WCCUSD Board again denies Caliber School’s request

Linda Delgado of the Charter Oversight Department WCCUSD, presenting the District school report and finding of fact to the WCCUSD Board members, on the petition for a high school by Caliber Schools at Lavonya De Jean middle school. Photograph by Grace Oyenubi

Linda Delgado of the Charter Oversight Department WCCUSD, presenting the District school report and finding of fact to the WCCUSD Board members, on the petition for a high school by Caliber Schools at Lavonya De Jean middle school. Photograph by Grace Oyenubi

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Comments

  1. ritchie

    What can you say to this? Here we are in America in 2016. The 2 board members remembered who put them in power like the 5 chief justices and voted accordingly.Now the charter/ hedge fund group is spending yet another $300,000 + to completely compromise the board and advance their financial interest which will be a disaster for our community as it has in been others. Vote Phillips, Toabada, Medrano!!

    • Nicki

      So what do you do if you are stuck in a failing neighborhood public school and you don’t have the money to go to a private school? Cuevas, for example, has carefully protected her independence – she didn’t accept money from charter schools. They were independent expenditures spent outside the control of Cuevas. But more importantly, if you listen to her remarks, she is there to ensure that every kid can get a good education. Unless you live in the hills, chances are WCCUSD is not going to provide your child with a good education.

      • Confidential Commenter

        This is a fascinating debate, one I do not pretend to have any answers for. While I generally support and believe in the public school system, I speak to very many parents like Nicki here who actually have to make a choice where to send their kids to school, it isn’t an ideological political debate for them. They visit their local school and then they go to extreme measures to avoid sending their kids there. I hear many of them then tell me that they found a charter school that they are happy and comfortable with. Many of these people were ready to move or take second jobs to avoid the public school. What does that tell you? There’s undoubtedly a problem. What will you tell these people ritchie? Do you think you know what’s better for them and their children than they do? Would you dictate to them that they must choose the local school? Would you take away their ability to choose? Wouldn’t it be wiser to figure out why people are rejecting the public schools and fix the problem? Wouldn’t it be wiser to work to create a public school system that parents flee TO and not away from? I would think so, but what do I know about this matter. Like everyone I hear from, I have no answers either. Perhaps someone who does will chime in. Best wishes to all parents and their children.

        • Sam Adams

          Why wouldn’t people support parent choice?I don’t understand why we get so upset about charter schools. The goal is to get children educated. Period! Families who are denied choice will either:

          -leave the district. Berkeley Unified, Orinda, John Swett and Martinez School Districts happily accept many WCCUSD families.
          -go private. Many private schools offer generous financial aid.
          -homeschool
          -go to a charter.

          Whichever way, the families who are trying to send their kids to alternate schools are probably not going to settle for the severely underperforming neighborhood school. Why should they?

          WCCUSD continues to stick its head in the sand. It is so easy to transfer out of district, but difficult to transfer within the district! How self defeating is that? They offer parents just two choices of schools for transferring within district. Many parents choose the top 2 schools which are already crowded with kids (Madera and Kensington). Why not offer 5 or 6? Or 10?WCCUSD is going to continue losing kids to the charters (and the rest).

          • ritchie cook

            The charter industry has 2 full-time reps paid $50,000 to promote charter schools and to denigrate public schools in WCCUSD The bond money, if it has been misspent as most of us believe because we have been told over and over again where are the the crooks in the jump suits? The bonds go back to 1998 and yet another report with absolutely no specific wrong doing is claimed to show that the public didn’t get its’ moneys’ worth. Have they seen De Anza? , El Cerrito?The charter Association has power. .Full time lobbyists in most if not all states and at the federal level. Governor Brown just vetoed a bill that would have brought some minimum over sight to charters. They want public school money. Remember the sub prime crises and how concerned the financial industry was to the point that they were willing to put minorities into very risky investments so they could take advantage of rising real estate prices. Once the money is not there Bellner hedge fund guy himself and others will leave .Unfortunately, they will leave the public schools in shambles. Obvious that the public schools are terribly lacking? What specifically are they lacking in and why don’t we roll up our sleeves and get to work.
            The problem with choice is that public schools only work if everyone puts into it, Even those parents that choose to put their children into private schools.
            Charter schools have less experienced teachers with less education , they are also paid less than the public school teachers and somehow unlike any other endeavor they claim they are able to get a
            better result. Completely untrue.

  2. Confidential Commenter

    Ok ritchie, so you don’t have any answers either, and you also fail to address people like Sam and Nicky very real concerns. The WCCUSD was financially screwed up long before the rise of the charters if I recall correctly. Also, you cannot blame the charters for the high taxes we pay on our property taxes for the WCCUSD, that started years ago with Marks I believe. It sounds to me that there is a problem with a certain number of public schools in Richmond that are failing to meet the standards necessary to attract many of the incoming new families. That WCCUSD has ‘their head in the sand’ is something I hear a lot from parents, as we heard from Sam above. Clearly charter schools are filling a dire need the school district is failing to. I would think that the WCCUSD would do better to address their problems rather than whine about parents fleeing to what they clearly consider better options. From the comments above and what I hear from others there are some of the public schools that are desirable to these parents, just not enough. How to make more to all of them desirable is the million dollar question I suppose.

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