Napa-based New Tech Network, a nonprofit organization launched to promote a project-based learning model first implemented at Napa’s New Technology High School, announced data reflecting above-average student achievement for schools within its network in the 2013--2014 academic year.

The 22 schools operated under the New Tech approach that featured a graduating class this year saw average graduation rates of 95 percent, up from 91 percent in the most recent study period of 2011. The current rate beats the national average by 14 percent.

Between 40 and 50 percent of graduates in suburban and rural New Tech schools enroll in four-year colleges on average, compared to 38 percent nationally. A total of 68 percent of graduates in urban areas enrolled in either a two-year or four-year institution following graduation.

For the class of 2011, 83 percent of college-bound graduates continued their education into a second year.

The nonprofit is involved in education practices at 135 schools across 23 states, and announced that 30 new schools will open under its model in the fall of 2014. New Technology High School was established in 1996, and expanded its approach to 14 new schools following a $6 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2001.

The KnowledgeWorks Foundation acquired the New Technology Foundation in 2009, and now operates the group as the New Tech Network.***

[caption id="attachment_93485" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Empire College School of Law Juris Doctor graduates and faculty: (front row) Robert Jackson, Ashley Parliman, Emily Keeran, Kristina Gardenal, Dean Robertson, (second row) Tracy Talbert, Tina Smith, Jacqueline Guerrero, Alisha Sikes, Andrew Conway, (third row) Jerrica Garcia, Daryl Reese, Irene Flack, Frank Antonini, (back row) Kenneth Mansfield, Robert Blade and Dennis O’Reilly[/caption]

The Empire College School of Law held its 38th annual commencement exercises on June 1, the first group to include graduates of the school's new Master of Legal Studies program.

A total of 17 graduates received the new master's designation, with 15 graduates recognized for completion of the four-year Juris Doctor.

Santa Rosa assistant city attorney and Empire law professor Robert Jackson delivered the commencement address, with 2014 valedictorian Irene Flack speaking on behalf of graduates. Faculty member Rex Grady spoke on behalf of law school faculty. The college draws its faculty from across the legal community, including the area's judiciary.

Graduates from the four-year program were Frank Antonini, Robert Lowell Blade, Andrew John Conway, Irene Flack, Jerrica Garcia, Kristina Marie Gardenal, Jacqueline Guerrero, Emily Keeran, Kenneth Lloyd Mansfield, Dennis Richard O'Reilly, Ashley Elizabeth Parliman, Daryl Joseph Reese, Alisha Sikes, Tina Suzanne Smith and Tracy Talbert.

Most of those Juris Doctor graduates also obtained the two-year master's designation as part of their coursework. Graduating with the master's degree exclusively were Deborah Dajg King, Sharyn Elaine Mitchell and Ryan Sean Swendsen.

Empire launched its Master of Legal Studies program in the fall of 2013.***

The Santa Rosa Junior College Board of Trustees is expected to decide during its July 22 meeting whether it will put a $410 million bond measure for facility improvements on the ballot this November, said college president and superintendent Frank Chong.

While a $251 million bond known as Measure A passed in 2002 and funded improvements like a new library media center, culinary arts facility and expansion of the college’s Petaluma Campus, the nearly 100-year-old Santa Rosa Campus still features many buildings in dire need of renovation, he said.

“Everybody thinks the J.C. is one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, but it’s also one of the oldest,” he said.

Early internal polls shows support for the proposal, though Mr. Chong cautioned that further analysis will occur in the coming weeks. Details of the potential bond will solidify closer to the July 22 meeting, which could set into motion an acceleration of public outreach after September 1, he said.***

The College of Marin Board of Trustees in May voted to approve Superintendent and President David Wain Coon’s contract for four years -- the maximum allowed by California state law.

The board credited Mr. Coon for his work in steering the college through a tumultuous period of reaccreditation, helping improve college services in six key areas considered deficient in a late 2011 visit by examiners. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges lifted its warning in February 2013.

The board also acknowledged Mr. Coon’s role in expanding staff at College of Marin, with 40 new hires under his tenure. Mr. Coon became president of the two-campus institution in September of 2010, following the retirement of former President Frances L. White.*** Send items for this column to eric.gneckow@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4259.