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State Gives Strong Grade to Charter School's Grant Bid

The foundation trying to create the North Bay Academy requested a $375,000 grant over three years for planning and implementation of the school.

The group vying to open a new charter school for pre-kindergarteners through eighth-graders in Novato celebrated a positive jolt Wednesday when it received word of support from the California Department of Education.

According to a release from the North Bay Educational Foundation, which wants to open a school called the North Bay Academy somewhere in Novato in time for the 2013-14 school year, said its grant application scored well — 49 out of 56 points — in grading from the state. The foundation requested a $375,000 grant over three years for planning and implementation of the school.

"Our final hurdle in obtaining this grant lies in the review of our budget, which we believe will also pass muster with the state of California,” Robert Verhoeff, NBEF board member, said in the release.

The Novato Unified School District has not rendered a decision on the foundation's petition to open the school, which would follow the Core Knowledge system of teaching. NUSD has the subject on its agenda for Dec. 11 and plans to either approve or deny the petition on Dec. 18. If it is denied, the foundation could appeal to the Marin County Office of Education or go straight to a state educational board.

The charter school effort is facing some stiff opposition from people who believe opening a new school will hurt other public schools in the district and ultimately cost the district too much money to maintain. The anti-charter effort is being led by the Save Our Novato Schools grassroots group, which has stated that such a school is not needed in Novato.

Two advocacy groups voiced opposition to the petition because of concerns about the isolation of minority kids, and the Marin Independent Journal published an editorial against approval of the charter. And on Tuesday, NUSD finance director Karen Maloney said the district's net loss from creating a new charter school would be just short of $1.4 million.

"They are looking for good news at the moment," Ross Ingels, a co-founder of Save Our Novato Schools, said of the foundation. "Our focus is that we don't feel this is the best thing for the district and the community, and we believe our opposition is gaining support."

The state graded the grant application on the charter management plan, educational programming, community and parent involvement, sustainability and alignment of resources, notification and admissions, targeted capacity building activities and  autonomy.

MJ Lonson, foundation board member and co-founder of the effort to open a second charter school in Novato, said the competition for charter grants is intense and state support is a welcomed sign.

"Scoring highly against all seven criteria is a testament to the quality of the charter school application for North Bay Academy and its supporters, educators and leaders,” she said in the release.

According to the NBEF, the Core Knowledge curriculum model is "an innovative, research-based, carefully designed program that has a proven record of equipping all students with the academic skills and personal values they need to compete in the areas of communication, fine arts, technology, mathematics and scientific innovation."

