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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Roger October 14, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Dear "End racism", Novato district's student body is now 1/3 Hispanic. There is a general fairness feeling that any new Charter should have that same distribution. In later grades though we feel it is fine to have some classrooms split based on ability, such as advanced math classes in middle school. In those rooms it appears fair for example if the advance math class only has say 3% Hispanics. So an equal early start is all the we are seeking. Then is GATE at the elementary level too early for such a long-term split treatment that is unfair to Hispanics? Being white, I feel there is way too many Asians in UCs, but it is probably fair because it is based on ability.....the American way.
Will Johnson October 14, 2012 at 05:47 PM
LOL. Might this be a case of the pot calling the kettle black? I personally was asleep at 12:42 am .... Let's all focus on the real issues at hand.
Carrie Criswell October 14, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Just want to add that the charter board workshop was on the agenda for North Marin Council in September--the Superintendent, the CFO and MJ spoke about the charter and when it was asked of the room if there were any questions, nobody had had one. Seems to me that continuing to focus on some kind of wrong doing or procedural mis-step is not the best way to use our time and energy to fully explore this option. Going after MJ is not going to change the course of this endeavor, and it just really feels like a personal attack--there's been no secrecy--I've only been to one charter meeting, but I know those claiming wrong doing have been to almost all of them, and when the mic goes around for questions, they don't say anything. So what is the point of all this? Are we figuring out what's best for Novato by trying to have someone removed from a volunteer position??
Amy Oclassen October 14, 2012 at 08:23 PM
An update on the charter was on the agenda at the September NMC meeting and was discussed.
Tina McMillan October 14, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Educate the Community (aka SONS) Perhaps it takes you 15 hours a day to post to Patch. With work, family and friends, I have far less time to engage in this kind of banter. I have spent the past eight months reading charter law, attending meetings, reading about Core Knowledge, reading about NCS, reading the NUSD website and so on. Having put in the effort at the start, I know where to go to find accurate answers to rebut the ugly comments and innuendo posted by SONS. Talk about a full time job, SONS actually created their own website to malign the new charter. Perhaps you are one of the members?? Either way I wont be scared off with name calling, ugly rants and taunts. If you want me to post less then get your facts straight before you go online. Its as simple as that.
Beth October 14, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Robert, I would love to have a CK program in San Rafael and would help in any way I could to put it together, but to create it from the beginning it isn't realistic for me. I have a full time job on top of mothering and I see how much work it requires not to mention endurance for all the emotion of concerned parents and citizens (like on this post). It is so complicated with so many layers to deal with and there are so many strong opinions with people quite sure of themselves thinking this is all about racism or public funding for a so-called private school. I once attended a meeting with some neighborhood parents who wanted to start a preschool and it ended up being totally overwhelming for me because everybody had their own unique needs and in my opinion there was no way that they could all come together. Parenting is so personal and of course we all want the best for our children. So I commend the effort of this proposal and hope that those of us who cannot afford private school will still have choice when it comes to how we want our children educated -- and not just be limited to our neighborhood school with whom we have very little influence...
Roger October 15, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Tina, I find your postings do add value with the extra data and links that you provide. I hope you don't let rude personal attacks from "Educate the Community" bother you and scare you away from the Patch. Brent may have to step in and block this commenter if the personal attacks continue.
henry October 15, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Tina.. I too appreciate all of your thoughtful comments on Patch. I agree with most and those that I don't agree with I can always say they are passionate and well thought out. Thank you. Henry
Mama of3 October 16, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Tina, do you know where to find a direct comparison between the Core Knowledge curriculum and the new Common Core curriculum that is just taking off in our public schools? I would be interested in reading about the similarities and/or differences between them.
