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Charter School Petitioners Opt to Back Off, Regroup

New target for proposed school opening is fall 2014 instead of this fall.

Novato will continue to have just one public charter school for the time being.

 A proposed second one, following the mildly controversial Core Knowledge curriculum, won't open by fall 2013 now that the foundation seeking a new educational option for Novato families has decided to make tweaks to its petition and resubmit it to the school district later this year.

 The North Bay Educational Foundation announced at public meeting Tuesday night that it will focus on outreach efforts as it targets the 2014-15 school year rather than appeal the Novato Unified School District's petition denial in December.

In a statement, NBEF said it will "take the opportunity to strengthen and revise a few sections of the document, which will allow them to put forth a stronger budget scenario that reflects the passage of Prop 30 this past November. In the coming months, NBEF will continue to focus on the community outreach outlined in the current petition to insure that all members of the community understand the benefits of a Core Knowledge curriculum and the unique school structure that NBEF offers."

The foundation had the choice to appeal to the Marin County School Board or rework sections of the petition and resubmit it to NUSD. The NBEF said it believed its chances on appeal were strong, but fast-approaching deadlines were hampering a fall 2013 opening.

"We appreciate the enormity of the responsibility to educate children in Novato, and we will submit the petition to allow ample time to open the school strongly and successfully," NBEF founder Robert Verhoeff said.

While emphasizing that he and foundation leaders are not giving up, Verhoeff criticized the school board for voting unanimously to deny the charter petition. He said the majority of NBEF supporters believe the district's findings were arbitrary, inaccurate or contained no legal basis for denial.

As Verhoeff reiterated points he already made before the school board, NUSD Superintendent Shalee Cunningham sat at Tuesday's meeting at St. Anthony de Padua Catholic Church and took occasional notes.
The one-year delay will allow for more communication and public education about Core Knowledge, Verhoeff said.

"We will continue to meet with the community so that all families understand that they are welcome at this open-enrollment public charter school," he said in the statement. "We invite all interested parents and community members to work with us and provide input to insure this school will best serve the needs of our children."

What's your reaction to this move? Share your comments below.

