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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Superintendent to Recommend Support for Valley Oak Charter

Contrary to our bleak assessment yesterday on Valley Oak, it appears according to published reports that late discussions between Superintendent James Hammond and supports for the Valley Oak Charter have produced an agreement that have enabled the Superintendent to recommend approval of the plan.

This agreement includes specific benchmarks with specific deadlines that the new charter school would need to meet in the next year.

A resolution has been drafted that would "conditionally" grant the charter for the Valley Oak Charter School.


Contrary to the resolution in November, this current resolution finds the petition in compliance with Ed Code requirements for the approval of a charter proposal on key grounds.
  • "the Board of Trustees hereby finds the signatures of teachers submitted in support of the petition substantially comply with the requirements of Education Code section 47605(a)(1)(B)"

  • "that the Board of Trustees hereby finds that the revised proposed Charter, attached hereto as Exhibit A and incorporated herein by reference, satisfactorily responds to and substantially complies with all requirements of law as prescribed... by the Charter Schools Act"
However, the resolution adds a number of conditions.

The first three are routine and include the beginning operations for the 2008-2009 year and the location at 1400 East 8th, the present location of Valley Oak.

Then it lists off 15 conditional requirements.

Here are some of the key ones:
  • Participation in training from the Charter School Development Center by January 29, 2008

  • Amended collective bargaining agreement with DTA by January 31, 2008

  • By February 15, 2008 demonstrate 167 students intend to enroll for the first year of operation

  • By February 29, 2008 provide evidence of application for start-up funding

  • "No later than July 18, 2008, Valley Oak Charter School shall provide verification of receipt of startup funding in the form of a Charter School Startup Grant, Charter School Revolving Loan, or other identified source of revenue sufficient to ensure the fiscal viability of the Charter School during the first three years of operation."

  • "Valley Oak Charter School shall operate under the fiscal control, personnel management, and administrative oversight of Davis Joint Unified School District. Valley Oak Charter School shall be indirectly funded and Davis Joint Unified School District shall act as the fiscal agent of the Charter School for all purposes, as determined by the Superintendent or his designee."

  • "The District shall retain the special education funds received through the SELPA for Districtwide enrollment (including Charter School enrollment). The District shall provide special education instruction and related services to the students of the Valley Oak Charter School in the same manner as would be provided to the students of any other school of the District."
What seems to be the key sticking point is that within three weeks, the Charter School needs to have basically enrolled at least 167 students for next year. Now that seems a likely possibility but it will require another round of concerted effort. They received over 200 signatures. The law requires that they obtain signatures for half of the projected students in order to legally be in compliance. However, the district was nervous that 200 signatures would not translate in 300 students. The petitioners suggested that usually the attendance is higher than the level of signatures, but it is clear this must have been one of the key sticking points.

At the end of the day, the Superintendent must be applauded for his willingness to broker a deal here. And behind the scenes it seemed clear that members of the school board were also hoping for this kind of resolution. The district will face a tough fiscal climate in the next year, but at least this charter proposal will produce a level of clarity and certainty in terms of the number of facilities that will operate within the district.

Most of all, if the board does approve the Valley Oak Charter, this will be a tremendous victory for the parents and teachers who worked long and hard to make this happen and to those who never gave up hope even after the school board voted by a 3-2 vote to close down Valley Oak Elementary School.

Tonight remains a crucial meeting not only for Valley Oak parents but for all parents in the district and Valley Oak Charter School can be a district-wide asset if allowed to succeed and prosper.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting