About Monarch

  • who we are q&a board of directors ambassadors council school leadership history dollar$ & sense

    Monarch has served San Diego for nearly three decades, beginning as a one-room education center and expanding into a K-12 comprehensive school designed to educate homeless youth.

    There are more than 1.2 million homeless students across the country and 22,000 in San Diego County alone. Research shows homelessness contributes to a wide range of challenges including physical and psychological problems, safety fears and academic struggles. It’s estimated that 75% of homeless students do not receive a high school diploma. The barriers these students face, hinder their ability to become contributing, successful members of their families and society and place them at a high risk of becoming tomorrow’s homeless adults.

    At Monarch, we give students the skills and tools they need to overcome these odds.

    Sandra McBrayer founded the school in 1987 recognizing the need to get homeless youth off the streets and in school. She was later named Teacher of the Year by President Bill Clinton for her work. In 1999, the Monarch School Project a 501 (c)(3) was established by San Diego Rotary to help relocate the school to a new facility. Today, the partnership between the school and the non-profit continues to make Monarch a recognized leader in the education of homeless youth.

  • q&a

    • Is Monarch a public school?
      Monarch is a public school operated under the San Diego County Office of Education’s Juvenile Court and Community Schools educational program.
    • Whom does Monarch serve?
      Monarch School serves homeless students grades K-12 who live in San Diego County.
    • Who operates the school?
      Monarch is a public-private partnership between the San Diego County Office of Education and the nonprofit Monarch School Project, a 501(c)(3) corporation.
    • How many students does Monarch serve?
      Monarch can serve up to 350 students daily.
    • Where do Monarch students live?
      Our students live in shelters, motels, single room occupancy housing, double- or tripled-up with other families, at camp sites, in cars, or on the streets.
    • How are students referred to Monarch?
      Students are referred to Monarch through shelters and other social service agencies, school districts, and “word of mouth.”
    • How long do students attend Monarch?
      The average student attends Monarch for 9 months. However, many students are enrolled here for years and even attend until graduation.
    • Why Monarch?
      Monarch has developed an innovative approach to learning where students gain the skills they need to improve their lives, develop awareness of their emotions, explore their passions and plan for a life of self-sufficient living.
    • Are there other schools like Monarch?
      Monarch School is the largest and most comprehensive K-12 program of its kind for homeless students in the U.S., and is a model for how a community can successfully educate homeless children to become productive citizens.
    • How do I enroll my student?
      Contact our enrollment office at (619) 652-4102 or enrollment@monarchschools.org.
  • board of directors

    Julie Dubick
    Board Chair
    H.G. Consulting Group, LLC.

    Charles Dabelgott
    Board Vice Chair
    Farmers Insurance

    John Spelta
    Finance Chair
    American Assets Trust

    Lori Williams
    Governance Chair
    Ashford University


    Jen Roche Barnett
    Jen Roche PR

    Rochelle Bold
    Community Volunteer

    Morris Casuto
    Consultant

    Christian Gagel
    Ernst & Young LLP

    Gilbert Gonzales
    California Governor’s Office

    Nancy Hartigan
    Community Volunteer

    Staci Ignell
    General Dynamics NASSCO

    Mark Kalish
    Community Volunteer

    Mary Lewis
    City of San Diego

    Ben Moraga
    Sharp HealthCare Foundation

    Ken Olson
    Now Commerce

    Andrea Yoder Clark
    YourBecause.Is

  • ambassador council

    David C. Boatwright,
    Procopio
    Past Board President 2008-2009

    Malin Burnham
    The Burnham Foundation

    Michelle Candland
    Author, Speaker, San Diego Rotary
    Past Board President 2002-2004

