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Caliber Beta Academy parents, students and supporters filled up the room at Wednesday's school board meeting with posters. (Photo by Zainab Khan)

In first School Board meeting since election, clashes over spending

on November 14, 2014

Parents and students lined up one by one at the podium during West Contra Costa Unified School District’s Board of Education meeting Wednesday night to voice their concerns about the Board’s spending decisions.

About 250 people crowded into the Lovonya DeJean Middle School multi-purpose room to support parents and students who delivered their statements in both English and Spanish. Some carried signs reading: “Kids can’t wait, quit the politics” and “Parents need school choice,” while others wore blue t-shirts reading “One School, one family, one site.”

Much of the meeting focused around two items; first, supporters for the Richmond-based Caliber Beta Academy asking WCCUSD for a larger, permanent school site to accommodate their growing student body; and second, whether the district should absorb legal expenses for certain Board members in response to a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to WCCUSD Superintendent Bruce Harter, additional costs to house charter schools were not part of WCCUSD’s long term facilities plans and the district’s duty to temporarily house Caliber at a district facility during the 2014-2015 school year will cost the district roughly $600,000 and will be mostly taken from the district’s general fund.

The district has said that there aren’t enough funds to accommodate Caliber, which will add 4th, 6th and 7th grades.

According to Prop 39, school districts are required to provide charter schools with district owned facilities that are “at least reasonably equivalent to facilities provided to a school district’s own students.”

In a letter to the Board, Harter wrote that “the District’s efforts to comply with Prop 39 have caused it to incur significant costs, administrative burdens, and have appreciably impacted the District’s ability to provide quality facilities for the students attending District operated schools.”

The Board took no action regarding Caliber.

The Board also considered spending $450,000 to cover legal fees for Board President Charles Ramsey and Board member Madeline Kronenberg in response to the SEC subpoena. The Board voted to deny a $350,000 contract to cover Ramsey’s legal expenses (Ramsey will leave the Board at the expiration of his current term) but approved a $100,000 contract to cover re-elected school board member Kronenberg.

An outburst of disapproval followed the Board’s vote to cover Kronenberg but some audience members cheered and applauded the Board’s decision to deny covering $350,000 in Ramsey’s legal fees.

Marjorie Mendez, a Caliber Beta Academy parent, stated that it’s very upsetting that the Board has money to spend on other things, rather than investing in the children’s future.

The next school board meeting will be on December 3rd.


  1. ritchie on November 14, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    I don’t have a problem with charter schools per se, but I do have a problem when they start reaching into the public school till. Caliber is another school funded in part by Bill Gates. Does he not have enough money to fund the whole school? Why is he setting up these schools to rattle their tin cups and take needed funds from public education? They say it’s about choice… as long as Bill Gates ,the Waltons etc… are willing to pay and then when they are not? Think about it! Welfare reform -get rid of welfare, pension reform-get rid of pensions, social security reform -get rid of social security, public school reform —????

  2. Giorgio Cosentino on November 15, 2014 at 6:57 am

    I see more effort in establishing charter schools than I do in fixing the primary problem. Is it because parents never knew how to organize, that only the charter association could organize dissatisfied parents? No one called for Dr. Harter’s firing when the girl was attacked at Richmond High, but many are saying they want a charter school because they believe they are safer. Why weren’t there more outraged parents running for school board in the previous elections? The same problems existed then, too. This charter concept is a partial solution at best, that many kids will be left behind in the primary school, with the same problems still needing to be resolved. We could have used the effort and momentum of those involved with the charter effort to tackle problems head-on instead of walking away from them. We are now learning that walking away is now costing our district more money? More money for a partial solution? Now we have a new problem.

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