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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Fight For Valley Oak Marches On

A week ago at this time it seemed that the fight for the Valley Oak Charter School was finally over. Superintendent James Hammond had announced an agreement with the Charter School Petitioners that would allow him to recommend to the board a resolution that would support the charter school with strict time lines.

However last Thursday, the board rejected this resolution by a 4-1 vote placing the future of Valley Oak in severe doubt.

That leaves the petitioners with a choice as to whether to continue the fight. The next step if they choose to continue would be to appeal it to the County Board of Education. If the county were to accept the charter, they would become the authorizing agency and the charter would form under their auspices. If the county rejects the charter, it goes to the state. The state does not have the infrastructure to become an authorizing agency and they would assign the charter to a local district, possibly DJUSD to administer.

But first things first. In order to both appeal and get a school open for the 2008-2009, the only opening that makes any sort of sense, the charter petitioners have a very tight time line.

According to a release, they need to engage the community members and especially the parents to decide if there is sufficient interest to keep Valley Oak open.

Everyone who supports Valley Oak--parents, neighbors, community members should come to the meeting this Saturday.
Saturday, February 2, 2008

6:30 PM

Valley Oak Elementary School
Multipurpose Room
1400 East Eighth St.

Food will be served.

Spanish translation will be provided, and people in need of translation in another language, or in need of transportation to the meeting, may call Sarah at (530) 758-3728.
Response to the LETTER TO EDITOR from Janice Bridge

For those of you who get the Enterprise or read it online, Janice Bridge wrote a letter to the editor on Tuesday. It praises the school board for their 4-1 vote to deny the resolution that would have established the Valley Oak Charter School.

According to the Former School Board member,
"This was the right decision, for the right reasons, in a very difficult school climate."
The Davis Enterprise fails to disclose the fact that Janice Bridge was Vice Chair of the Best Uses of Schools Task Force that made the decision to close the school in the first place, so it is not entirely surprising that Ms. Bridge would support the board's decision.

There are a number of inaccuracies in the letter that ought to be addressed.
"Although no one questioned the good will and hard work of those who had brought forth the petition for the Valley Oak charter"
Actually, Board Member Susan Lovenburg, who Janice Bridge campaigned for, did exactly that when she asked the petitioners if they had put in the blood and sweat to draft the petition as Superintendent James Hammond had.
"The deficiencies of the charter became increasingly noticeable as the meeting progressed."
The main problem that the board cited with the charter was the $300,000 it would cost the district to implement at the minimum student attendance level. Without this problem, it is not clear that the board would have denied the charter school. The fact that the district now faces a $4 million deficit was a huge part of the reason to deny.
"Trustee Susan Lovenburg's questions of Scot Yarnell, lawyer for DJUSD, brought to light the legal basis on which the charter could be denied."
This was actually a pretty murky area of the meeting. Susan Lovenburg insisted the fiscal concerns had to be a reason to deny the petition and that she would write her legislator to change the law. Tim Taylor also suggested that it would be irresponsible not to look at the fiscal impact of the school district. The lawyer was vague on this point, but charter law seems clear that fiscal impact CANNOT be a reason to deny the petition. So it is not clear where Ms. Bridge is getting this argument from.
"Many in the chambers urged the board to approve the resolution even though they assumed 'the chartering group may fail to meet any one of the rigid elements of the timeline.' To take that route would have been cowardice, not leadership."
I did not see this coming from members of the public. I think everyone acknowledged that the timeline was a challenging proposition to complete. There is no denying that. But the Superintendent believed that they should get a chance to meet that challenge as did most of the members of the public. I disagree that that allowing them to go forward would not be leadership. The Superintendent believed in the value and the mission of the charter and thought that they deserved the chance to make it work. I do not see anything cowardly about that position. What I do see is a member of the committee that chose to close the school fighting to preserve that decision and not be proven wrong.
"During the next 10 weeks, the Davis school board will need to cut approximately $4 million worth of programs from an already tight budget. The courageous actions of the board last week give me confidence in the leadership of the school board."
And many have an opposite reaction to the decision by the board. From my perspective everyone in the district will be harmed by the impact of cutting $4 million from the budget. I am hopeful that it will not come to that, but clearly we must plan for it.

The question is who should bear the brunt of the impact. An argument can be made that it probably should not be disadvantaged kids who already face overwhelming obstacles in their path of success. The district had the option to spread the impact across the entire student population, which they will have to do anyway and to which this expense really amounts to a drop in the bucket or to make the most vulnerable students feel a sharp impact. It's obvious where people such as Janice Bridge come down on this question.
"The community of Davis needs to support those we have elected to lead. "
In a litany of ridiculous arguments and claims, this is the most absurd. Just because we as a collective have elected these individuals does not bind us to support them when they do things we believe are wrong. We are not going to blindly follow them into the abyss and when they are wrong, we have the obligation to tell them so.

I am disappointed but not surprised by the tenure and misleading nature of the letter from Janice Bridge, I can only hope the community sees through this kind of rhetoric and looks at the tough road that these children have to walk down in order to rescue their school.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting