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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Valley Oak Charter Petition To Be Appealed To the County

Last night at the Valley Oak multipurpose room, around 60 parents, teachers, and community members gathered braving the cold driving rains on a Saturday Night to show their support for the ongoing Valley Oak Charter effort and to find out the next steps.

The community was walked through the process at this point including the next steps of the Charter School appeal, efforts to lobby members of the County Board of Education, and how to handle intent to return forms.

The importance of getting out information to the parents was underscored by reports that there were efforts underway at disinformation on the part of some district staff to confuse parents and to make them believe that this process was over.

Parents and community members also expressed support for Valley Oak Elementary school and the efforts to keep Valley Oak open as a Charter School.

Supervisor Mariko Yamada whose two daughters attended Valley Oak, recounted efforts to paint and decorate the school in the early to mid 1990s as many were allowing the school to deteriorate.

Catching up with the Supervisor after the meeting, she expressed her continued support for the Charter as she has at school board meetings.
"I'm in full support of the Valley Oak Charter, as you know I was opposed to Valley Oak closing. But we've moved on from that. I think that the group is working very hard to present its appeal before the Yolo County Board of Education. And I will certainly be in full support of that whatever our office can do to support that we will continue to work on that."
The Vanguard also spoke with Ellen Cohen whose two children attended Valley Oak in the GATE program.
"I have two children, both of whom went here to Valley Oak. They were both in the GATE program. What we found here was just a very rich educational experience. My kids had been at their previous elementary schools, but never until they came here experienced the sense of community that I think is unique to Valley Oak. I think Valley Oak offers a kind of diversity that does not exist anywhere in any other Davis school. My great upset is that this was the most vulnerable school among all schools and the most critical to keep open. So I think that it's great that we have a new opportunity to move forward."
Bill Storm, science teacher at Valley Oak and one of the organizers put it most eloquently, arguing that the district has maintained that the programs can be replicated elsewhere and that students will receive the same level of education elsewhere in the district.
"The board of education continued to put forward the idea that the charter school at this sight with this program is not unique. That this school doesn't do anything different from any other site. That the children will be served equally by being distributed as they would at Valley Oak. That's patently untrue. That's never been the case. It's never been true. And there's no reason to think that it would be true because the district staff has tried to replicate this program for English speakers for poor kids and it's never been done. The numbers speak for themselves, the STAR testing data. It makes it patently obvious what's going on. The anecdotal, the numerical, all the data has been ignored to the end of closing this school. It has not been closed for programmatic reasons."
Teacher Steve Kelleher told the Vanguard that the process is going forward.
"It's moving forward, it's a good document, there's no reason to believe it won't fly through the county as well."
The timeline is very tight at this point if they hope to get the school open for 2008-09.
"We need to get [the appeal] in next week in order to get it on the agenda for the [county] board meeting, which I believe is on the 21st. There's a window of time that you need to submit documents."
In advance of the meeting, Mr. Kelleher will be meeting with the CBO from the County.
"I'm going to have a conversation with the Yolo County Office of Education. Specifically I need to set up some time with the CBO, Chief Budget Officer, and apprise her of what's happening and the changes that we've made to the document. There seems to be some confusion as to whether the charter's going to be rejected or not. The district did miss the deadline that they agreed to and in my mind that means that they've rejected the charter. So we'll move forward and present the appeal to the county next week."
Meanwhile the school board will meet this week to formally reject the Charter Proposal.
"From what I understand they are just going to rubber stamp their decision to reject it... They rejected the updated version on Thursday the 24th, and on Thursday the 7th they expect to reject the original document."
Valley Oak parents and supporters plan to march once again from Valley Oak to the school board.

Julie Cuetera better known as Dweezil, the Valley Oak Dragon told the Vanguard:
"From Valley Oak to the School Board. We will probably leave at 5:30, I'll confirm the time. And Dweezil will lead the march and dance during the march. And everyone can carry signs like they did to save the school, this time they can say, 'we want the charter.'"
The first time, 100 people showed up. This time, she is hoping for 200 people.
"Well I did it in three days last time, this time I have six days so let's try for 200."
All community members are encouraged to show up and support Valley Oak.

Stay tuned to the Vanguard this week for other key information and announcements.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting