Two forces within the Novato school community are on a path for a head-on collision in the coming hours and days, as the people behind the newly named proposed charter school North Bay Academy compete with the people behind the newly formed Save Our Novato Schools organization.
What’s at stake? The creation of a new charter school within Novato Unified School District’s footprint.
I spoke in depth with one of the people behind the Save Our Novato Schools website a couple of days ago, intending to write a post detailing what their goals are. Before getting a chance to write that post — darn kids kept getting in the way with their needs, wouldn’t you know — the folks behind North Bay Academy sent out a notice that its petition is ready for signatures.
And now it comes down to a morning of information overload with a huge clock tick-tick-ticking away. It’s like the lead up to the presidential election, this deadline of petition submission for North Bay Academy looming large. But instead of still having weeks in which to decide, you currently have two days.
In those two days, you can mobilize in one of two ways. And, for the record, while this may seem like a war being fought, it’s really just the first battle in what could turn out to be a protracted war. On that point, I’m guessing both sides would agree.
According to its press releases and notices to its mailing list, NBEF has the official petition ready for signatures from parents. “These signatures are non-binding and represent a meaningful interest on behalf of the signee to have his/her children attend North Bay Academy.” If you signed the preliminary intent to enroll form in July or August, that’s not the same. You need to — ideally — read the petition and then sign it. (Nice broad that I am, I’ve posted a PDF of the petition. You can also go direct to the link at NBEF’s website here.)
You can sign the petition until 8 p.m Sunday or between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday. NBEF lists the location for signing as 285 Bel Marin Keys Blvd, Unit L on Sunday and Unit E on Monday.
Before you consider signing any petition, the organized opponents to the proposed charter school want you to first spend some time on their website, SaveOurNovatoSchools.com, to learn reasons to join the opposition instead. What they want to do is “get parents and people more educated on what the process (of forming a new charter) is, what to expect, and what the anticipated effects would be.” Their biggest fear, one which they espouse repeatedly online, in person and on the phone, is that the creation of the charter will result in teacher lay-offs, overcrowded classrooms and permanent closure of one of NUSD’s elementary school.
The group of parents who formed the SONS website have started their own online petition you are able to access from their homepage by clicking on the link that states “I oppose the NBEF charter. We cannot afford a new school and we want to keep the ones we have.”
The petition, intended for the NUSD Board of Trustees, says, “We believe that the financial effects of a new Charter School in Novato that would benefit only a few of our children would devastate Novato Unified School District, resulting in the closure of an elementary school, teacher job losses and bigger class sizes in our elementary and middle schools. We urge the School Board to vote NO on this misguided idea. Don't let the interests of a few determine the future of all our children.”
The website provides a wealth of information against the charter, but it really does seem to me to boil down, in opponents’ minds, to a sense of fairness for the community as a whole and the “leap of faith” parents have to take with regard to their children’s education.
According to opponents, that “leap of faith” isn’t enough when it comes to using “public funds and public trust.” If the proposed North Bay Academy’s number of petition signatures comes close to the number of preliminary intent to enroll forms it received over the summer, it would take more than 500 elementary and middle school students out of NUSD. NUSD will need to cut its budget significantly to weather that loss, all on a leap of faith that the parents saying they will send their children to North Bay Academy do so and that North Bay Academy will be prepared for opening day. In fact, both NBEF and its opponents point out that a signature on the petition is not a request for a transfer and is not the same as enrolling a student.
And, opponents want to know, what about those left behind? What effect does it have on the currently enrolled NUSD students, teachers, staff, and facilities? That is of particular concern to opponents because they believe the Core Knowledge curriculum for the proposed new charter is “out-dated” and not on par with the Common Core standards being implemented in California and nearly all other states. Of far greater concern to opponents, however, is the expectation that minorities, the socioeconomically disadvantaged, and the disabled will be markedly underrepresented at the proposed charter. Finally, they point to the “main intent” of allowing the creation of charter schools, which they say was to “provide alternative educational opportunities for the lowest achieving students in our community. Those kids, in other words, who are not succeeding in their public schools.”
You’re welcome to take sides in the comments below. But instead of spending a lot of time going back and forth, wouldn’t you rather see for yourself? Go on, read the petition I’ve uploaded. And, then, when you’re done, check out the Save Our Novato Schools website. Inform yourself. Then decide for yourself.
If you sign the charter school petition, you publicly go on the record that you want your child to attend. Please mean it.