Skip to content

West Contra Costa school board meets for a six-hour, packed discussion on charter schools

on January 23, 2015

On Wednesday night, West Contra Costa Unified School District’s (WCCUSD) first board of education meeting of the year was packed with chatty bouncy children, a sea of blue shirt-wearing Caliber Beta Academy teachers, and people holding orange public comment sheets.

Newly-elected school board president Todd Groves began the meeting promptly at 6:30 pm as eager parents and teachers waited to discuss pressing topics on the agenda, such as the charter petition renewal of Richmond College Preparatory Schools (RCPS), and the options for new campuses for three charter schools: Benito Juarez Elementary, John Henry High School, and Caliber Beta Academy.

In accordance with Proposition 39, which voters passed in 2012, 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.” For the 2015-16 school year, Benito Juarez Elementary, John Henry High School, and Caliber Beta Academy have requested facilities. While the high school is requesting its first campus, both the elementary school and Caliber Beta Academy are currently operating, but are asking for more suitable and permanent facilities. The preliminary options the district has proposed are the first round of facility and locations the district plans to offer the charter schools for the upcoming school year.

The public comment session ended rather quickly after only four speakers, and the board began to move through the agenda’s action items regarding the location offers to the three charter schools. Nearly 30 people handed in a public comment sheet in support of Caliber Beta Academy School finding a permanent home. After the school moved into a temporary facility last year, many pled for a permanent school that would keep the K-7 campus members together and safe.

“We need a single campus that reflects our desire for our cohesive program that follows our students from their first experience in the classroom and prepares them for high school and beyond,” said Caliber second grade teacher Katie Klinger. “It is essential to have a large, safe, unified school site for all of our Caliber kids to continue this training. One school, one family, one site.”

With the “one school, one family, one site” mantra displayed across their blue shirts, teachers, parents, and students came forward to express their appreciation of the school. A few teachers mentioned that their current facility lacked basic necessities such as proper water fountains and electricity. “I can’t believe it meets Prop. 39 standards,” said newly-elected board member Elizabeth Block. “So I follow Caliber with some concern and some feeling that we need to make it up to them.”

For the 2014-15 school year, Caliber is being housed in a temporary facility, costing the district nearly $600,000 from its general fund.

As the 2015-16 school year approaches, the district has prosed that Caliber be relocated from its temporary campus at Stege Elementary School to a site behind Kennedy High School that is currently being occupied by Coronado Elementary School. By May, construction of the new Coronado school is to reach completion, allowing Caliber to move in for the 2015-16 school year.

The district’s proposal to the John Henry and Benito Juarez schools is to share the campus that is currently occupied by the Leadership Public High school at 12th Street and Maine. This proposal is also only for the 2015-16 school year, as the Nystrom Elementary campus, which is currently under construction and where the Leadership campus currently exists, continues to reach completion.

The district is required to provide a written preliminary offer to the requests by February 1. The deadline for final offers for the charters is April 1. The board will review the proposed final agreements prior to the final deadline.

The board also discussed the renewal of Richmond College Preparatory Schools’ (RCPS) charter petition. The group submitted an initial charter petition in July, 2005, and was approved by the governing board in November. In July, 2010, the board voted to grant a renewal. RCPS members hope the board plans to do the same on March 4.

“There’s a lot of controversy around charter schools,” said RCPS founder David Rosenthal. “I am not pro-charter, I am not against it. I am for good schools.”

According to the 2013 Academic Performance Index (API) scores, which measure the year-over-year growth in academic performance for California schools, RCPS is the highest-ranked in Richmond and fourth in the district. In 2014, the California Department of Education recognized RCPS with the Award of Excellence.

The RCPS supporters’ presentation on the school’s success was followed by a string of testimonies highlighting the importance of RCPS to community members.

As the room slowly emptied and fell to a hush, the board delved into the rest of the agenda, starting with a lengthy discussion of the budget, a preliminary conversation about district and labor union negotiations, a unanimous approval to continue the operation of previously-approved charter schools—Aspire Elementary and College Preparatory, and John Henry High School—and a resolution to encourage activities and celebrations for African-American History Month.

Newly-elected member Valerie Cuevas wrapped up the meeting with thoughts on working together through opposition, quoting Martin Luther King Jr.: “We must learn to walk together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

The next school board meeting is scheduled for February 11..


