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Op-Ed: Clarifying NBEF's Intentions on Charter School Petition

Robert Verhoeff of the North Bay Educational Foundation says the group is continuing on its original path and not currently looking at other options.

(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While NBEF has temporarily withdrawn its original proposal, we are not looking to withdraw our proposal altogether.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. 

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Kenneth Dahl February 03, 2013 at 01:43 AM
The best way to foil your charter enemies, Mr. Not a Troll, then, is very simple. Encourage ethnic families to sign the next charter petition, and encourage them to enroll once the school opens. Pour all your energy into that. If attending school with ethnic families is what the charter is truly trying to avoid, your logic suggests that a large number of signatures from non-white families will have them heading for the hills.
I'm a Teacher Too February 03, 2013 at 03:19 PM
No, K8, teachers were an integral part of the process.
I'm a Teacher Too February 03, 2013 at 03:32 PM
A Rancho teacher said at a public meeting that Rancho was an effort to isolate? Does anyone actually believe that? That is insulting. Please do not represent something that you clearly are not. Hundreds of families and 17 teachers signed the petition. Hundreds of kids not at Rancho today, almost 400 kids represented by signature. Plenty of teachers are interested in the new charter - just not willing to face the wrath of posters, the district and the union until the school is open.
I'm a Teacher Too February 03, 2013 at 03:43 PM
Let me get this right --- someone claiming to be a K-8 teacher is posting on the Patch and doing archival research on two consecutive days during school hours. Are you using school owned equipment to do such research, K8? If you are a teacher, you should be fired. But I don't think you are fooling anyone. These posts are an insult to teachers. Take on a different fake name, would you? You are giving NUSD teachers a bad name.
Will Johnson February 03, 2013 at 04:37 PM
John Parnell, The district does actually have a database of NUSD students that contains demographic information on students (Aeries). However, a full third of the petitioners are not in this NUSD analysis – they are from non-NUSD schools, hence no information to report. You bring up a really interesting point …. the ethnic categories reported by NUSD are 1. Hispanic and 2. Non-Hispanic. While Hispanic is the largest ethnic group within NUSD at 32%, there is no break-out for Asian, African American, Filipino, American Indian, Native Islander, etc. These groups make up over 10% of NUSD (per the 2012 API reports, CDOE). So, NUSD never actually reported the % of white students, only non-Hispanic. Ask yourself why many categories were left out of the analysis. If you understand the mechanism of the millions in Title I, II and III funding, you might have your answer as to why NUSD appears to care more about some ethnic groups than others. http://www.nusd.org/files/_hWDl6_/c4a93143655db06a3745a49013852ec4/Summary_of_Petitioners.pdf

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