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Foundation: Charter school plan needs more support



SOMERTON – A Phoenix-area organization warns it may drop plans to build a charter high school here unless residents show more support for the project.


The Arizona Foundation for Social Justice, Children & Youth Services proposes to apply for an $8 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build a campus that would offer high school-aged students from Somerton a curriculum geared toward careers in health care, business and law.


“Before the end of the month of January, a decision will have be made about whether we take out a loan from the federal government, but we need at least an indication that we have support from the community,” said Mark Bastin, a former Yuma Union High School District administrator who is overseeing the project for the foundation.


The Maricopa-based foundation has made visits to Somerton homes and has hosted a series of public meetings in the city to explain the project to residents. But foundation officials said response up to now has fallen short of reception they believe they need to press ahead with plans to open the Foundation Preparatory Academy in Somerton.


“We’ve knocked on doors (in Somerton), we’ve had public meetings, but obviously we haven’t done enough,” he added. “People still don’t know much about the project.”


Bastin said the foundation and its supporters will redouble their efforts in the month ahead in what he said may be a final effort to gain community support for the Foundation Preparatory Academy.


“The only thing I can say is that Somerton needs and deserves a high school.”


His comments came as the foundation held a recent public hearing in Somerton that brought out about 20 residents.


The foundation proposes to open the school in 2015. It is currently negotiating the purchase of a 10-acre site on Somerton Avenue for a campus that initially would accommodate 400 students.


Apart from securing the loan, the foundation must get accreditation for the school from the Arizona Board of Charter Schools. Foundation officials they plan to file the loan for accreditation in 2014.


Most Somerton youth now travel to Yuma to attend high school in the Yuma Union High School District. Somerton currently has one charter high school, the PPEP Tec-Jose Yepez Learning Center, operated by Tucson-based Portable Practical Educational Preparations Inc.


In recent years, Somerton officials have lobbied YUHSD to build what would be the district’s sixth campus in Somerton, but district officials say funding is unavailable through the Arizona Schools Facility Board for a new school.


Proposal for Somerton charter school delayed a year

August 25, 2013 Story BY CESAR NEYOY - BAJO EL SOL/Yuma Sun SOMERTON – The planned opening of a charter high school here is on hold while the organization that wants to build it tries to gain wider community backing.


The Arizona Foundation for Social Justice, Children &Youth Services in June asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a six-month extension of its application for a $8 million loan to build the school, the foundation’s executive director, Sylvester Ajagbe, said.

The delay would push back the opening of the Foundation Preparatory Academy one year, he said, but would give the Phoenix-area non-profit organization more time to build the level of support it believes it needs to commit itself to the loan.


“We presented the application and we received a good response” from the USDA, he said. “They are very interested in helping us, but we need more support from the community. As executive director, I have to be sensitive to the support from the community. If the community is not there, why seek a loan of that amount? That changes our goal for opening the school, from 2014 to 2015.”

His comments came Sunday as he and other backers of the school met in Somerton with a group of residents, primarily young people, to update them on the school’s status.


The foundation also has postponed its application to the Arizona Board of Charter Schools for accreditation. Ajagbe said the application is now scheduled to be filed next year.

The foundation proposes to offer a curriculum in Somerton that would prepare high school-age students for eventual careers in business, health care and law. It would be the second charter school to located in Somerton, with Tucson-based Portable Practical Educational Preparation already operating the PPEP Tec-Jose Yepez Learning Center.The foundation has been in negotiations to purchase a10-acre site near Tierra del Sol Elementary School in Somerton, where it would build a campus that initially would accommodate about 400 students. 


Founded in 2009 and headquartered in Maricopa, the not-for-profit foundation cites as its mission promoting social justice and helping needy youths and families by providing life skills training and family and job development services.


The foundation first presented its proposal for the school in early 2012, just as Somerton city officials were making appeals to the Yuma Union High School District and to the Arizona School Facilities Board for a sixth YUHSD campus in Somerton. 

Armando Leon, a Somerton native and Arizona State University student who attended Sunday’s meeting, said the foundation’s proposal is long overdue.
“We are in an area where we don’t have any options,” he said. “We don’t have anything.”


