Hit by funding cuts, Casa Roble wood shop classes get creative
By Diana Lambert
Published: Friday, Oct. 28, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
For sale: Adirondack chairs and ottomans painted to order, custom lecterns
and large backyard sheds handmade by high school wood shop classes short on
The students at Casa Roble Fundamental High School in Orangevale no longer
make chess sets, bookends and breadboxes to present to admiring parents.
Instead, the advanced wood shop students are cranking up the volume –
offering a catalogue of high-end products at reduced prices.
"With all the budget cuts, there is not a lot of money to fund programs like
this," said shop teacher Rob Leever. "You have to be creative."
Before the recession, materials for projects were paid for by parent
donations and by selling sheds built by students.
But the poor economy has made it difficult for families to afford to donate
and for Leever to find buyers for the sheds. So now students are selling
their wares so they can afford to make more, and sometimes keep a few.
"It's amazing," said Robin Guillot, a junior in Leever's advanced class.
"You spend nine weeks on a project and you sell it to someone else. I can't
believe I can do that."
Purchasers write two checks – one to the school for materials and the
balance to the student.
Casa Roble's wood shop is bucking a gloomy trend. State education cuts have
eliminated many shop classes throughout the region, including in San Juan
Unified where the district cut a class of auto shop at Rio Americano, a
class of wood shop at Mira Loma and a class of culinary arts at Bella Vista.
Often classes that have faltering enrollment are targeted for cuts, said
Trent Allen, district spokesman.
"The classes are filled to the gills with kids waiting to get it," said Casa
Roble Principal Jim Shoemake of the school's wood shop program. He credits
Leever for its popularity, saying the teacher adjusts the curriculum as
needed to fit the students in his classes.
Last month Leever created a brochure to advertise the students' handiwork
and also placed an advertisement on Craigslist. San Juan Unified staff
filmed a video to promote the marketing effort online.
Buyers are starting to come forward.
Casa Roble senior Drew Himenes has had a hard time hanging onto his
Adirondack chair. Himenes modified the design used by the rest of his
classmates – adding a pull-out ottoman and cup holder.
At least one customer set her sights on the creation. "She saw his chair and
she freaked out," Leever said. But she lost out to Himenes' mom, who decided
the chair was too good to lose. She will pay $70 to cover the materials.
But Leever would have given it to Himenes for free if need be. "How do you
tell kids no?" he asked.
Families aren't asked to pay for materials, but they are asked for
donations, Shoemake said. "If we're doing really neat things, parents want
to participate," he said. "They see the value."
Parents also support the program by donating time at a local bingo parlor –
earning $10 an hour for the class. The Parent Teacher Student Association
The donations became particularly important after the program lost its "bake
sale." Before 2008, the program sold a dozen sheds every year – netting
about $6,000 annually. In 2009 the class could sell only seven.
One of the five left over from that year is still not sold. This year the
class plans to build only two sheds unless demand increases.
"I knew we had to do something else," Leever said. That's when he decided to
sign up for a summer class to learn to build electric guitars.
His students have built 80 guitars since that summer less than two years
ago. But the kids aren't selling them, despite the fact the electronics
package costs them $80. Instead many of them are learning to play, sometimes
jamming in the shop at lunchtime.
The guitars haven't brought in any money, but they have made the program
even more popular. "Guitars are a sexy project," Shoemake said.
Alex Chorn has taken four wood shop classes since he began at Casa Roble.
The senior says he'll squeeze in a fifth before he graduates. The honors
student already has made an Adirondack chair for the family yard, a cherry
wood desk for his room and a guitar, among other things.
Shoemake said students like Chorn, who move easily between Advanced
Placement classes and wood shop, are common in the Casa Roble program.
Wood shop teaches students about the relevance of math to building, as well
as about hard work and perseverance, he said.
But second-year wood shop student Wesley Ralph has his own reasons for
loving the program: "I don't do sports. I'm terrible in art. I found out I
have a talent for wood shop. Its one of the few classes I look forward to in
WANT TO BUY SOMETHING?
Go to http://www.sanjuan.edu/news.cfm?story 204 to learn more about the
items being sold by the woodshop students of Casa Roble High School.
Jeremy Tanforan, 15, works this week on a guitar he's making in wood shop at
Casa Roble High in Orangevale. Shop classes have been hard hit by funding
cuts, and the Casa Roble program, teacher Rob Leever says, has been forced
to get creative. Instead of traditional projects such as bookends, the
classes craft items such as Adirondack chairs and offer them for sale.
In less than two years students like Rochelle Miskanis, above, have built 80
guitars at Casa Roble. The guitars, which the students keep, have drawn
kids to the program.