Commentary: Tough Challenges Still Ahead for the Valley Oak

The folks at Valley Oak likely left the meeting on Thursday evening feeling uneasy about their status. About the only thing that they probably have going at this point is state law is on their side and the school board has very limited opportunity to actually deny their charter petition.

Nevertheless, at the meeting there was anguish over the board’s response to their charter. And an even wider-spread belief that there were no strong allies on the board. Perhaps adding to that anxiety is the fact that joining the board shortly will be two new members, one closely tied with members of the Best Uses of Schools Task Force that recommending closing Valley Oak and the other expressing outright opposition to charter.

Still state law is on the clear side of the petitioners, with only limited opportunities for the board to deny the application:

The Education Code specifies five grounds to deny a charter: (1) the charter school presents an unsound educational program for the students to be enrolled in the charter school; (2) the petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition; (3) the petition does not contain the number of signatures required; (4) the petition does not contain an affirmation of each of the conditions prescribed by law; and/or (5) the petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of the sixteen charter elements in prescribed by law.

The next step will be the analysis by Associate superintendents Ginni Davis and Bruce Colby. That analysis will likely map out the district’s response to the charter petition. President of the board, Jim Provenza, stated at the outset that the board would be waiting until the staff report to offer their own comments.

This stance drew criticism from many supporters of the charter school, fearful that the board may use the staff report as political cover to make unpopular decisions.

The board spoke loudly however through a series of tough questions. I don’t mind the tough questions. But there were at times almost veiled threats as well, for instance Keltie Jones verbally wondering if Valley Oak’s charter will lead to another school closing. There seemed to be little point to making that statement other than perhaps causing fear and panic in the rest of the school district by throwing that out as a possibility out of shear speculation.

The bottom line there and she acknowledged it, the point that she made could not be used as reason to deny the petition. That being the case, why bring it up? What purpose does it serve?

And that’s the problem I had with the entire question and answer process.

Questions centered on the number of students that they would be likely to draw from. That is an important question no doubt, but it is not a question that can be considered by the board in approving or denying the petition. The question that is considered–do they have enough signatures? Yes they do. Then end of story.

Next they asked a series of questions about budgetary impact and whether the school would draw from outside the district or draw ADA money from inside. Nothing wrong with the question except, cannot be considered in the decision to approve the charter.

I am not sure of rules here, but frankly it would seem to me that these questions are almost out of order since they do not bear on the charter question. And yet round after round of tough questions came down on the petitioners and not one was a question that could be considered in the final decision.

The final piece of concern comes from the decision by the district to post the list of names, which was in apparent violation of the law. Most likely this was inadvertent and as soon as complaints were made and it was recognized, they pulled it down. However, we cannot help but note it fits the general tenor demonstrated on Thursday, which despite all indication from before was greeted with hostility and skepticism rather than appreciation and support.

The drafters of the charter have been extremely diligent and thorough. They have generated tremendous support both within the teaching staff as well as their community. And they deserve praise and congratulations rather than criticism and skepticism.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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268 comments

  1. As I watched the meeting, there wasn’t so much anguish on the part of the Valley Oak group as there was gracious forebearance. The charter is well-written, well-researched, and viable. The board has no choice but to vote for it.
    The board merely showed more incompetence in their lines of questions and in their comments. There are only five criteria on which the board can refuse this charter. They need to swallow the pill and get on with it.

  2. As I watched the meeting, there wasn’t so much anguish on the part of the Valley Oak group as there was gracious forebearance. The charter is well-written, well-researched, and viable. The board has no choice but to vote for it.
    The board merely showed more incompetence in their lines of questions and in their comments. There are only five criteria on which the board can refuse this charter. They need to swallow the pill and get on with it.

  3. As I watched the meeting, there wasn’t so much anguish on the part of the Valley Oak group as there was gracious forebearance. The charter is well-written, well-researched, and viable. The board has no choice but to vote for it.
    The board merely showed more incompetence in their lines of questions and in their comments. There are only five criteria on which the board can refuse this charter. They need to swallow the pill and get on with it.

  4. As I watched the meeting, there wasn’t so much anguish on the part of the Valley Oak group as there was gracious forebearance. The charter is well-written, well-researched, and viable. The board has no choice but to vote for it.
    The board merely showed more incompetence in their lines of questions and in their comments. There are only five criteria on which the board can refuse this charter. They need to swallow the pill and get on with it.

  5. I am tremendously impressed with the Charter proponents while I am disappointed by the school board’s lack of creativity in dealing with the problem. Davis is “THE” education town in region- most parents from any of the surrounding towns would love to have their kids come to a “Davis School”. How in the world can anyone say we have a low enrollment issue? Just open the door to students from surrounding areas and let them pay for the privilege- Davis should never have a vacant seat at any of our schools! Davis may no longer produce tomatoes, but we still can produce education for export!

  6. I am tremendously impressed with the Charter proponents while I am disappointed by the school board’s lack of creativity in dealing with the problem. Davis is “THE” education town in region- most parents from any of the surrounding towns would love to have their kids come to a “Davis School”. How in the world can anyone say we have a low enrollment issue? Just open the door to students from surrounding areas and let them pay for the privilege- Davis should never have a vacant seat at any of our schools! Davis may no longer produce tomatoes, but we still can produce education for export!

  7. I am tremendously impressed with the Charter proponents while I am disappointed by the school board’s lack of creativity in dealing with the problem. Davis is “THE” education town in region- most parents from any of the surrounding towns would love to have their kids come to a “Davis School”. How in the world can anyone say we have a low enrollment issue? Just open the door to students from surrounding areas and let them pay for the privilege- Davis should never have a vacant seat at any of our schools! Davis may no longer produce tomatoes, but we still can produce education for export!

  8. I am tremendously impressed with the Charter proponents while I am disappointed by the school board’s lack of creativity in dealing with the problem. Davis is “THE” education town in region- most parents from any of the surrounding towns would love to have their kids come to a “Davis School”. How in the world can anyone say we have a low enrollment issue? Just open the door to students from surrounding areas and let them pay for the privilege- Davis should never have a vacant seat at any of our schools! Davis may no longer produce tomatoes, but we still can produce education for export!

  9. The Davis School Board is our political minor leagues where novice players demonstrate if they have what it takes to move on to the major league political Show. Under the 9th inning pressure of the Valley Oak Charter School petition,Keltie Jones and Time Taylor struck out. Jim Provenza’s position, at the first hearing on the petition, to adhere to the process without publicly denigrating or promoting the VO Charter plan, was the correct public position.

  10. The Davis School Board is our political minor leagues where novice players demonstrate if they have what it takes to move on to the major league political Show. Under the 9th inning pressure of the Valley Oak Charter School petition,Keltie Jones and Time Taylor struck out. Jim Provenza’s position, at the first hearing on the petition, to adhere to the process without publicly denigrating or promoting the VO Charter plan, was the correct public position.