In the summer of 1993, letters were sent out to forty community members– inviting them to a meeting about public schools in Sheridan. Each passing year the district had kept losing more and more students to other districts, due to a great dissatisfaction with Sheridan’s school systems. A local editor asked for permission to publicize the meeting in the paper, and (with the help of a pastor serving as the facilitator) the first meeting took place.
There was a boost for positive action that summer, as the newly hired superintendent and grade school principal came into the district. It was only after the group made a mutual consensus on the educational goals and opportunities they wanted for the children, that they reached out to the district superintendent Dr. LeRoy Key. Delegations were made between the group and Dr. Key. By the Spring of 1994, Dr. Key had suggested creating the Sheridan Japanese Program.
“Why Japanese?” This question is asked a lot, and the answer traces its roots to Oregon being a sister state with Japan. Japanese was chosen because of the many cultural, educational, and business ties between our two countries. The Japanese program mirrored the expectations for the high level of commitment the group and Dr. Key wanted for the school. Additionally, three Universities within the region (Linfield College, Western Oregon University, and Willamette University) offered Japanese as a language and a major. With there being many Japanese students who attend these local colleges, the Japanese focus enabled them to strengthen these ties and act on opportunities accordingly. In a similar vein, Willamette University is a sister school to Tokyo University, cementing the connection between Oregon and Japan all the more.
The dream and vision for better education and opportunities was finally becoming a reality, a place where staff, students, and families worked together. A place where students could flourish and learn. From the very beginning, parents and volunteers worked tirelessly to open up the school by making phone calls and getting names of families interested in enrolling their students. Dr. Key worked with the Oregon Department of Education to get a teacher from Japan through a teacher exchange program.
Eugene and Salem became the blueprint of a foreign language base study curriculum. The group worked in organizing a set of standards and hired the appropriate staff who agreed with and saw their vision, publicizing meetings explaining the program, and found a church that allowed them to use their facilities. The group had a list of students, a plan, and the board’s approval.
In late August of 1994, the school opened with 55 students and staff as a Japanese Emerson Program within Sheridan High school. In 1997, Dr. Key left the Sheridan School District – and with him left the original support of the program. The program moved into four “temporary” modular classrooms. In 2001 the Charter Law was created and the district decided not to continue the program. At that time, a interested group of parents and community members got together and applied for a Charter under the Sheridan School District. This allowed students from other districts to join the school. Our school's Charter was established in 2003. At that time, we moved into our current facility that was build specifically to meet the unique mission and needs of our school, students, and staff.
We continue to make history at SJS. We invite you to join our journey.