Tina McMillan October 16, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Mama Good question but difficult data to find. One is a curriculum and the other is a standard. If you go to the Core knowledge site they explain the difference. This is what I found. Common Core State Standards Standards Are Not a Curriculum http://www.coreknowledge.org/ccss
Mama of3 October 16, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Tina, yes! I've been there, too. But each district has a curriculum plan to implement the standards. It's new curriculum in the NUSD, from what I understand, being learned and implemented currently. I would like to learn more about it, and think it's important to understand the differences and/or similarities for anyone considering educational options. I will see what I can find out and post links. Thanks.
Mama of3 October 16, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Here is an interesting link about Common Core and how teachers are implementing the standards: http://www.achievethecore.org/, and within that I found these reflections from teachers: http://www.achievethecore.org/by-teachers-for-teachers/bios, and also this information about how the common core standards are different from what has been the focus in the past: http://www.achievethecore.org/downloads/E0702_Description_of_the_Common_Core_Shifts.pdf. Finally, this part of that same link is fascinating: http://www.achievethecore.org/you-ve-got-to-read-this. I would urge everyone to read the above link which Tina posted from coreknowledge about the curriculum, as well as all of the above links to get an idea of how the two are similar. I'm still trying to work out the differences. Anyone have some information?
Answerme October 16, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Did You Know 4 of the 7 Core Knowledge Schools in CA are in ”Program Improvement” (PI) status or are about to be… Core Knowledge is not the answer to closing the achievement gap in Novato. As is evidenced in this spreadsheet, schools with higher Free and Reduced Lunch or English Language Learner students are either in PI or have not met Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals. Core Knowledge is not the answer, investing in the well trained and dedicated teachers we currently have is the answer. http://saveournovatoschools.com/2012/09/did-you-know-4-of-the-7-core-knowledge-schools-in-ca-are-in-pi-or-about-to-be/
Mama of3 October 16, 2012 at 08:15 PM
I'm not taking sides, but want some clarification on the difference between the Core Knowledge approach and the approach public schools are taking with the new Common Core standards. From what I have been reading, the approaches seem very similar. I guess I feel that if they are so similar, then what advantage would students have in attending a charter school using Core Knowledge curriculum? Does anyone have any information to add to this discussion?
SP October 16, 2012 at 09:00 PM
I agree Jason!
Amy Oclassen October 16, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Nice to see that those four CK charter schools attracted enough SED and ELL students to qualify for Title I funds. And as we know from our experience here in NUSD, schools can make steady improvement in subgroups and still fall into PI due to the ever-rising targets aiming for 100% proficiency in 2014 (a statistically impossible goal).
Bill October 17, 2012 at 12:08 AM
....I looked closer.... Keyes Charter school shares the same campus as Keyes Elementary (neighborhood school). But the Charter school is 80% white and has 7% disadvantaged kids.....BUT throw a stone and you'll hit Keyes Elementary, which has 100% disadvantaged kids and 76% Hispanic......so much for that CK school attracting SED and ELL kids. Rocklin Academy (charter) and Rocklin Elementary (neighborhood) share the same campus yet the neighborhood school has twice as many Hispanic and EL kids and 4 times as many disadvantaged kids.....so much for the attraction of CK there..
Roger October 17, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Bill, white flight is already happening in Novato. At the district's June meeting it was discussed frankly. See the video of the meeting. Requests for transfers from long- time PI schools cannot be denied. PV may need to get portable classrooms next year. A Charter at Hill with local banners advertising signups for a new local public school might get a huge % of Hispanics.
Paul E. October 17, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Amy O., I agree with your take on Title I funded schools in PI status. But I am very bothered that CK has been repeatedly touted by Charter School proponents as being a 'fix' to our NUSD PI schools, while failing to mention that more than half the CK Charter schools in California are also in PI status. Let us be honest here, CK is not the solution to PI status schools anymore than our State Standards have been. I am also tired of reading about "choice." Yes, the point of Charter schools is to offer choice to a community, but true choice only can happen when there is equal transportatoin access, teachers skilled in working with Title I funded populations, and a welcoming culture and environment (asking for donation of time and money is not welcoming to most socio-economic deprived families). Rancho was never a realistic choice for many families, which will also be the case for this Charter. I wish the school board would vote "no" to the Charter, but this isn't likely. Too bad for the Novato Schools. Although the Charter may benefit its self-selected population, I believe it will be a huge negative for the rest of us. The NBEF Charter's success will not be because CK is so different or special (it is very similar to Common Core), it will be because of the parent involvement at home and school from parents who can afford to give this time. Remember, the number one indicator of student success is parent involvement (and this also highly correlates with that family's income).
