EJE Academies History & Timeline
Excellence and Justice in Education Academies (EJEA) Charter School has been serving East County students and their families for over 15 years. Our history begins with a parent advocacy group who throughout the course of two decades fought to ensure parents had access to quality bilingual education programs for their children. Since its founding in 1991, due to the unjust decision from Madison elementary principal to eliminate the school’s bilingual program, the Excellence and Justice in Education (EJE) parent advocacy group has educated, informed and empowered the residents of El Cajon and surrounding areas. Throughout its 30 year existence, members of EJE have attended conferences and community events, provided information on how to become involved and be their own children’s educational advocates, participated in local educational workshops and led protests against the unfair treatment of underserved communities.
The EJE parent organization’s transition to EJE Academies began in 2004 when our local school district announced it would be closing Ballantyne Elementary, a school serving predominantly low-income Latino students and placing those displaced students in other overcrowded and low performing schools. Concerned parents came to the EJE parent group to ask for support to keep their school open and within a matter of days EJE organized hundreds of parents, educators, and community members to stop the closure. When the district upheld their decision to close the school, EJE and members of the community decided that to provide a quality bilingual education and better serve low-income students, they would need to create their own school. After receiving approval from the district, EJE Elementary Academy opened its doors in the Fall of 2005 as the first independent, 90-10 dual-language (Spanish-English) school in the county. 4 years later, we successfully opened the Middle School to form EJE Academies Charter School and moved to the campus of a recently closed elementary school to accommodate our growing number of students.
EJE Academies is a school created for the community, by the community; a space where the needs of the whole child are met, family engagement is encouraged, and all cultures are celebrated. EJEA provides quality dual language education, prepares students from diverse populations to excel in higher education and to be leaders in creating a just global society. At EJEA we continue the work of the EJE advocacy group by empowering parents to be active participants in their child’s educational journey.
With the support of our local partners, we have been able to expand our services: offering preventative healthcare through a partnership with an onsite Bastyr University health clinic, nutrition lunch offering healthy food, family counseling, as well as college and career support to our graduates through EJEA Alumni Center.
EJEA has transitioned from a parent advocacy group to a successful dual language school and is now seen by the residents of El Cajon as a community cultural hub offering much more than a K-8th grade education. Our vision for EJE Academies’ future is to expand our menu of services with the planned modernization and expansion of our existing campus while continuing to offer the highest quality dual language education through the same social justice lens that was so critical to our founding. EJE’s quest for EXCELLENCE and JUSTICE in EDUCATION will live on in the students, graduates and future leaders of EJE Academies Charter School.
The parent-led re-establishment of a bilingual program at a local elementary school led to the formation of Excellence and Justice in Education (EJE), a grassroots organization aiming to inform and empower families, address the barriers faced by low-income Latino students and promote bilingual education in the city of El Cajon.
Throughout the 90s, EJE worked tirelessly to educate local parents of their rights. When state initiatives were placed on the ballot aiming to limit the rights of Latino families, members of EJE facilitated informational presentations, coordinated conferences and even joined other local parent advocacy groups in traveling to Sacramento to speak to the State Board of Education to ensure their voices were heard. Despite their efforts, both measures were passed by an overwhelming majority of California voters.
Also known as the Save Our State (SOS) initiative, this proposition sought to establish a state-run citizenship screening system and prohibit undocumented immigrants and their children from using non-emergency health care, public education, and other state services. The initiative was found unconstitutional by a federal district court the same week it was passed.
Also known as the English Only Law, this initiative mandated Limited English Proficient (LEPs) learners be placed in English only programs not normally expected to exceed one year. Bilingual instruction was only to be permitted through the granting of a special waiver and most bilingual programs in the state were eliminated as a result of Prop 227. In 2016, as Americans began to see bilingual education as an asset to children, 73.5% of California voters repealed the restrictions put in place by Proposition 227 with the passing of Proposition 58 (also known as the California Multilingual Education Act).
