually make it happen."

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