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D Rex December 05, 2012 at 08:40 PM
forcing them to fire teachers, our kids teachers, will never be accepted. no matter how pretty a picture you try to paint.
Andrew R December 05, 2012 at 10:02 PM
This thing is dead on arrrival. I know people who are looking in to taking their names off the petition as they can no longer support something so divisive or potantially costly. I can't say I blame them. People don't typically feel pleased when school money and teachers are put at risk.
Anne December 05, 2012 at 11:03 PM
This is very good news for NBEF! Kudos to Robert & MJ and all the volunteer families!
Marys Mama December 05, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Andrew R., you make a great point and raise an interesting question - on the heels of a scathing editorial in the IJ, can we even be sure that all of the families who expressed "interest" on a petition will in fact follow through? Considering there is a very real possibility that some, if not many, have backed out, we need to recalculate everything, no? In case you missed it, the IJ, independent of any group, organization or other entity, soundly reasoned yesterday: "The financial impact is hard to ignore, regardless of what state law says. A school with that many students, with most of them likely coming from inside the district, will cause economic headaches for a district that doesn't need more of them. We also are concerned about a potential lack of diversity at the charter school. That is a very real issue in a district with a student population as diverse as Novato's" "We are not convinced Novato needs another public school right now."
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr December 05, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Teach students to their potential, not to a social engineering goal.
LoveNovato December 06, 2012 at 01:40 AM
MM I can't answer to those that are on the petition who want off, but I can attest to the fact that when I attended an NBEF board meeting a few weeks back there were people in the room who had not signed the petition and were there to get involved. So not sure that there's much meaning in hearing that some are pulling out, when in fact there are others joining.
Tina McMillan December 06, 2012 at 02:08 AM
There is not a single person on the NBEF charter board that is creating this school for any reason other than what it brings to all Novato children and families. Just like the SONS website, which originally said that the charter would cost the district more than $3million dollars we now see that once you deduct the offset in costs the charter has a revenue neutral effect. The district's structural budget deficit will not get better without a new parcel tax. If NUSD wants the support of the entire community they need to recognize that the families that support the charter also pay taxes that will only go to district schools. Enough lies and false allegations, lets start looking at this with real numbers and real facts.
Tina McMillan December 06, 2012 at 02:16 AM
MC Wouldn't it be great if the IJ had had the actual numbers that show that the charter has a revenue neutral effect on the district. If you were at the board meeting, and very few people were in attendance, then you know that Maloney said that she had not added in revenue from the charter and she had only deducted the costs associated with the lowest paid teachers. This broad approach served no one. Our district continue to run at a deficit because we do not receive adequate state funding. If we want to make up the difference it must come in the form of a parcel tax which is exactly what other cities in Marin have been doing. The charters financial effect is revenue neutral. As for the IJ deciding if Novato needs a charter school, when was Novato ever run by a newspaper? A newspaper that told folks to vote for MIke Allen, a man that rented an apartment in San Rafael so he could run as our state assembly representative. Just as Allen lost to Levine in spite of all odds, I suspect the IJ will not have the last word on the charter. What would be a shame is if the charter has a different managing entity than the district then the district will not receive SELPA or administrative reimbursement. How sad would it be for the county to take credit for a new Novato school because the district was too short sighted to do the right thing.
Tina McMillan December 06, 2012 at 05:15 AM
DRMC You do realize that the money that the charter receives to fix Hill to accommodate students from K through 8 will come from state and federal grants that are not available to the District. The district gets an upgraded campus that they continue to own, plus rent from the charter and the Charter brings kids back to Novato schools. You do realize that Sonoma county caught on to the fact that funding through charter conversions and magnet schools meant access to money not otherwise available and that is part of why they continue to open charter schools. It helps them balance their budget. Sonoma county has 51 charters and counting. Novato can find ways in addition to parcel taxes to increase revenue. Aaron Fix, while completely opposed to charter, is not opposed to what he calls "academy's". What he means is magnet schools that continue to use union teachers. The charter could be unionized but that would be up to the teachers to decide. Everyone in this equation is holding on so tightly that they have stopped looking at the possibilities. Last night demonstrated that a talented, experienced CFO can be stymied when not allowed to take the entire financial picture into consideration. Let's be honest. No one wanted to hear that the charter was revenue neutral because it wouldn't fit the arguments of the opponents and the district still has to decide based on the requisite categories none of which include finances. How very sad.
LP December 06, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I don't understand Tina"s explaination of the "revenue neutral effect". Is she trying to say that the charter will not hurt NUSD financially? When students are pulled from their home school for another, that means less students at that school. Less students means less funding for that school. Less students means less classes are needed. Less classes needed means consolidation. Consolidation means closing a campus. Wait, I feel like I'm retelling the book, "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie".
Tina McMillan December 06, 2012 at 05:44 PM
"Left unanswered was the question of whether the poor oversight has led to any misuse of federal charter school money or what further steps might be taken..." So the Federal Government (whose own record of oversight is not unblemished) accused California of problems with Charter oversight but hasn't yet found any discrepancies. From what we know of Novato Unified School District their oversight of Novato Charter School has for 16 years successfully managed the schools relationship with the district and with the state. Oversight begins with the authorizing agency. NUSD closed MSAT, our High School charter, when they questioned the manner in which Envision Schools was managing charter grant money. So in Novato, where the authorizing agency is capable of maintaining excellent oversight, we have an excellent record of charter school management. Isn't it possible to have good charter schools in spite of the federal and state problems with financial oversight? We didn't throw out our entire state parks commission when we found out they were hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. Our state and federal bureaucracies are so complex and so large in number that there will always be a problem.