  1. Giorgio Cosentino on January 24, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    The suspension rate for RCPS during the 2012-13 school year is reported as 31, according to the SARC document on their website. That is a VERY high number. The district rate for the same year was 20.8.

  2. Giorgio Cosentino on January 25, 2015 at 6:49 am

    RCPS Site Council meeting this week, January 27th, 4:00, in the Maritime Library.

  3. Giorgio Cosentino on January 27, 2015 at 6:01 am

    The principal of RCPS was very kind and helpful in responding to my query. She shares the following “Regarding our suspension rates, an Academic Dean was hired during the time of the increase, and he made some changes to the suspension policy in order to increase safety and maintain high expectations for behavior and academics.” So, at a time when the State of California, and the WCCUSD, are moving to reduce suspensions, RCPS has gone the other way, and with good results. Maybe the answer is more continuation schools and Suspension Alternative Classes. The kids who come prepared to learn deserve the opportunity to do so.

  4. Ralph Bedwell on January 31, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Charter schools cherry-pick students from regular public schools. Whether it is an application process, a lottery system, a long-term pattern of “counseling out” problem kids, or just a tendency of kids who are less academically focused to voluntarily leave more rigid environments, in the long run charter schools skim off a certain percentage of the higher-performing, better behaved kids from our regular public schools. This makes the learning environments more challenging for those kids who are left behind in the public schools because the kids who would be academic leaders are missing. It also makes teaching in regular schools more challenging, which could lead to fewer quality teachers staying in WCCUSD for the long run. While I support a parent’s right to choose the best possible school for their child, overall I think the proliferation of charter schools in our district will do more harm than good. I wish we could just say no, but it appears as if the big-moneyed interests have already won this fight.

    • Sarah on February 15, 2015 at 11:57 pm

      Fine Ralph. When our schools are as good as those in Orinda, Piedmont, Albany, or even Berkeley, we’ll be happy to attend. Our current other option is private school. Seems “big money” wins anyway!!!
      One size does not fit all, or most. I am a long-time teacher and public ed (quality public ed!!) advocate, but was not willing to sacrifice my chikdren for the sake of the system.
      May we ask where you live? Do you have children? Methinks thy tube might change…

      • Cesar Flores on February 20, 2015 at 5:51 pm

        Our Kids went to Wilson Elementary for a few years before we decided to pulled them out into a charter school. That was the best decision we could have made. After 3 years in the charter system; both of my kids are being expose to material that the current public system lacks. Unfortunately; the money of the public schools goes to the administrators rather than the teachers or classroom learning resources. Until the current administrators are banned from the district; the public education is doomed for west contra Costa. We need teachers and books; not administrators with juicy personal bank accounts.

  5. Giorgio Cosentino on January 31, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Ralph, I remember you from the teacher credential program and hope you will continue to make your voice heard on this matter. I’ve had my complaints about the district, but am opposed to the charter system if it doesn’t correct the very problems they cite as their reason for existence. A life-raft only helps a few, and some of these life rafts sink. All WCCUSD schools should provide the same opportunities for success as successful charters. I hope our trustees can respond to the wishes of the parents and make this happen for all involved.

  6. Sara on February 19, 2015 at 1:51 am

    It’s an remarkable post in support of all the web people; they will get advantage from it I am sure.

  7. Marcos on March 10, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    So….now the students themselves are walking out demanding a better education. is this charter schools fault as well. There are some major cases to pay attention too

    1. Tenure has been struck down. That means teachers will not have life long locks in their jobs.

    2. Supreme Court will hear case that seeks to eliminate the mandatory union fees currently deducted from each teacher paycheck.

    So you see everybody. CHOICE is everywhere and about time. Traditional education have been the cartel controlling students and families hostage over the public dollar!!

Richmond Confidential welcomes comments from our readers, but we ask users to keep all discussion civil and on-topic. Comments post automatically without review from our staff, but we reserve the right to delete material that is libelous, a personal attack, or spam. We request that commenters consistently use the same login name. Comments from the same user posted under multiple aliases may be deleted. Richmond Confidential assumes no liability for comments posted to the site and no endorsement is implied; commenters are solely responsible for their own content.

Card image cap
Richmond Confidential

Richmond Confidential is an online news service produced by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for, and about, the people of Richmond, California. Our goal is to produce professional and engaging journalism that is useful for the citizens of the city.

Please send news tips to

Latest Posts

Scroll To Top