Valley Oak Petition Faces Tough Questions from School Board

One of the images from the last year that will be perhaps forever etched in my mind was the night that the school board voted to close Valley Oak Elementary School and watching parents in the back of the room with tears literally streaming down their face. Who knew that months later the very same parents will have risen up and changed their condition and their lot with sheer tenacity and hard work.

Last night, there were no tears, only smiles and laughter as the Davis Joint Unified School Board was presented by a number of individuals who have poured their heart and soul into this process, the Valley Oak Charter.

There were many tough questions that were asked by the school board during this process–rightly so as this will have a dramatic impact on their budget and their planning. This was not their formal response to the charter, only a questions at a public hearing.

What is important to understand despite their tough questions was that according to the education code, there are only a few reasons by which the board could deny the charter.

In addition to Board Member-elect Susan Lovenburg, both Bob Schelen and Joe Spector–the two strongest supporters of Valley Oak among the four school board candidates were in attendance. Nowhere to be seen on this night was Board Member-elect Richard Harris. Mr. Harris has been seen as the strongest critic of Valley Oak School and the charter process. Also in attendance was Jan Bridge, sitting next to Susan Lovenburg, who was on the Best Uses of Schools Task Force.

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.

Concerns from the board appeared primarily centered on admission policies, enrollment numbers and overall concerns that if Valley Oak either failed to attract enough students or failed to attract students from outside of the district, that the district would have other problems with which they needed to deal with.

According to the Charter which is available online.

“Valley Oak Charter School shall admit and enroll all students who wish to attend the school provided that the school’s capacity is not exceeded.”

If that capacity is exceeded here is the enrollment preference:

1. Students residing in current attendance boundaries of the former Valley Oak Elementary School
2. Children of current Valley Oak Charter School Employees
3. Students enrolled in the district
4. Sibling of students enrolled in the district
5. Students who reside in the District
6. All others

Discussion centered on how budgetary figures would be reached if Valley Oak filled up from within the district. Steve Kelleher suggested that boards often use Charter Schools as a tactic to draw ADA money from outside of the district, but the general feeling by the petitioners was that a reduction of staff from the non-Valley Oak portion of the district would off-set the cost. Board Member Tim Taylor believes that one of the reasons that the board closed Valley Oak would be the eventual reduction of teachers district-wide if enrollment was reduced.

This discussion prompted outgoing Board Member Keltie Jones to suggest that the district may have to consider closing another school if enrollment declines due to the Valley Oak Charter School. But she stressed the point that this could not be a reason to deny the charter.

A couple of other key points that came up during the process.

First, Tim Paulson, the current President of the Davis Teachers Association stressed that the Valley Oak Charter School had the full support of the DTA.

Second, the point was made that for the purposes of collective bargaining, the district was the employer and that the money would flow through the district. This was in response to a question from Keltie Jones as to whether Valley Oak would be a dependent or independent charter school. By this definition they would be dependent.

Third, Valley Oak would not be automatically entitled to parcel tax money but that could be done by agreement with the school district.

The overall sense from the petitioners and the teacher’s association is that if there are concerns by the district they are willing to sit down and find agreements on this issue.

Finally, the petitioners were able to gather over 200 signatures but project 305 students to start with. The board was concerned about the viability economically of a 305 student school but also and just as importantly whether they would get to that number.

According to a number of the petitioners, the problem for charter schools is usually over-enrollment rather than under-enrollment. People are reluctant to sign petitions but more willing to send their children there once the school opens for enrollment. Several stressed that they felt that 305 was very attainable and that they actually expected it to have a waiting list.

From my perspective, I think the board raised legitimate concerns. I also think that this charter was very carefully drafted, they have support of the teacher’s association, they have utilized a consultant from CTA in the drafting of their charter, so teachers who have signed up to teach their–and they had 19 teachers sign the petition–will be well taken care of.

It is exciting to watch this process go forward and the next step appears to be some sort of official response from the school district.

—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.