ZorbaGT December 06, 2012 at 08:07 PM
the peple who talk choice are the same peple that say they going leaving to private school if rancho was closed they didnot go to private schools did they
Tina McMillan December 06, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Fewer students require fewer teachers, supplies and support. Campuses utilized by charters pay SELPA, pay administrative costs, pay for their own books and supplies, pay for their own teacher training, pay rent and pay for renovations that the district keeps. The district has been saying there would be consolidation of school campuses since 2005. This is because we operate as a structural deficit with or without the charter. The charter has a revenue neutral effect. The money going out is less and the money coming in is less. The closure of a school was not discussed at the board meeting which means the district is looking at other measure to handle the structural deficit. Teachers that leave the district to teach at the charter have between 13 and 28 years of teaching experience meaning they are getting much larger salaries than those used as offsets. The real issue in school closure is the ongoing structural deficit. If the district turns to magnet schools or charter conversions it can access funding not otherwise available. An additional infusion would come from a renewed parcel tax that covers a greater percentage of the costs.
Ahmadou Bamba December 07, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Tina- You do not have long term personal relationships with all of the board members. It is utterly ridiculous for you to speak for them on what their personal motivations are for trying to start this school. Your dizzying volume of PR type postings on this charter school might sound good to people with out any personal knowledge on these subjects. Those of us who have known and talked with these people in real life, before the push for the charter school even began, know what some of the key motivations are. Some of these motivations are not altruistically for the better of the entire community of children and families, rather they are selfishly for the interests of a narrow subset of them. You can chose to deny it and call them lies but that just shows how much you just wish to sweep this under the rug.
Barbie Barbarina December 07, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Seems like questionable mathematics if you ask me, and you're only driving home the very reason why I won't support this - all of our children will feel the ripple effect from "fewer students requiring fewer teachers, supplies and support." The charter will be drawing a few students from each grade at each school, creating minimally smaller classes at each campus. Each and every school will then be forced to do some shuffling to adjust for the small flight of students to the charter school. Let's say 10 2nd graders from my daughter's school leave for the charter. It's not enough of a flight to actually decrease the number of 2nd grade classes at the school, but enough that the school will have to shuffle the kids around. It just doesn't add up.
Barbie Barbarina December 07, 2012 at 12:28 AM
@ZorbaGT - it's been my experience that a lot of families would stick with Rancho but move their kids to private school come middle school (some stayed with my oldest through Hill but left at the end of 8th grade). I heard on more than one occasion that parents were more than willing to take advantage of the private school-like education at Rancho, but when it "really counts" - come high school - they were fortunate to have saved enough by way of public school through 5th grade to be able to foot the private school bill in the later years. It dawned on me when I went to back to school night for high school and constantly found myself wondering "where's so and so, where's so and so" and it was explained to me how so many parents viewed this opportunity to sort of milk the system and then leave NUSD. So, my question is - how many of these charter schools will stick with NUSD through high school graduation? I don't think it's fair to be opening an entirely new school if they intend to milk it through 8th grade and then leave. You might as well have left Rancho open, if that's what's going to happen here.
Barbie Barbarina December 07, 2012 at 12:37 AM
I don't understand what a man in an apartment in San Rafael has to do with the charter. Are you trying to suggest that a paper issued an endorsement for a candidate in a recent election, that endorsee lost, therefore the paper's other editorials have no merit?
Tina McMillan December 07, 2012 at 08:41 AM
On Tuesday evening the district presented a financial impact statement that shows they do not want to authorize the charter petition regardless of state law. Sadly, by not approving the petition, NUSD is giving up $670,000 dollars that could have helped to reduce the $3.3 million dollar deficit they face today and the charter turns to the county and state for authorization.
Chester B. Henry December 07, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Once again if you are unhappy with the school board or any other board get out and run for the office. Why do people continue to complain after the fact each and every time they think we need change . The election is over and you voted the same people back into office. Get a life and move on to something you can change or you are wasting your time once again .
Sue Ellen Mitchell December 07, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Someone needs to step up and take on the charter law. Right now any group of vocal and well off parents can hijack a school district and have their own charter school opened because the current law says nothing can stop them. Charter law needs to be changed to take into account financial issues as well as community support for a new charter. Otherwise, these parents will continue to petition to get their free private education on the tax payers dime while saving their money for Marin Catholic, St. Vincent and any other school that isn't SM or Novato. Fact.
Tammy R December 07, 2012 at 04:30 PM
As interesting as this has been to watch develop, it seems like the proposal is finished at any authorizer. It clearly would take money from kids. Heck anyone can see that if you slice a cake 8 ways, then decide to add a 9th slice, everyone will have less. At this point, it almost seems the two people trying to pass this are doing it out of spite. They should save face and just withdraw the proposal. If I were going to start a school and claim it was going to help disadvantaged kids, I'd be sure to engage that group. Does anyone think In-N-Out just decided to build a restaurant and hope people came to eat? Of course not, they researched it, hired consultants, even held a commmunity meeting asking for input...... You can't just try to hijack a schoool site, try to fill it with well- to- do kids then turn around and say "ok now the others can come in if they choose"....
