New Charter School Backers Turn in Petition to District

If all requirements are met on the proposal, the Novato Unified School District has to set a public hearing with 30 days of the acceptance date.

The group bidding to open a new public charter school in for kids of pre-kindergarten through eighth grade has turned in its petition and the ball is now in the court of the school district.

The Novato Unified School District acknowledge receipt of the petition Friday morning, saying the North Bay Educational Foundation filed the document Thursday as it hopes to have a new school, called the North Bay Academy, open by the fall 2013 at an undetermined location.

"We are pleased to have achieved this goal and we recognize that there is still much ahead," said Robert Verhoeff, a board member of the foundation. "We look forward to having a broader and more engaged conversation about what this opportunity really represents for the children of Novato."

Superintendent Shalee Cunningham said in a release that a public hearing will be held within 30 days as long as all components of the petition are in order. The district has five workdays from Thursday's delivery to evaluate the document, and if it is deemed complete, the clock will start on the 30-day window for a hearing. Cunningham said she was checking to see whether the start of the 30-day period would be the day the petition was turned in or the day the package is considered complete.

At a hearing, the NUSD trustees would weigh support for the bid by employees of the district, including teachers, plus parents of kids in public schools, Cunningham said.

"We don't know exactly what we'll be asked to do at a hearing, but we believe we'd be making a case in public as to why particular questions were raised (about the charter school) and specifically address the reasons why a charter can be denied.

"In addition, we would also discuss other pertinent questions of interest we've heard from the public — for example, what the impact would be to other schools in the district if this charter is approved. The answer to that is that any assessment right now of that is purely hypothetical and, the fact is, until enrollment is allowed and kids start to sign up, no one knows."

Verhoeff said more than 300 signatures were gathered on a petition that gauged if people were meaningfully interested in enrollment. He said signatures did not obligate anyone to sign up if the charter school is approved. Legally the foundation was required to obtain signatures on the "meaningful interest" petition that amounted to an estimated 50 percent of actual enrollment at the new school, Verhoeff said.

"Actually enrollment would not happen until 2013," he said. "Right now, we are clearly pleased with the ability to provide to the district and community an alternative education opportunity that we find very exciting."

An opposition group has popped up in the past month, as evidenced by a website called Save Our Novato Schools and a petition circulated to halt the charter school effort. Michael Christian, one of the group's founders, said about 100 people have signed a petition against the new charter school effort.

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Mama of3 October 17, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Thanks, Tina, I will contact the school and find out more specifics. I have seen the videos for NBEF, but I appreciate your comments about having a say in your child's education, and becoming a bigger part of the process. That could be the main difference, because I don't see a lot of difference in the two approaches. I would love to hear what teachers have to say about the Core Knowledge curriculum compared to what is being done with the Common Core standards. I understand that curriculum is not the same as standards, but standards are delivered with curriculum, and how the schools are delivering these standards sounds a lot like Core Knowledge. I have studied the Novato Charter School for many years, and I see that school as offering a very different approach and philosophy than the other Novato schools, so I guess I expected to see the same in this new charter.
Tina McMillan October 17, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Mama I agree Waldorf is a vastly different approach and NCS another wonderful Novato public school. I am not trying to change the system but add to it. The Rocklin teachers described the difference in having specific curriculum content in all grade levels. For the most part they agreed it was a relief to have curriculum specified and to know from one class to the next the content would be identical. In Math it meant if your student was a fourth grader but able to do sixth grade math he would be paired in a group based on abilities. That helps when you have students that struggle as well as excel because they can work within the small groups to make sense of the content. Another difference is the extended day. What I would have given to have school work completed at school rather than home. There was so much more I wanted to be able to do with my children but homework came first and that often meant several hours of it. Having had two children graduate from Novato schools I would say that not only is curriculum different between schools but also within schools. This is not a bad thing but in some instances I wanted a certain teacher because of what he/she taught as well as how he/she taught it. I like the idea of content remaining the same. I like the idea of parents having a central role in the school. I believe the option is worth it.
Will Johnson October 17, 2012 at 04:11 AM
And that title could only be assigned by the Adolf Hitler of the anti-charter movement. Stick to the real issues at hand. When you are frustrated that someone is matching you point for point and resort to name calling it shows the chink in your armor, Guys.
Will Johnson October 17, 2012 at 06:13 AM
What Bill quotes about these public and charter schools that share campuses is in stark contrast with the arguments that school location or lack of public transportation or walking distance are meaningful considerations as Mr. Christian (or Answerme or Educate the Community or End Racism or whoever it was - can't find the post) seemed so passionate about in so many previous posts. Interesting statistics.
TAK October 17, 2012 at 06:36 AM
Mama of 3 - At one of the public information meetings two current NUSD teachers did a side by side comparison of curriculum being taught today and what Core Knowledge would teach. I found it incredibly different. I really liked the concept of "spiraling" where students build on their knowledge year to year in an age appropriate way. Reading materials focus on non-fiction so that students are learning content along side comprehension skills. I am not going to do it justice, but my feeling is that the curriculum was so robust with a focus on the concept of cultural literacy. I hope the NBEF will hold additional meetings to better explain this alternative curriculum.


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