Failure is not an option
Juvenile court community schools succeed where others fail
a teenaged student is supervised by an adult man while working with a welding tool in a shop class
Camille Creek Community School in Napa serves the educational needs of students who are under the protection or authority of the juvenile court or those who are referred from school districts due to truancy, behavioral issues or expulsion.

Camille Creek’s mission is to empower Napa County’s most disenfranchised youth moving them toward a productive future through restorative relationships, targeted instruction and inspiring opportunities for growth. The school aims to help students gain the social and academic skills they will need for employment or further education and the interpersonal skills they will need to maintain positive and meaningful relationships, despite issues they may have had in the past.

“Never say never,” said Napa County Office of Education Superintendent Barbara Nemko. “Hard work, innovative programs where kids are helping others instead of others helping them, where they are recognized for their contributions, plus personalized interactions between teachers and families can have surprisingly positive outcomes.”

Common challenges and whole family approach
Common challenges for students attending Camille Creek include learning difficulties, poverty, generational trauma, poor mental health and unstable housing. When a student enters the school, they and their family undergo a biopsychosocial assessment, which systematically considers biological, psychological and social factors and their complex interactions in understanding health and well-being. Considerations include struggles facing the family, barriers impacting the student’s education and tools for resilience, such as being referred to applicable partner agencies. There is bi-weekly communication between students and their families and school staff that includes 20-minute meetings in the family home and bi-yearly parent surveys.

The focus is on mental wellness and not responding to behaviors. Social workers and counselors help with interventions and check ins. All students are screened for depression, therapy is accessible throughout the school day and substance abuse treatment is available during the after-school program. Classes have on average 15 students and learning is personalized. Programs include construction and welding shop, culinary and work experience.

Funding this community juvenile court school takes experience in braiding available sources. Approximately two-thirds of the school’s budget comes federal and state programs: federal Title 1 Part A and Part D, Local Control Funding Formula, California Community Schools Partnership Program, Student Assistance and Early Intervention PEI Grant, Assembly Bill 602 Special Education Funding, average daily attendance (ADA) guarantee contract with their largest district, and school meals funding. Napa COE has also used one-time funding associated with COVID relief aid. The remaining 33 percent of the budget is covered by a contribution from the COE’s unrestricted budget.
New legislation proposed to support county office-run schools
Assembly Bill 906 (Gipson, D-Carson) establishes a base funding level for juvenile court and community schools, eliminating the current volatility in funding caused by a transitional population relying on average daily attendance monies. This more stable funding source will help ensure that high-quality programs can be consistently provided to support the unique needs of these students. In addition to base funding, AB 906 accounts for attendance volatility by averaging ADA across three years, the same methodology used by school districts.

CSBA is co-sponsoring the bill with California County Superintendents to invest in high-quality programs and the students they serve. AB 906 was a top issue trustees discussed with legislators and their staff during CSBA’s Legislative Action Week.

Supporting stable funding for juvenile court and community schools benefits programs like Camille Creek and its students. “Camille Creek’s high-quality and unique programs provide our Napa County at-promise youth an opportunity to develop life skills, learn trades and build confidence while reaching their educational goals,” Napa COE trustee Sindy Biederman said. “They may arrive disenfranchised, but they leave with a well-deserved sense of pride.”

What can COEs do now?
COEs can support CSBA’s advocacy efforts by sending letters of support to legislators and passing a resolution created by CCBE in support of AB 906, “Resolution in Support of Funding for County Office of Education Operated Juvenile Court and Community Schools.” Board members can receive a copy of the resolution by emailing Samantha Archey at