In 2001, as part of the Small School’s Initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Sacramento Unified School District approached Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor, founders of The Big Picture school in Providence Rhode Island, to open a Big Picture School in the Capital City. The Met in Providence Rhode Island had opened in 1996 with a mission to educate traditionally underserved students in what was then a very depressed post-industrial city. Elliot and Dennis recognized immediately that the traditional educational model did not work for these students and so constructed a school that would serve students’ needs using as their organizing principle the question: What is best for kids? The school they opened was so successful that in 1999 they received a large grant from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to open another 12 schools based on the Big Picture Model. The convergence of those two movements, SCUSD reaching out the Big Picture, and the substantial funding from the Gates’ coalesced in the founding the Met Sacramento High School.
In 2002, the then current superintendent of SCUSD, Jim Sweeny, during a tour of innovative small schools on the East Coast, met an administrator at Fenway High School in Boston (another school strongly influenced by The Met in Rhode Island) named Beth Kay and asked her to come to Sacramento and open the new Big Picture School. Beth met with Dennis Litky and together they worked on the design for the Sacramento School. In 2002 she came to Sacramento and began the difficult work of beginning a new school, which included outreach to the greater business community for the internship program, securing a site, hiring staff, furnishing the school, solidifying the overarching vision and mission of the school, recruiting students from Middle schools in the greater Sacramento area and finally, in September 2003 starting The Met Sacramento High School with 4 teachers and 60 9th grade students in a small office building on Martin Luther King Blvd.
In September 2004, the school moved to the Old Marshall Building at the corner of 28th and G streets in Midtown Sacramento. There four new advisors were hired and the school grew with a new Freshman class of 60 students. 2005, the school moved to its current location at the corner of 8th and V streets on Southside Park and hired several new advisors and added another 9th-grade class. Finally, the school grew to full size in September 2006 and in June of 2007 having achieved 100% college acceptance, the inaugural class celebrated its graduation at the amphitheater in Land Park.
The school site at 8th and V was an old elementary school that had been built for smaller children and never upgraded for adolescents. There was a ballot initiative to fund remodeling of smaller schools and some of that money was earmarked for renovation for Met High School. This was a good thing since the school we inherited had paint peeling off the walls, bathrooms designed for elementary school kids and radiators that fell out of walls without provocation. In keeping with the Met philosophy, we had a year-long renovation planning process in which all of the stakeholders: parents, teachers, and students, worked closely with the architects to design the new school. Students were so intimately involved in the process, that one of our students designed the color scheme and another student was trained on Autocad and made all of the blueprint changes on the plans used to construct the school. Finally, renovation began in June of 2011. The school took up temporary residence at Sacramento Charter High School and finally in January of 2012, we were able to move into a brand new Leed Certified, Green building.
In the meantime, while many of the faculty came and went, the core group who began with the school have continued to maintain the focus of the original program. Our internship database has grown from a few mentors to several thousand. Our population has grown and stabilized at around 300 students. Each year, the staff revisits and refines the overall school model and our pedagogical practices in order to better serve each generation of students according to the basic motto “One Kid at a Time”. Because we have a strong culture of “permanent revolution” we constantly examine and revise our practices; this keeps the educational program from becoming stale and allows us to serve each new generation of students’ individual needs. Each year our curriculum becomes more coordinated across grade level. As individuals, each staff member continues to further their own educations in order to serve their students better, model the importance of education to their students, and further their own career aspirations. At this point, the majority of the staff has master’s degrees and administrative credentials. And we each according to our abilities continue to deliver solid, innovative and academically rigorous educational experiences to each student according to his/her needs.