Rotary Report: Alternative education thriving in Martinez

Vicente Martinez and Briones High School Principal, Lori O’Connor, at a recent meeting of the Martinez Rotary Club. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)
Vicente Martinez and Briones High School Principal, Lori O’Connor, at a recent meeting of the Martinez Rotary Club. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)

Special to the Tribune

NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit

Principal Lori O’Connor is rightly proud of the Vicente-Martinez High School and the Briones Independent Study School. They have great programs. They’ve just moved into their new building at 925 Susanna St., at the corner of Susanna and Brown streets.

The new building replaces the obsolete Continuing Education space on Alhambra Avenue. The Martinez Board of Education gets A-plus marks for enthusiastically supporting both the new building and the education program.

Both schools are designed around the needs of students with special issues. Both schools are fully accredited. Students earn a WASC diploma. WASC is the accrediting commission for schools of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. It has the mandate of assuring that educational institutions meet high standards. It’s relied upon by the California Department of Education.

Vicente Martinez is a continuation high school. Students attend one advisory period and five class periods each day. Upon completion, they earn a WASC certified diploma.

At Briones, students do most of their work at home. They meet with a teacher for one hour per week and must complete 25 hours of course work each week. Completion of the Briones curriculum also leads to a WASC diploma.

The two schools are designed with the students’ special needs in mind. Classes are small; teacher attention is large. In addition to direct education, students get emotional and social support and counseling.

Some students take courses at Diablo Valley College (DVC). They receive double credit for college courses.

Field trips are an important part of the curriculum. Students can follow various career pathways. For example, careers in mental health, computers or culinary arts. In the culinary arts curriculum they can participate in meal preparation and serving at Loaves & Fishes, or at the DVC cafeteria.

The schools are adept at obtaining external support. For example, they have an intervention grant from Contra Costa Mental Health.

The folks at Briones and Vicente Martinez Schools love their program and their new building. They’d love to have you visit. To schedule a visit, contact Principal Lori O’Connor at You’ll be impressed!

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