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Patty Maher January 23, 2013 at 02:09 PM
Just uploaded a PDF of the email announcement NBEF sent to its mailing list last night.
Bubbasixpack January 23, 2013 at 03:45 PM
Time to check your diaper, Grouchy
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) January 23, 2013 at 03:56 PM
Thanks, Patty.
D Rex January 23, 2013 at 04:26 PM
One of the charter school founding teachers currently works at Rancho. I wonder if he presented his quote to the crowd? Kevin McDonald in Novato, California, "My school in California is being flooded with illegals, draining resources and lowering the academic level of the class. Parents are running to private schools. If someone thinks cheap immigrant labor saves them money, ask them to think about how much it would cost to send their kids to a private school from kindergarten through high school." his comments 15 paragraphs down http://www.alipac.us/f12/lou-dobbs-cnn-3-8-05-a-323/
Ralph Canine January 23, 2013 at 05:21 PM
When NUSD denied the charter school petition, their excuse (not their reason) was that the student body would be all white, and that therefore "Son of Rancho" would be a racist school. Actually, the charter school plan included open enrollment, so any student in the district would be welcome. NUSD officials seem to believe that Hispanic immigrant parents are indifferent to quality academics. This assumption is false and insulting. Regardless of ethnic group, some parents are education-oriented and others are not. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District allows magnet high schools with rigorous curricula. Although some of these high schools have student bodies that are almost 100% children of Hispanic immigrants, the students take AP and Honors courses and qualify for the UC and CSU systems on the basis of academic merit, not affirmative action. Education-oriented families and students seek out these magnet schools and apply. Then these bright, motivated students buckle down and study hard. In actuality, NUSD's petition denial was all about short-term thinking on the part of the teacher's union, which dreads any kind of choice or competition. In education controversies, the #1 thing to remember is, "The kids are OK, it's the adults who are the problem!"
Justin Hubbs January 23, 2013 at 05:24 PM
What's your point Rex? Do you see Mr. McDonald's political position on illegal immigration as being relevant to his assessment of the core knowledge curriculum? Maybe you think his position precludes him from performing appropriately in the classroom? Or perhaps your argument is that if one person has an anti-immigration stance than so must everyone involved in the effort? I think it's time we flesh out the logic behind the Kevin McDonald argument. Let me tee it up for you: Mr. McDonald has publicly expressed opposition to illegal immigration, therefore.......???? If you would kindly answer the part after "therefore" we can begin to understand your argument and analyze it before accepting it (hopefully). First things first, what's your argument? I look forward to a convincing response.
Steve January 23, 2013 at 06:32 PM
Ralph, your analysis is erroneous. The fact that the charter provides for open enrollment would not ensure that the school would not be over-represented by white and well-off families. The issue is access and participation. Not every family in Novato has the ability to transport their elementary school aged kids to any location in Novato every morning. Not every family has the means to provide volunteer time and money to support the school.
Ralph Canine January 23, 2013 at 07:10 PM
Steve, "equality" and "sameness" are not identical. All students deserve equal access to quality education, but all students and families are not the same in terms of intelligence, academic orientation, or willingness to work hard and achieve excellence. What's "quality" for student A may not work for Student B. As a retired educator, please let me reassure you that academic talent and motivation are distributed randomly across all ethnic and income groups. It's an individual thing. Insistence on "sameness" for all students amounts, inadvertently, to enforced mediocrity. You mention transportation to school as a barrier issue. Catholic and other religious schools solve this problem with car pooling. Catholic schools also are quite successful in getting parents from all ethnic and income groups to volunteer. The better-off families donate money; others donate elbow grease on school maintenance, perform yard duty at recess, cook for parent social evenings, etc. These efforts by the parent body help turn the school into a tightly-knit community, with cooperation and friendships that transcend the usual boring social barriers. A strong, united parent community helps all the students to achieve and also provides an enjoyable professional experience for the faculty. A well-run charter school also builds a united parent community. Educational equity requires new approaches because the old one-size-fits-all isn't working.
oblio January 23, 2013 at 09:23 PM
As part of a discussion of illegal aliens called "Broken Borders," Mr. MacDonald made some factual statements. So what's the problem?
RVerhoeff January 23, 2013 at 10:36 PM
Steve: I agree and disagree. Agree - access will have a lot to do with parents decision to consider enrolling their children in the charter. This is why NBEF asked for the excess space at Hill Middle school (central to all of Novato) or Parcel 1A (located in the southern part of Novato and within easier access to a more diverse community). As location will be a significant driver in enrollment, this is why one cannot draw a direct correlation between those that sign the petition and those that decide to enroll. Until a location is known, principal and some teachers hired, no parent will make an absolute decision to enroll their child. Ergo - the signatures on the petition are for those that have a "meaningful interest" in sending their kids - not a promise. Disagree - I do not think it is a matter of participation, but more a matter of a desire to participate. As Ralph noted below, Catholic (as well as many other schools of choice) have developed ways to help parents be part of the school. I should also point out - not all participation requires someone to leave their house. As my parents taught me - if there is a will, there is a way. I know NBEF will do everything within its power to help ALL who wish to attend the school and we hope we will receive a locaiton that makes it accessible to many who are unable to commute.
Justin Hubbs January 23, 2013 at 10:44 PM
Perfection doesn't have to be the enemy of good. One thing seems certain, none of the families you refer to will benefit from attending a school that doesn't exist - providing the opportunity is the first step to providing access. I assume we all recognize that our public schools aren't adequately financed or equipted to fully correct the access and participation issues that you have alluded to - that is the state of things charter or no charter. But doing nothing only works for those that are already successful under the existing structure. For the others, why not allow an opportunity to take a new step? By developing strategies, and setting rational goals with measurable milestones, I think it's possible for a charter to both confront the access/participation problem, and be held accountable for results. The smaller, more accountable governance structure of a charter allows for greater flexibility in exploring new approaches, and greater responsiveness to developing problems.
