Parents and supporters of in Novato plan to show up in force at Tuesday’s meeting of the board of trustees and protest efforts to rather than drawing its student body from nearby neighborhoods.
E-mails have been circulated to rally the parents that support the school that consistently ranks No. 1 among all Novato public elementary schools in test scores and routinely is among the top two or three in Marin County.
Enrollment at Rancho is done by a lottery and wait list because the school does not have geographic drawing boundaries like other schools in the city. The supporters say the lottery system is transparent, equitable and the fairest way for any parent in Novato to enroll their children in the school.
Among the opponents of the system are those who point to student demographics and the proliferation of white students and those who live within close to the school who complain that they have to drive their kids to other schools rather than having their kids walk to Rancho.
Rancho was a so-called "back to basics" school from the 1970s to the early 2000s, when there was an emphasis on reading, writing and math and classroom discipline at that campus. Since state education law was changed in 2002, all curriculum is state-adopted for kindergarten through eighth grade in public schools.
Some parents have said they’ll take their kids to private schools if the district decides to do away with Rancho’s unique setup, a threat that would curtail the district’s ability to secure average daily attendance revenue from the state. The answer by others has been, in so many words, “good riddance.”
Rancho supporters plan to wear red clothing at Tuesday’s meeting in a signal of solidarity and have asked people to sign an online petition to keep things the way they are.
The meeting's open session begins at 6 p.m. at the district office, 1015 Seventh St., and starts with board recognitions of more than 130 people. Other agenda items are expected to start at 7 p.m.
Here is the text of an e-mail circulated the past several weeks:
With their May 17th board meeting, NUSD Trustees are taking the first steps to eliminate the Rancho lottery procedures and wait list, making Rancho a "neighborhood" school and eliminating the only elementary school of choice in Novato.
From Rancho's perspective:
- Rancho is a successful school of choice with some of the highest test scores in the county and state and has a track record for preparing its students with a solid foundation for middle and high school.
- Rancho is the most cost effective school in the district and keeps students enrolled in the district, protecting funding for NUSD.
- Rancho has attracted more students than its capacity allows. For the past 20 years there have been 300 to 400 students on the wait list.
- Rancho's lottery process is transparent and equitable. Making any changes to the process will not only be an expensive prospect but will create confusion and bureaucracy that will disenfranchise the very people we hope to protect.
- Achievement and intention create success, not averaging and boundaries.
We are asking the Novato Unified School District Board of Trustees to keep Rancho as a school of choice for all of Novato. Keeping Rancho's enrollment policies intact allows the synergy of Rancho to continue.
We ask the board to honor the agreements that they have made to all parents who have already participated in the lottery and waitlist process.
We ask the board to support us in our outreach efforts to continue to increase diversity at Rancho.
We also ask the Trustees to allow Rancho to further differentiate and expand our program and to focus on raising the bar for all of Novato by creating opportunities and programs rather than spending any more time and money changing successful programs or moving children.
What can you do?
- ATTEND THE MAY 17TH BOARD MEETING AT THE DISTRICT OFFICE and wear red or bring a red flag. Bring a friend, bring 2! This is the most important meeting of the year - we need a big turnout. You don't need to speak, just stand!
- SIGN THE "Novato School Choice" petition by clicking here.