Getting results for learning-disabled students

  • Marianne McCarthy Campbell, right, co-founder and director of New Horizon School and Learning Center in Santa Rosa, helps Areanna Galimba with a math problem on Wednesday, September 25, 2013.

    (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Not every school has a sprawling campus, a parking lot, a gym and a football team. Sometimes, you can drive by a school every day and never notice it.

Just a couple of blocks from downtown Santa Rosa, in a two-story Victorian house on Third Street, the New Horizon School has been teaching students with learning disabilities for the past 31 years.

"We're an accredited, private, nonprofit school," said co-founder and director Marianne McCarthy Campbell, who holds a master's degree in special education from San Francisco State University.

"In any given year, about half of our kids are privately funded by their parents and the other half are funded by school districts," she said.

Currently, the school has 19 students ranging from sixth to 12th grade. Enrollment has fluctuated from as few as five in the early years to as many as 40. The alumni include a Ph.D. and several former students who went on to earn master's degrees.

The New Horizon School adapts from year to year to meet needs of students coming in, Campbell said.

"We don't say, 'This what we have to offer, and your kid has to fit into this box,'" Campbell said. "We say, 'Here is the student, with strengths and weaknesses, and we design a program for that person.' We create a program around the kids — whatever works."

Former student Adam Paulsen, 19, spent his junior and senior high school years at New Horizon School, after being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Now he attends business classes at Santa Rosa Junior College and works as a receptionist, aide and "everybody's personal assistant" at New Horizon.

"As a student here, I felt I was given the tools to take in information, and everything that's going around me, and decipher it to see what's important and what needs to be done," Paulsen said.

School districts are required by law to find alternative programs for students whose needs can't be met at regular public schools, Campbell explained.

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