Starling Sapphire December 07, 2012 at 07:18 PM
As long as my piece of cake has all the frosting it fine with me if split 9 ways.
John Parnell December 07, 2012 at 10:55 PM
To those that are hoping that the NUSD denies this charter, I would be careful what you wish for - I see that as the worst possible financial outcome for the NUSD. If the North Bay Academy opens as a county charter (which it has indicated it will do if denied by NUSD), then Novato will lose all the ADA funding that it would have kept had they approved it. They will also be losing new funding from the 1/4 of NBEF petitioners whose children are currently in private schools, who would be moving into the NUSD system. Simply put, they will lose the students they wouldn't be losing otherwise, and will also lose those who they stood to gain. It seems to me, that if the NUSD Board denies this charter, then they are the ones who would be making the decision to remove 500 kids from the district, and the funding that follows them. To use your analogy, Tammy R, would you rather have 1/9th of the whole cake, or 1/9th of 7/8th's? Also, if anyone wants their name off the charter petition, it is very easy to do so - and I would think that the NUSD would be publicizing those withdrawals - so I call BS on that comment. I don't know anybody who signed the petition who wants off, but I do know some parents who didn't sign the petition, but intend to send their children if it opens.
San Marin Grad 84 December 08, 2012 at 03:35 AM
So John, when your children go to the charter will it be preparing them for high school at San Marin or Novato or Marin Catholic or Marin Academy? Or do you just move south so your kids can go to Redwood or Tam? Most of these kids are leaving the district at some point anyway. If not now, then after 8th grade.
Tina McMillan December 08, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Your friends must have substantial resources. For many families saving for college is the more likely path. When you have two or more children the idea that you will be able to pay for private middle and high school is not as common as you would think. What families want are choices that reflect need. That's why San Marin started the STEM program. Students are already worried that there will be too few seats when they apply, just like applications to MSA. Schools of choice keep students in public schools. In our district that could be magnet schools through High School. Here are the four years tuition costs for nearby private High Schools. Marin Catholic: $68,400 Marin Academy: $144,320 Branson: $144,900 St Ignatius: $71,200 Sonoma Academy: $139,699 St Vincents: $49,060
Barbie Barbarina December 08, 2012 at 05:30 PM
@Tina McMillan are you asking me if I've asked these people how they are paying for the private high school education? I have NOT asked, will not ask, and I flat out just don't know. My best guess is it's some combination of grants, scholarships, family money, trust or savings. I ABSOLUTELY can tell you that I've witnessed this flight firsthand - Rancho families who went private come high school. I would need multiple hands to count the number of families I know who did so in my oldest's class alone. So, I have every reason to believe the same would hold true with a charter - considering this pattern I've witnessed firsthand (and other comments are attesting to on this very site).
Tina McMillan December 08, 2012 at 08:50 PM
BB To think that the majority of children that go to Rancho, Novato Charter School or the Core Knowledge Charter will leave the district at High School is not realistic. To ignore the children from the other elementary and middle schools and act as if there is no attrition in those programs to private schools makes for a very one sided conversation. The fact that some families can afford private high schools has nothing to do with the need for more programs like STEM and MSA or a Core Knowledge charter. Novato's history of innovation in public education can continue. To imply that people are misusing public education by using it in combination with private education or public charters or public magnets makes little sense. I am not asking where people get their money; I am saying that you are unrealistic about what most Novato families can afford.
D Rex December 10, 2012 at 05:06 PM
I guess this guy better get his checkbook out. I don't think many people would move their kids to a place that has no building, no teachers....nothing except a proposal on paper. And they want to open in 7 months? As for NUSD publicising withdrawls...why would they do that when people like you have cried "foul" over names being public in the first place? this thing is over, move on, write your tuition checks to your school
John Parnell December 10, 2012 at 11:27 PM
For a second, I thought I'd answer your question with something equivalent - like "Actually, I was thinking S.I. or Andover.", but I will answer honestly... I was a couple of years behind you at Redwood, as that was the district in which my family lived. I dated girls from Novato & MC, and never thought twice about either. I never disparaged anyone because of where they went to high school. I take it you don't feel the same way. I have met a number of people who go the OLL/MC route, and have never thought twice about it. Do you look down on these neighbors of ours, because they chose to send their kids to parochial schools? You should check out the new STEM program announced at San Marin. It looks great, and is very promising, even if the pilot is only 200 kids. Your alma mater is doing some cool things. Why do you think Redwood or Tam is any better? When I was on Marin Rowing, since we were one of the only public crew programs, we used to chant "We don't pay for school!" at our opponents to taunt them before our races. It was all in good fun, in competitive rivalry, but we actually didn't really care. The only thing I was jealous of was that we had old heavy wooden "barges", while our competition used lightweight carbon-fiber shells. But we didn't let it bother us, and we still beat them anyway. We didn't let insecurities get the best of us - I would suggest the same to you.
ConcernedNovatoan December 12, 2012 at 03:05 AM
http://www.nusd.org/files/_jLHqR_/1ccd95fde372590c3745a49013852ec4/12-11-12_Staff_Presentation_FINAL.pdf Well, at first glance it appears the Charter School workshop that was presented is so lopsided, one has to wonder if there are any good points regarding the new charter school. What I mean by lopsided, is that the authors of the report tried to find every weakness of the charter and not even mention any positives. Is it really that bad??? i would venture to say the proponents of the charter school should take a very good hard look at this document and address the deficiencies outlined by the NUSD analysis team before proceeding. I am still hopeful that this charter school will still come to fruition sometime in the near future. If not this year, then perhaps next year.

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