The Board of Trustees spent about as much time last night getting an update from Superintendent Shalee Cunningham on the proposed North Bay Educational Foundation's charter as they later spent trying to figure out exactly how not to excuse Shelly Scott's absence from the meeting. I'll give you a summary of the charter discussion if you promise to watch the last five minutes of the meeting to see for yourself whether Scott's absence was excused.
Cunningham noted she wanted to begin the conversation with the school board and the community since they will "most likely" have a charter school proposal coming to the Board of Trustees. She provided binders to the trustees, noting that all of the information was available online. None of the material was posted online with the agenda and staff reports and consent packet for the material.
According to Cunningham, each binder contains NUSD's policy around charter schools, federal and state guidelines, California's Department of Education regulations on charter applications, a Q&A from the Charter School Association, and the procedures those who want the charter need to go through to file an application with NUSD.
"We know it's an inordinate amount of work for all of us," Cunningham said. "Both the applicants as well as the recipients."
Cunningham noted the district has 60 days to respond upon receiving a petition, and a public hearing must be held during that time period. She also pointed out that the petition needs to be received by November 1 under Proposition 39 rules requiring charters seeking facilities from local school districts to file by that date.
"I fully anticipate that this train will leave the station very soon, and when it does, this will have to be a focus of our staff because we have requirements...that we have to fulfill," she said.
Cunningham indicated a board workshop with the NUSD's attorney should be arranged in August or September.
After Cunningham finished speaking, Board President Cindi Clinton invited MJ Lonson, an NBEF board member to speak. Lonson gave a recap of the charter's process to-date, mentioning the three community meetings it has held, the two board meetings thus far and upcoming ones scheduled for September and October. From a "public relations" standpoint, Lonson pointed to coverage in the Patch and other media sources, outreach to child-centered organizations and within Spanish markets, its website (with videos), its Facebook page, and its email list.
Lonson also spoke of having heard from teachers, both within the district and outside, who were interested in learning more. She noted that hiring would not occur until the spring.
Although Lonson mentioned having requested preliminary Intent to Enroll forms, she did not indicate how many had been received, saying only that "our initial indications are that we have a sizeable school that we're looking at and we have a viable budget from Day 1." She went on to note that the "representation is a cross-section of students from all over Novato schools, plus there are seven different private schools where people have expressed interest in sending their children to North Bay Educational Foundation."
With regard to facilities, Lonson said, "Our first and best choice would be obviously to work with the district. We're hoping to be authorized by NUSD and we would like to keep the money within NUSD in a rent-back situation."
Noting they had been told by Cunningham early on that there are only five rooms available at the Hill Alternative Education Center, Lonson said they had been looking at other locations and are working with a real estate agent and have had only preliminary discussions with regard to non-NUSD properties. She also noted NBEF has had conversations with an architecht and a construction firm in case the charter cannot use district facilities.
In closing, Lonson said, "I just wanted to share some information so the community knows where we are. We're open, transparent. We'll be having a lot more community meetings."