In response, Ajagbe restated the need for community support for the school.

“I believe that the problem has been that the people are used to their children going to school in Yuma.” But, “prior to any investment, we need more support from the community. We are not going to build the school if we don’t have that support.”


The foundation tentatively scheduled another public meeting in Somerton for Nov. 17 in efforts to recruit support among youths and parents for the school.                 

Read more:

Charter school backers hope to open Somerton campus in 2014

January 25, 2013 


SOMERTON — A charter high school could open its doors as soon as August 2014 — that is, if a Phoenix-area nonprofit organization can secure an $8 million federal loan this year to build it.

The Foundation Preparatory Academy would offer a curriculum to prepare students for careers in medicine, law and other professional fields, but to get the loan, the Arizona Foundation for Social Justice, Children & Youth Services will need the formal backing of the Somerton City Council.

The foundation, based in Maricopa, applied for the loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year.

“We are in the final stages of financing,” said Sylvester Ajagbe, founder and president of the foundation. “The USDA is asking us for a letter of support, and we will be seeking that, and if all goes well, we think that in May we will have a response on the loan application.”

The foundation plans to build the school on a 10-acre site it has an option to buy on Somerton Avenue, next to Tierra Del Sol Elementary School.

Somerton Mayor Martin Porchas said Friday the foundation so far had not requested for support for the project from the city council. Depending on when it does get the request, the council could consider whether to approve the letter as early as February.

The charter school proposal comes at a time when city officials and some residents have appealed to the Yuma Union High School District and the Arizona School Facilities Board to locate a campus in Somerton to serve their youth, who now travel to Yuma to attend Kofa or Cibola high schools. Somerton already has one charter school, the PPEP Tec-Jose Yepez Learning Center, operated by Tucson-based Portable Practical Educational Preparation.

In recent months, the Maricopa-based foundation has been meeting with residents and groups around Somerton to explain their charter school proposal.

“We have found a lot of support in the community,” said Ajagbe. “We have a local committee and a volunteer group working to provide information in the community. What we are asking for now is that the people speak with their council members and tell them they are in favor of this project, so that (the council) will give us the letter of support.

“If all continues well with the project, in September we will begin building the school, and it will be ready for classes in August of 2014.”

Mark Bastin, a retired assistant superintendent of YUHSD and now the chief education officer for the Foundation Preparatory Academy, said the foundation is in the process of petitioning the state for charter school status.

The Arizona Board of Charter Schools “asked us to make some revisions to the application, and we will resubmit it in March, but we're sure we're going to get designation as a charter school,” Bastin said.

The academy would serve an enrollment of 400 students, who would attend 200 school days instead of the 185 at other schools, said Bastin.

“We have spoken with many people and we have heard lots of good opinions regarding the project,” Bastin said. “We want to satisfy the needs of students in Somerton.”

Bastin said the foundation has presented the board with a proposed curriculum that will put area youth on the path toward careers in fields that are in demand.

“We are going to guide them to areas of medicine, law and business,” he said. “Those are areas where there is a demand for professionals. We are going to offer a program that is going to put them on a path to not only those specialties, but also allow them to continue their educations so they can have professional careers. Young people will graduate with skills even if they don't continue with their studies after high school.”

The Somerton school, he added, will place emphasis on language skills, not only in English, but Spanish, so that students are fluent in both languages.

 Information for Investors


Invest in Us:

We are working hard to see Foundation Preparatory Academy in Somerton open its doors in August of 2014. Recently, Arizona State Board for Charter Schools asked the Foundation to resubmit our charter application for March 2013. We expect to have our Charter for August 2014 school year.


At present we are making necessary revisions to our charter petition, preparing our application for Arizona State Board for Charter Schools and shopping around for investors.


We need investors to purchase and build our charter school. If you are interested in this investment opportunity, please contact Dr. Mark Bastin, Chief Education Officer or Dr. Sylvester Ajagbe, Executive Director, Foundation Preparatory Academic at or at 520-840-5561.

Please visit our website at

See attachment for the proposed Floor Plan.

Proposed Floor Plan for Foundation Pre Academy DRA (PDF — 2 MB)

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