Categories:

Budget/Taxes

180 comments

  1. Thank goodness that the DJUSD will be relieved of Keltie Jones’ participation in very short order. Why on earth publicly ruminate about having to close another school when it was purely speculation into the future and had no bearing on this preliminary discussion. Its obvious effect(deliberate?) is to sow fear and hostility in other school parent populations to the Valley Oak Charter School.

  2. Thank goodness that the DJUSD will be relieved of Keltie Jones’ participation in very short order. Why on earth publicly ruminate about having to close another school when it was purely speculation into the future and had no bearing on this preliminary discussion. Its obvious effect(deliberate?) is to sow fear and hostility in other school parent populations to the Valley Oak Charter School.

  3. Thank goodness that the DJUSD will be relieved of Keltie Jones’ participation in very short order. Why on earth publicly ruminate about having to close another school when it was purely speculation into the future and had no bearing on this preliminary discussion. Its obvious effect(deliberate?) is to sow fear and hostility in other school parent populations to the Valley Oak Charter School.

  4. Thank goodness that the DJUSD will be relieved of Keltie Jones’ participation in very short order. Why on earth publicly ruminate about having to close another school when it was purely speculation into the future and had no bearing on this preliminary discussion. Its obvious effect(deliberate?) is to sow fear and hostility in other school parent populations to the Valley Oak Charter School.

  5. To deny Davis residents attending the Valley Oak Charter School their fair share of the parcel tax(Measure Q)that they voted for and are going to have to pay would prompt a political firestorm that could easily result in a School Board recall effort.

  6. To deny Davis residents attending the Valley Oak Charter School their fair share of the parcel tax(Measure Q)that they voted for and are going to have to pay would prompt a political firestorm that could easily result in a School Board recall effort.

  7. To deny Davis residents attending the Valley Oak Charter School their fair share of the parcel tax(Measure Q)that they voted for and are going to have to pay would prompt a political firestorm that could easily result in a School Board recall effort.

  8. To deny Davis residents attending the Valley Oak Charter School their fair share of the parcel tax(Measure Q)that they voted for and are going to have to pay would prompt a political firestorm that could easily result in a School Board recall effort.

  9. I think it’s healthy for Keltie to say out loud what most informed people are already thinking. There are only so many kids to go around.

    I’ve seen a couple anonymous posts now threatening school board candidates with a recall…the first was after I pointed out that the district does not have to locate the charter school at the old Valley Oak site. Talk about sowing fear and hostility.

  10. I think it’s healthy for Keltie to say out loud what most informed people are already thinking. There are only so many kids to go around.

    I’ve seen a couple anonymous posts now threatening school board candidates with a recall…the first was after I pointed out that the district does not have to locate the charter school at the old Valley Oak site. Talk about sowing fear and hostility.

  11. I think it’s healthy for Keltie to say out loud what most informed people are already thinking. There are only so many kids to go around.

    I’ve seen a couple anonymous posts now threatening school board candidates with a recall…the first was after I pointed out that the district does not have to locate the charter school at the old Valley Oak site. Talk about sowing fear and hostility.

  12. I think it’s healthy for Keltie to say out loud what most informed people are already thinking. There are only so many kids to go around.

    I’ve seen a couple anonymous posts now threatening school board candidates with a recall…the first was after I pointed out that the district does not have to locate the charter school at the old Valley Oak site. Talk about sowing fear and hostility.

  13. The Davis Spanish Immersion program met with similar DJUSD skeptisim in its beginnings. Very quickly, Davis parents were sitting out all night on chaises in front of the District office on the night before registration to make sure that their kids had a spot in the program. Parents, teachers, the community coming together to create something quite special.. It CAN be done.

  14. The Davis Spanish Immersion program met with similar DJUSD skeptisim in its beginnings. Very quickly, Davis parents were sitting out all night on chaises in front of the District office on the night before registration to make sure that their kids had a spot in the program. Parents, teachers, the community coming together to create something quite special.. It CAN be done.

  15. The Davis Spanish Immersion program met with similar DJUSD skeptisim in its beginnings. Very quickly, Davis parents were sitting out all night on chaises in front of the District office on the night before registration to make sure that their kids had a spot in the program. Parents, teachers, the community coming together to create something quite special.. It CAN be done.