After the passing of both Props 187 & 227, EJE and a group of dedicated educators continued to hold meetings informing parents of their constitutional rights, including the right to access an equal education for their children. The parents who attended these meetings spearheaded the movement to ensure districts across East County continued to keep bilingual programs in their schools.
Under the leadership of Eva Pacheco, EJE submits 2 successful grant proposals: one to the San Diego Foundation to support their transition into becoming a non-profit 501(c)3 organization and a second to the San Diego Social Venture Partners (SDSVP) to fund the EJE parent engagement program. Eva is named Executive Director of the non-profit organization.
The Cajon Valley Union School District (CVUSD) announced the planned closure of Ballantyne Elementary, a school serving predominantly low-income Latino students. According to their proposal, the 500 displaced students from Ballantyne would be moved to other overcrowded and low performing schools within the district.
EJE members and parents of Ballantyne students attend a meeting called by the Superintendent. The purpose of the meeting was to inform the community of the possible school closure. Parents presented their argument that the closure of Ballantyne would negatively impact already underserved students.
The EJE organization, parents and community members held rallies outside the district office until the superintendent called a special meeting to hear parents arguments opposing the school closure. Members of the EJE advocacy group met with the superintendent and individual board members to present their arguments opposing the school closure.
Over 500 mostly Latino parents attended the special meeting. The unexpected size of the crowd, required the meeting to be relocated to a nearby larger auditorium. The meeting ended without a decision being made.
Despite the passionate pleas of parents, students & members of the community, the district announced their decision to close the school. EJE & the parent advocates go home frustrated but still decide to meet the following day.
After reflecting on the school board's decision and their own long history of advocating for the rights of low-income Latino families, EJE and the parent advocates came to their own decision: the only way to provide a quality bilingual education program, where the voices of families and community were valued, was to create one themselves.
In the presence of many supportive parents and community leaders, EJE presented a petition to the school board. After the approval, EJE Elementary Academy (EJEEA) became the first independent dual-language elementary charter school in the county.
With the support of the Walton Family Foundation, EJEEA opened its doors as a kindergarten through third grade school serving 160 students in temporary portable classrooms on a corner of a local elementary school campus. EJEEA grew to accommodate each graduating cohort of students until the 5th grade.
As a result of the continued demand by parents within the community for a high quality dual-language college-preparatory program and in order to continue accommodating graduating cohorts from EJE Elementary Academy, EJE Middle Academy (EJEMA) is founded. The newly formed EJE Academies Charter (EJEA) School moves from Chase Elementary to the neighboring campus of the recently closed Cuyamaca Elementary School.
After settling into their permanent location and continuing to offer a high quality dual language program from kindergarten to 8th grade, the EJEA family reached this new milestone. Throughout their early years and to this day EJEA is known for being a community - based dual language school where the needs of the whole child are met, family engagement is encouraged, a student’s native language is valued and all cultures are celebrated.
Bastyr begins to operate a free naturopathic health clinic at EJEA for the students, parent-families and staff of EJEA with a focus on preventative care. Low-income families that did not have access to healthcare previously through the Affordable Care Act are now served. Due to the lack of space on campus, the Community Health Clinic, along with the Transitional Kindergarten classrooms, are currently located at a church across the street from EJEA.
In order to continue supporting EJEMA graduates and their families, with a grant from from the Girard Foundation, the Alumni Center is established as a designated space on campus where members of the EJEA community can meet with the Alumni Counselor or Parent Coordinator to be connected to local college, career or family resources. Currently, due to lack of space on campus, the Alumni Center is housed in the same classroom as Special Education Services.
The campus of the former Cuyamaca Elementary School was over 50 years old and had received minimal maintenance when it was acquired by EJEA. Years of increasing student enrollment numbers pushed EJEA to adapt with temporary solutions including the addition of several portable classrooms and housing the Transitional Kindergarten students in an off campus location. In 2017, the administration team decided to seek opportunities to fund the facilities needed to suit the needs of all EJEA students by applying to a state grant specifically for charter schools. The construction of the new middle school and renovation of current buildings will finally give the students of EJEA the learning spaces they deserve.