(Editor's note: The author is a board member and co-founder of the North Bay Educational Foundation, which has sought to create a new charter school in Novato using the Core Knowledge approach to learning. The Novato Unified School District denied the foundation's charter petition in December).
By Robert Verhoeff
There seems to be some confusion about the recent story that ran in the Marin Independent Journal. I wish to set the record straight.
The headline “Novato charter school proponents say they are open to 'other options'” has been interpreted by some to mean that NBEF will not continue its quest to bring forward a Core Knowledge charter school. We are continuing on our original path, and are not currently looking at other options.
The IJ article noted that “After announcing a one-year delay for a proposed charter school in Novato, the founder of the North Bay Educational Foundation said the group might withdraw the proposal altogether if the school district considers changes to its educational approach.”
While NBEF has temporarily withdrawn its original proposal, we are not looking to withdraw our proposal altogether. My comment was part of a larger conversation in which I described the approach taken by the Moorpark School District (Riverside County) where they decided to make their entire district of elementary schools into schools of choice. What I had intended to impart was that if NUSD had moved toward a school of choice model like Moorpark’s, and offered multiple schools of choice, including magnet and/or charter schools, that (most importantly) addressed the varied educational needs of our families, we would not have needed to bring this petition forward.
The IJ article also noted that "The objective of the North Bay Educational Foundation was never in and of itself a charter school," founder Robert Verhoeff said. "If we can begin having respectful discussions with the stakeholders, then perhaps there are other options that could become available."
While I spoke these words, again, out of context, they do not represent what I hoped to communicate. This effort was not meant to force the district to have discussions, it was meant to open a Core Knowledge school of choice for interested families. Of course, we would welcome serious and substantive discussions with NUSD staff and trustees, as well as charter opponents, about the merits of a Core Knowledge charter school for families in Novato. Reasonable people have respectful discussions about important issues.
Any discussion needs to center around how “our” education system addresses the wants of all parents and how “we” are going to work toward narrowing the achievement gap by lifting up the education of all children and insuring equal access to academic excellence. As long as NUSD believes that a “one size fits all” approach is adequate, NBEF will continue to seek an education alternative desired and supported by hundreds of parents.
To be clear, the current intent of North Bay Educational Foundation is to open a Core Knowledge charter school. While NBEF may consider pursuing additional opportunities in the future, until such time as alternatives exist that meet the needs of all families, NBEF is committed to petitioning for a Core Knowledge charter school.
Lastly, it was stated that “The group might also seek to implement Core Knowledge in existing schools.” I do not know exactly what I said to give this impression. Only NUSD could implement curriculum in one of their existing schools. That is not our intent, nor our role.
Dr. Cunningham attended our meeting last Tuesday. We hope this signals an openness on the part of NUSD to collaborate on the petition resubmission going forward. Likewise, our door remains open, as it has been since we first met with the district last June to begin working with them on this important initiative.
I hope this clarifies the intent and direction that NBEF is taking.