Rancho School Parents Expected to State Case at Tuesday's Novato School Board Meeting

Supporters hope to protect top-performing elementary school with lottery system from a proposed redistricting plan; board has indicated it wants to examine enrollment practices at every school.

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.



KMM May 18, 2011 at 04:53 AM
Kathleen... to state that Rancho families are all "well to do" is a ridiculous statement....truly...and completely 100% unfounded! how can you make that kind of broad judgement just because you may have had 1 or 2 families from that school on your kids' sports team??? there are PLENTY of wealthy families in every area of Novato.......how many very wealthy musicians, chefs, financial people, etc. live in our city??? A LOT!!!!!! how many go to PV? to San Ramon? to Loma Verde? to Lu Sutton? to Lynwood? to Olive???....I'm sure plenty...nobody goes around claiming how much $$ they have...and if they do...well...that's their thing, I guess.... but your bank account doesn't determine if your kid is a high achieveing student, top of their class, middle of their class, or struggles....their test scores determine that...and every kid in every school in this town takes the STAR test.... and the GATE test..... Rancho publicizes it's lottery everywhere...in the IJ, Advance, every single preschool in town and in private daycare settings....I knew about it when my now almost 11 year old daughter was in preschool 9 yrs ago...It was posted on the preschool's notice board... to call the school a "clique" is just childish...and unfounded...and a typical comment that fuels bad vibes..... I did my "homework" back when my daughter was a toddler...I called the district...and schools and found out the information......it wasn't rocket science.....
Edwin Drake May 18, 2011 at 05:24 AM
I'm an observer of this commotion and confused by something. If Rancho is such a great school, won't it still be a great school with local neighborhood kids? It sounds like the current parents are saying that if not for their kids then Rancho would be a stinky school. What am I missing here. Plus, it seems to me that the Parents and School Board should be at cross purposes. The parents want to maintain a magnet-type environment while the duty of the School Board is to manage the entire district for all. What am I missing?
Michael Christian May 18, 2011 at 11:59 AM
KMM, Jenni, Kathleen....some of the data that will clarify is located on the NUSD website and here: http://www.nusd.org/files/_NKBgx_/6ad53703b7066eef3745a49013852ec4/URBAN_LEGENDS_2011.pdf #15 will further shed light on the "well to do" comment. Rancho population has 6% defined as Socioeconomically Disadvanteged, the next is PV at 7%....then all the other Elem Schools at 40% or more. I think your disagreement about correlations between parental education, SED status and student performance should be researched further. Doing your "homework" is evidence of the high correlation. While it is unfair to generalize, I think Kathleens point is, given the data and the constant reminder of being "the best school in town", the past Advance statements are unfair. KMM, I think it fair to say the outreach has been a complete failure. Publicizing in english language newspapers and at pre-schools and day care that cost money clearly will have the effect of excluding some students, however unintended. A lot of these secondary issues stem from the enrollment procedure practices, which is what was addressed last night in the first reading of revisions to BP 5116.1. The Board is working towards compliance for all schools which will put them on equal footing and hopefully tone down the rhetoric in our community and take a step toward healing.
Michael Christian May 18, 2011 at 12:23 PM
Jenni, demographic data and trends can be found on the NUSD website and all the consolidation committee reports..... this one is useful..... http://www.nusd.org/files/_NBBwv_/d1e9c0b238e7af213745a49013852ec4/_10_7__18_Academic_Success_for_all_Subgroups.pdf The city population is irrelavent in my opinion, but the NUSD student population makeup is approx. 56% white, 31% Hispanic, 6% Asian, 4% AA. The only publicly recorded volunteer sheet I have seen is on Ranchos school brochure, 35,000 hours, but I believe the others should be avail at the school sites ot from their PTA. The lottery is a requirement by law, NCLB Act, when there is "student applications to enroll in a school or at the applicable grade level are greater than openings available, an intradistrict waiting list shall be established by a random, unbiased selection process (lottery)" So yes, we are at risk if we do not follow the laws. I think what you are referring to is the required tour and lottery attendence, which was confirmed by NUSD legal counsel last night will be removed from the enrollment procedures in 5116.1.
Michael Christian May 18, 2011 at 03:04 PM
Hi Cindi, in the interest of clarification, it is not a magnet school, charter school or specilized school. It has the same curriculum right down to the Houghton Mifflin textbooks used at all the other elementary schools. The following is the Cal Dept of Ed definition of a magnet school....... http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/eo/mt/cefmagnetprograms.asp The magnet program or school is usually based on a specific curriculum theme or occupational cluster. Districts may establish a magnet program which is part of a school or magnet school which is the entire school. Magnets are established by district governing boards to achieve certain objectives, such as; (1) creating a better balance in school population across a district, including overcrowding conditions and/or ethnic and racial makeup (2) to provide instruction in particular curricular areas at one or a few schools that cannot be provided at every school. n 2008–09, magnet programs were offered in 508 schools throughout California for 154,363 students. Obviously it does not fit this description.
Michael Christian May 18, 2011 at 03:32 PM