Tina McMillan October 17, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Mama If the Core Knowledge curriculum was the same as the "curriculum" being taught throughout Novato then you could not use a CK as a charter. We have CK charters in CA and throughout the U.S. because it is different. A high percentage of CK schools are public schools as well as charter schools. It is 40% public, 38% charter, 16% private and 6% parochial. http://www.coreknowledge.org/about-core-knowledge-schools It is completely up to you if you want to try the charter. There are more than enough applicants. If you are happy with your neighborhood or private or other charter school (like Live Oak in Petaluma) then there is no reason to change.
Tina McMillan October 17, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Paul There is no single fix but the CK curriculum was designed with ED and ELL specifically in mind. The charter picked a curriculum that could help a lot of kids. In addition they provide: "About North Bay Educational Foundation and North Bay Academy North Bay Academy is a public charter school dedicated to fostering equity in excellence for students in pre-K through 8th grade. This new school leverages the Core Knowledge curriculum model, 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. The school offers students and parents many benefits not realized at conventional schools. Some of these include: • Pre K-8th grade Core Knowledge methodology and curriculum • Extended instructional hours • Common school-wide math instruction allowing students to learn at their achievement level vs. grade level • Parent University and Pre K-2nd grade English Immersion to provide literacy support to English language learners • Before and after-school academic, enrichment, and childcare programs • Technology based core subject instruction for 6th-8th grades • Core Virtues character development curriculum" It is the whole package that appeals to parents willing to put the energy into a charter school.
Mama of3 October 17, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Hi Tina, What I am learning is that right now, this year, new curriculum is being taught across Novato Public schools using the new Common Core standards. I think it's very similar to the Core Knowledge approach, from what I can tell. I'm hoping to learn more, because if they are very different, then I'd like to learn about that. I will post information if I find it. I think the direction the public schools are taking sounds like a real step in the right direction, and I think people ought to understand what's similar and different between the two approaches if they are going to make a leap of faith either way. If you have anything you can share, I think that would be great for everyone. Thanks for sharing all the links.
Tina McMillan October 17, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Mama I suggest you write to the district and have them provide you with the information. I could find nothing on the district site saying they are converting to the Core Knowledge Curriculum. If you want to learn more go the the NBEF website and watch the video of the presentations that were made at the information sessions. Again, a curriculum is not the same as standards and the article on the CK site explains why. As for people who are willing to try a charter, I think it has to do with wanting to have a say in your child's education and become a part of the process. When you consider the teachers that have offered to teach at the CK charter it is a huge step to leave the union to teach in a charter school. They might also be able to explain what inspired them about this curriculum. Unfortunately much of the SONS site is false and misleading. Charters were created to provide a voice to parents, teachers and community members who are willing to put in the sweat equity to build a public program with a different curriculum. Take a look at the work done at Novato Charter School over the past 16 years. NCA was one of the first 100 charters to be formed in CA. It is a Waldorf inspired school. It is not necessary for you to change schools. My hope is that by posting facts people will accept that other families can make this choice for themselves and that it is not a choice over which our community should become divided. That path belongs to SONS.
Tina McMillan October 17, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Really, I should be ashamed for defining curriculum as different from standards?? I don't know what goes through your mind, but my point was simple. NUSD Core Standards are not the equivalent of the Core Knowledge Curriculum. The two words are not synonymous.
Mark Burnham October 17, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Irish O'Malley. You have been flagged. You are the middle of a doughnut.
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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