Saklan Valley School (Moraga, California)

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The Saklan School is a private school located in Moraga, California which was founded in 1954. It is a co-educational school which enrolls approximately 110 students annually from Pre-K to eighth grade. The School's mission is to challenge students to THINK creatively, ACT compassionately, and LIVE courageously.[citation needed] The school shares its name with the former Native American tribe that once lived in the area, the Saklan.

The Saklan School is accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. It has a maximum class size of 16.


When the school was founded in 1954, it was originally located in Lafayette as a preschool called the Gertrude Nielsen Learning Center. Mrs. Nielsen decided to move her school to the present site in Moraga in 1966. It was at that time that she passed ownership to the then-kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Mary Elena Straub (now Dochterman). During the following year, Mrs. Straub renamed the school the Carden School of Moraga and expanded its program to include elementary education through fifth grade. In that period, the preschool was independently structured and went by the name of Moraga Country Day School. In 1978, the Carden School was incorporated as a not-for-profit company, a Board of Trustees started to administer the school. Mrs. Straub transferred ownership of the school proper, but she retained title to the physical property of the campus, with the school as her tenant until 2003.

When Mrs. Straub retired in the late 1980s, the Board and Faculty decided to merge the preschool and elementary programs into a distinct body with a new name, reflecting the development of the curriculum away from the Carden philosophy. After a meticulous community-wide process, the new name of Saklan Valley School was chosen, in admiration of the Native Americans of Contra Costa County, who were known to be peaceful and prosperous people.

In the mid-1990s, under the leadership of Pat Corlett, Head of School 1992-1998, the school took several new steps forward, earning Saklan½s first full term of accreditation by the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS), and launching its middle school program, bringing the school to its current Pre-School through Eighth Grade configuration. J Jenifer Fox headed Saklan in the year 1998-99. During that time, Fox doubled the annual campaign, clarified the mission of the school and made significant changes to the financial operations and admissions procedures. In 1999, Jonathan Martin became Head of School, and under his leadership the school renewed its membership in the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), organized a capital campaign, purchased the rented campus, and achieved a second full term of accreditation from CAIS and WASC. In the period of 2004-2008, the school's campus was improved with the addition of two new classrooms, a new middle school eating and socializing area, a complete science lab renovation, a new outdoor eating and art studio pavilion, and a new premium sports court. In the educational program, recent initiatives have included Mandarin instruction in lower grades, laptop integration in upper grades, new outdoor education programs such as Yosemite Institute and Mosaic Project, and new environmental education units. Global education programs have also been developed and expanded.

Jonathan Martin leaves Saklan after nine years of leadership; on July 1, 2008 David Hague became Interim Head of School, then Head of School until 2010. Hans Peter Metzger is the current Head of School.

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