Kevin January 24, 2013 at 12:14 AM
You're a little late to the party Ralph. We dont need our stretched resources stretched any farther. Also, the Charter school forgot to translate anything in Spanish to help out latino neighbors understand what was going on. If it passed the school would be as white as Rancho...
Kenneth Dahl January 24, 2013 at 01:39 AM
Kevin, you are a bit misinformed. The summary of the petition was translated. I see it on their website still. Were you in attendance last night where it was mentioned that NUSD lied in their denial document that they offered to translate the charter petition into Spanish? By their own admission that was, then, NUSD's responsibility. And, sadly, I don't see a Spanish language version of the application for the new STEM program at San Marin. http://sanmarinstem.weebly.com/apply.html I hope they will remedy that before the Jan. 31st deadline to enroll or that it is available or translates using Google. Having been to the SM STEM presentation, these are good teachers working hard to create good choices to keep and retain high school students in Novato. Are you going to villify them for not having a translated application? I guess NUSD just forgot to translate the STEM materials for them, too.
Andrew R January 25, 2013 at 08:47 PM
I found a choice quote from McDonald. The guy wrote the IJ. "Illegal immigration and high rates of legal immigration cause a wide range of social and economic problems, from the growth of gangs in Marin and Sonoma counties to hospital closures, the decline of public schools, wage depression and overcrowding." So I guess he is against legal immigration too because it ruins schools. A huge % of this town is Hiapanic immigrants and you want him to be the face of a school that is welcoming?I dont think so.
John G. January 25, 2013 at 10:06 PM
I just went to an awards presentation at SInaloa for the honor roll. Over 100 6th grade students were awarded for having a 3.5 GPA or higher. Many of these students had a 4.0 average. My son went to San Ramon and I noticed many of his former classmates as well as students from all over Novato's elementary schools...PV, Lu Sutton, Olive etc. I think this goes a long way to show that our schools are doing a remarkable job in preparing our kids for Jr. High and High School.
MaryMMill January 26, 2013 at 01:40 PM
This proposed school seems to be aiming to be like Willow Creek School in Sausalito. That school is doing great.
Marys Mama January 28, 2013 at 04:50 PM
Friends, please tell me I'm not the first to read the enlightening IJ article posted Sunday evening ... my favorite quote ... "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." So NBEF put the community through ALL that ... and wasn't even "set" on opening a new charter?! OMG, I'm sorry but ... COME ON! And I love that Verhoeff is, at long last, agreeing with what we've been saying all along ... let's work with what we have. Geez ................. Can't wait to hear what Serial Poster has to say about this ...........................
John B January 29, 2013 at 05:43 AM
As Mr. Verhoeff says in the video attached to this article - attend meetings, "get informed, get the truth". The article written above by Brent Ainsworth reflects the intentions and actions of the NBEF as I understand them. Brent took the time to attend the meeting. The reporter from the IJ was not in attendance and doesn't appear to have accurately portrayed the situation. Doesn't sound like you took the time to attend the meeting either? If you or anyone has specific questions I'd recommend reaching out directly to northbayedu@gmail.com. Or read the release included above with this article.
Marys Mama January 29, 2013 at 03:03 PM
I think you're getting your dates, quotes and articles out of order ... The article/video above is a week+ old ... then, just yesterday, Mr. V pulls a major backtracking move and says this entire, controversial charter effort wasn't REALLY about starting a new charter school ... he just wants to increase the dialogue about new curriculum options! It only drives home the point that NBEF was a hastily thrown together group ... and look, if the chips had fallen in their favor ... they'd be operating a new school come August 2013 ... on NUSD's dime! A school NBEF's leader now acknowledges he isn't "set" on opening! He'd be open to new curriculum within the existing schools! What a careless, reckless, time-suck way of going about it! Furthermore, opponents repeatedly said "let's start small ... let's implement the curriculum at a school and watch it flourish before we talk new schools." no, no, no they said ... Then Perpetual Poster chimed in, declaring charter schools as the saving grace in CA public educational systems ... Moorepark! Sonoma! Let's go charter-crazy! Too bad NBEF now says a charter school wasn't technically the end goal.
Marys Mama January 29, 2013 at 03:11 PM
"The objective of the North Bay Educational Foundation was never in and of itself a charter school," founder Robert Verhoeff said. (IJ 1/27/13). Mr. Verhoeff, I then ask you ... do you intend to pay the district back for the time and resources you forced it to dedicate to the review of a petition that "was never in and of itself the objective of your group?"
P Sanchez January 30, 2013 at 03:16 AM
I received this from NBEF this evening explaining these comments. http://library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1109815385358-21/IJ+Clarification.pdf
ConcernedNovatoan January 30, 2013 at 11:17 PM
John G. Which kids are you talking about? The white ones or the ones who are Hispanic?
ConcernedNovatoan January 30, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Andrew R, "high rates" of immigration doesn't imply he is against legal immigration altogether.
Not_a_Troll January 30, 2013 at 11:56 PM
So is he suggesting that the newspaper got it wrong? Or, is he just not good at speaking? NBEF seems to have a habit of accusing OTHER people and OTHER websites of spreading "misinformation and lies." It's like the "they're all out to get me" mentality, it seems. This thing has become such a hot mess, let's just put it to rest already. (p.s. in his own letter he accuses NUSD of trying to be "one size fits all." not sure that's the case ... one charter already in operation, STEM at San Marin, MSA at Novato High ... shall I continue?)
John B January 31, 2013 at 01:33 AM
It is at the high school level where famiiles are leaving in droves, so that is where any effort goes. Can't wait for STEM - seems great, although I give the staff at SM the credit for that. If you don't want a Waldorf experience for your K-8 child, are there other choices that I am unaware of? If Christian, Ingels and McIntyre would at a minimum post the information from the district, I don't think anyone would have any issue with that website. Opinions are varied, facts tend to be true or false. Would be nice if the district would provide accurate information, too, but financial analyses are based on assumptions and "fair and balanced" doesn't seem to be the way they roll down on 7th street when it comes to evaluating charter schools.
ConcernedNovatoan January 31, 2013 at 01:34 AM
Not a Troll: We are talking about elementary level schools, not middle or high schools. There isn't much choice (correct me if I am wrong) at the elementary school levels except for the Novato Charter School, And if the current NUSD approach is so worthy of all our elementary school students, then why are the Hispanic kids failing even worse as they go on to higher educational levels?

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