    Julie Dillon
    Dillon Development, Inc.
    Past Board President 2007

    Janice Kurth
    Rotary District 5340 Governor

    Sandra McBrayer
    The Children’s Initiative

    Jim McMillan
    OliverMcMillan
    Past Board President 2010- 2011

    Scott McPherson
    Merlone Geier Partners

    Hal Tilbury
    Bluepoint Solutions

    Robert Traylor
    Bull Moose Energy LLC

monarch
leadership

  • Erin Spiewak Chief Executive Officer
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    Erin Spiewak Chief Executive Officer

    Erin Spiewak began as a volunteer and mentor at Monarch School in 2003 and was awarded Monarch’s Volunteer of the Year award in 2004. Ms. Spiewak returned to Monarch in January 2012 to lead the nonprofit’s strategic development and community partnerships. Previously, Ms.Spiewak worked with several foundations including the Gary and Mary West Foundation, WebMD Health Foundation and the Rose Foundation. Ms. Spiewak received a BA in Sociology from San Diego State University and her MBA from Webster University. She currently serves on the United Way Education Advisory Committee and as a member of Women Give, San Diego. Ms. Spiewak is a fellow of the Aspen Institute’s Sector Skills Academy and a graduate of the LEAD San Diego INFLUENCE leadership program.

  • Joseph Wiseman Principal
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    Joseph Wiseman Principal

    Joseph Wiseman has been an educator for nearly 15 years. Mr. Wiseman’s mantra is “Students first, every day” and his core belief is that all students can learn, achieve and succeed. Throughout his career, Mr. Wiseman has been dedicated to working in urban schools and improving outcomes for underserved students. He was a member of the administrative team tasked with re-opening Lincoln High School. He also has experience as a lead teacher, a special education administrator, and a vice principal. He is a graduate of the Education Leadership Development Academy at the University of San Diego where he earned his Administrative Credential. Mr. Wiseman holds an undergraduate degree in linguistics from San Diego State University. He earned a Master’s Degree in education at California State University San Marcos where he also earned a special education and multiple subject credentials.

Our History

Hope and dedication isn’t accomplished overnight.

  • 1987

    The outlook is grim for homeless children needing help in San Diego County. Recognizing a desperate situation, the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) funds a drop-in center in downtown San Diego. Named The P.L.A.C.E. (Progressive Learning Alternative for Children’s Education), it is staffed with a single teacher, Sandra McBrayer, and offers an opportunity for homeless children to get off the streets and pursue an education.

  • 1990

    Needing a larger facility but lacking funds, The P.L.A.C.E. relocates to a low-income neighborhood in downtown. Despite challenges, the program continues to flourish.

    1998

    Students rename The P.L.A.C.E., and Monarch School is born.

  • 1998

    Students rename the school to Monarch School in honor of the butterfly’s transformation, which symbolizes their current struggle as well as the success they hope to achieve.

    1999

    Monarch School Project is formed as a California nonprofit corporation.

  •  2001

    The school moves to a new building on Cedar Street in Little Italy. SDCOE agrees to fund a 15-year lease, and Monarch School Project raises over $1 million to fund renovations, furniture and fixtures in the school. The new 10,000-square-foot facility opens with 48 students and includes a computer lab, three classrooms, a small health clinic, library and conference room, kitchen, laundry room and shower.

  • 2002

    Monarch School reaches its capacity of 150 students in May, four years ahead of growth projections.

    2009

    Building modifications are made in order to add a kindergarten and first-grade classroom. Monarch School is now able to serve children impacted by homelessness from grades K through 12.

  • 2013

    Monarch School Nat & Flora Bosa Campus opens. The 51,000-square-foot school on 2.2 acres in Barrio Logan is fully equipped with a gymnasium, single subject classrooms, a library, science lab, tutoring center, and many other features that are essentials to a modern, effective learning environment.

  • dollar$ & sense

    Monarch School is committed to fiscal responsibility and faithful stewardship of the funds entrusted to us by our generous donors.
    It is our responsibility to ensure donated funds are kept safe and used only to carry out Monarch School’s mission of educating students impacted by homelessness.

    IRS 990

    Audited Financial Statement