In a meeting at Lovonya DeJean Middle School last Wednesday, the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) Board of Education voted against a petition from Caliber Schools to open a high school in the district.
Board chair Randall Enos and board members Tod Groves and Madeline Kronenberg did not support the petition.
Board members Valerie Cuevas and Elizabeth Block, who combined received more than $200,000 in support of their 2014 election campaigns from the California Charter Schools Association Advocates Independent Expenditures Committee and the Education Matters Political Action Committee, voted in favor of the petition.
Back in August, Caliber had submitted a petition to the board to open a high school. Caliber anticipated opening the school with 90 students in the 2017-18 academic year and serving 360 students on full enrollment in the 2020-21 academic year.
Last month, on September 21, the WCCUSD Board heard a presentation from the Caliber development and leadership team and received comments from the community both for and against the organization’s petition.
In the meantime, the organization moved forward with plans to purchase Adams Middle School to house its Caliber: Beta school, which currently serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade. But on September 7, the school board voted not to sell the school to Caliber.
Last week’s vote on the petition to open a high school hinged on a WCCUSD Staff Report and Finding of Fact, by district staff and legal counsel that evaluated the petition and the petitioner’s projected educational, operational and financial performance during the proposed term of the charter.
The report said that district staff had concluded that “deficiencies and concerns” regarding the charter organization’s petition were “sufficient to warrant a recommendation to deny the Petition consistent with Education Code section 47605.”
The report, presented by Linda Delgado, who is charged with charter oversight at the WCCUSD, and Edward Sklar, a partner at Lozano Smith Attorneys at Law, highlighted three areas of concern. The report concluded that the proposed school’s educational program was “unsound” for students likely to enroll, that the school was “demonstrably unlikely” to successfully implement its program, and that the petition “does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions” of required elements, including the school’s governance and board composition.
In a discussion that followed Delgado and Sklar’s presentation, Blocks asked why other charter schools had been previously reviewed with approval.
The circumstances, Delgado said, were different, because this was a petition for a new school and most recent petitions had concerned the renewal of existing charters.
A statement on Caliber’s website said the organization would appeal the board’s denial, but Caliber co-founder Jennifer Moses would not comment on the matter when reached by phone.
In other business, following the vote the board honored two graduates of the WCCUSD, Kristyn Loy and Lawrence Pang, both finalists for Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year.
Loy, who is a sixth-grade math and history teacher at Stewart Elementary School, is entering her tenth year with the district. Pang, a math teacher, was nominated for his twelve years of work at El Cerrito High School.
The next school board meeting will be held on November 2.