A New Charter for Novato?

The new North Bay Educational Foundation held a meeting June 12 to present its thoughts for a new charter to the public.

Last night I found myself with more than 200 other people attending an informational meeting about the pre-K-8 charter school the newly formed North Bay Educational Foundation wants to bring to Novato beginning in the 2013-14 school year.

It’s hard to say how many of those 200-plus folks came because they are genuinely interested in the concept versus because they are decidedly against the concept because no one chose to stamp their foreheads with a big FOR or AGAINST it on them. It seemed to me that most were there because the thought of an alternative to what the offers sounded appealing. I am guessing the elementary school principal who sat in front of me was there for the other reason.

The slide show and Q&A were largely handled by two NBEF members, Robert Verhoeff and MJ Lonson, although another 30 or more folks were sprinkled throughout the meeting room at church, standing up at the end of the meeting to be acknowledged as members of the team. Verhoeff said at the conclusion that he hoped to have the slide show posted on NBEF’s website. Most of the information during the prepared presentation centered on the Core Knowledge curriculum model that NBEF has chosen. (You can find out more about Core Knowledge on its website.)

Literature distributed at the meeting and the slide show related more details and examples of how the Core Knowledge curriculum works. I heard terms like “integrated, multi-subject curriculum” and “rigorous” and “thematic” and “differentiated instruction” and “strong foundation.” “All stakeholders benefit from a coherent, cumulative, and content-specific Core Knowledge curriculum” the handout noted.

Being incredibly selfish and self-serving, I’ll note that I paid closer attention to plans for the middle school level and its tablet-based learning style and its emphasis on a STEM program (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), aligning it with what is happening over at School with .

Lots of questions from audience members dealt with nailing down the details of the charter, which Verhoeff and Lonson acknowledged were in the to-be-determined stage. Without a sense of community interest and then negotiations with the school district, they couldn’t really commit to the number of students, class sizes, location of the school, how special education students would be served, etc. Verhoeff said that, in his mind, curriculum was the big thing and the rest was more boilerplate in nature, meaning there are only so many ways, for example, to structure the accounting system for a school.

With regard to location, Verhoeff said the Foundation had thought the would be a logical place to site the school, assuming enough community interest; however, he said they had been told by the district that it had plans for the Hill site beyond its current use. (That comment certainly piqued my interest as I’ve not heard anything about that in any board meetings.) Verhoeff said that central or south Novato is the ideal location for the school.

Lonson addressed the issue of not being able to name who the teachers would be, but she repeatedly stayed with the message that teachers would be “outstanding” and that all would be credentialed. Toward the end of the meeting, she said she there were teachers involved and interested but in reality there can’t be any hiring done until the spring.

Details about the timeline were requested and some dates were fleshed out. The petition to the NUSD Board of Trustees needs to happen by October or November. In response to a comment about the timeline, Verhoeff said the 18-month time between coming up with the charter concept and bringing it to fruition is on par with other efforts. He did indicate that if the NUSD turned down the charter, the foundation would take it to the county. If the county denied the application, then the foundation would take it to the state.

Appearing quite enthralled with the curriculum, one audience member asked “Why can’t the district just adopt the curriculum?”

“I don’t know,” Verhoeff deadpanned to the sound of laughter.

Lonson said, “Choice is good. Not every kid learns the same way. I know in my heart that this community likes choice.”

So, then, do we?

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ZorbaGT June 18, 2012 at 06:22 PM
if every kids different....why they need this? seems like same ol thing If the school reverts to a lottery system because it is full, do siblings of current students get any priority? We do intend to give siblings priority in future years.
Tina McMillan June 18, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Zorba Please take the time to read about the history of charter programs in California and follow the links to understand why we have the option of forming charters. I don't know if the current charter is planning to give priority to families all ready enrolled but that is the case with neighborhood schools and the Novato Waldorf Charter. Once you are in, your siblings have first shot at getting in. MSA is a school within a school. It has children audition for slots. It is a High School program. San Marin is starting smARTt (San Marin Arts and Technical Arts) another school within a school program. Core Knowledge Curriculum is not "the same old thing", read the links it is a unique approach, regardless of the language used to describe it, and it has been getting results across the board.
Dexter Kaziff June 18, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Yes Tina..but why should we have to support a new charter school that is only going to benefit people who are unhappy with their neighborhood school? Put it to a vote of all of Novato and it loses big time. If you want something different for your child, more power to you. But you should be willing to pay for it.
Tina McMillan June 19, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Dexter, "You" don't have to support the charter school. If you read the state website link the charter can come about with community support from parents who choose to be involved. All it needs is a sufficient number of families to make it fiscally possible to begin. There is no loss to any district that has Charter and Magnet schools. If anything it makes our districts more attractive to families who are moving here. The law does not require a vote of all Novato for a Charter to be created. All of Novato didn't vote on our Novato Waldorf Charter and it has been a wonderful community asset. We are fortunate for the sweat equity parents put into that school. The hours and the fundraising on top of the money supplied by the state continue to be a part of the charter movement. It took real passion for our Waldorf Charter to succeed. Remember the charter movement is funded by the state and we do pay for it with tax dollars. If you want to learn more read the links below. http://www.lao.ca.gov/handouts/education/2006/Charter_School_Policy_080106.pdf http://www.edsource.org/iss_charter_policy.html
TAK July 11, 2012 at 08:19 PM
North Bay Educational Foundation to Hold Public, Informational Meeting about New Core Knowledge Pre-K to 8th Grade Charter School Planned to Open August, 2013 in Novato. Presentation to Include Core Knowledge Curriculum, Charter Admissions and Enrollment Planning; Consideration for Intent to Register Signatures will be Gathered. WHEN: Sunday, July 15 2012, 4:00pm WHO: North Bay Educational Foundation (NBEF) WHERE: Best Western Novato Oaks Hotel in the Oak Room (behind Burger King and Next to Wild Fox in Ignacio) at 215 Alameda Del Prado


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