cva, I havent seen what I would call hatred or attacking, but when you post comments like "we were fortunate to have been able to transfer out of our local school", how would you expect a family attending a local school to react to that statement? There are literally thousands of teachers, students and parents making every effort to improve education at their local school. So that statement, and the many similar ones floated around, are insensitive and unecessary, to put it politely. And factually, a much better discussion, your statement is actually just plain wrong. Schools with no legally measurable subgroup other than white kids, Rancho and PV, should be compared to the same group at other schools. When doing so the API scores are very much the same, all but one over 900. In descending order, Rancho 935, Hamilton 926, Lynwood 919, Loma Verde 915, PV 908, Olive 904, San Ramon 900, Lu Sutton 860...include the Charter schoool at 866 too. Attention to details and the data can be revealing.
Baxter May 18, 2011 at 03:39 PM
With all else said....my children did not go to Rancho. They did very well at their local elementary school, and had many friends at Rancho. We used say to the Rancho parents, "See you in Middle School".... where they all ended up together again after 5th grade. My kids all entered the GATE program while at Sinaloa. The Rancho students did not do any better academically then students from all other schools (San Ramon, Pleasant Valley, transfer students from Hill/San Jose, and private elementary school, to the surprize of Rancho parents! The 8th grade students who graduated from Sinaloa with a 4.0 for all three years, were not predominately Rancho students; it was equal across the board. With that said...all elementary school students in Novato are getting an excellent education.
Tony May 18, 2011 at 04:33 PM
Rancho is successful because it is a school of choice, open to all children in Novato and an asset to our town. Shame on the people that have nothing better to do with their lives than to try to dismantle a high achieving school! These people are part of the problem, not the solution. Rather than being productive citizens, they are hell spent on destroying a good school. Shame on you!!!!!! By reading these posts it is clear to see that they are all angry, confused and misinformed. There is no logical explanation in their behavior. These people are simply misguided and lost in their own passionate embrace that a high achieving school is a bad school!!!! It must be unfair!!!!! Never mind the fact that it is open to all who take part in the lottery. There is no sense arguing with these simpletons... Instead, the effort to keep Rancho intact should be decided by Novato at large, not this small angry mob of Rancho "haters". Note that the "haters" posting on this site against Rancho are the same ones... Those that have nothing better to do with their lives.. But hate a good high achieving school.... Shame on the "haters"!!!!! shame!!!!
Tony May 18, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Edwin, excellent question. my kids don't attend Rancho and love their own school but have friends in Rancho, regardless as an educator myself I believe that something is working at Rancho as it has formthe lastmtwo decadesnso if it is a good school why change it in any way? So my opinion is "if it ain't broke don't fix it" What do you think?
Michael Christian May 18, 2011 at 05:17 PM
Tony, I will quote a previous post from above, by "dismatle" do you mean abide by the same rules as all the other elementary schools? Changes proposed are no required tour, no lottery attendence, no rolling waitlist. That does not change the school, unless you think they are the reason for its success. In your broad name calling and exclamation point laden tirade, would you include the NUSD Superintendent and NUSD Legal counsel in that group of "simpletons, haters, or part of the angry mob"? I just want to decipher to whom you are referring since they are the ones who made the reccomendation to the Board for these changes to policy in the effort to enforce written rule of law. Just in case you would like to refer to factual information in this discussion, here is the link. http://www.nusd.org/files/_QNEgW_/2bef4ebf526b1e5c3745a49013852ec4/Board_Packet_051711.pdf "Recommendation: The Acting Superintendent and staff recommend approval of the revisions to Board Policy and Administrative Regulation 5116.1 – Intradistrict Open Enrollment as a first reading" FYI,"staff" includes legal counsel, Jan Tomskey esq.. Her lawfirm is Fagan, Friedman & Fulfrost. I spell it out for you in case you need to write the checks to them in any defense of the District for legal action taken for violating federal law. As a taxpayer and supporter of compliance, I certainly don't want to foot the bill.
Jenni Chalmers May 18, 2011 at 10:15 PM
Thank you, Michael, for your informative and even-handed comments. I was a student at Rancho in the 80's and like to keep up with my home town via Patch, although I currently live elsewhere. Because my kids are not part of NUSD, I feel like my own opinions about the issue are somewhat irrelevant, but I do hope that the final outcome of this (and the middle school situation) is something the whole community - or at least as many as possible - will be happy with.
Tony May 19, 2011 at 01:48 AM
Michael Christian, I apologize if this comes across as a bit rude but to be completely honest all of your posts are identical, they are boring, statistical garbage. Nothing more than a collection of recycled words on spin cycle. I tried to debate with you and yet you never answer the questions asked, instead you go into another spin cycle spewing numbers, pasting urls because in the end you can't answer the simple questions asked. If I were to write a check it would be to get you a tutor in English so you can answer a question. A simple question: Why would you want to be in favor of dismantling a high performing school like Rancho? (Please don't give me your nonsense that Rancho should abide by the same rules, because if another school was going to change it's rules in order to improve I am sure you and everyone else would be in favor.) To answer your question: 1)Yes I believe the proposed changes with the lottery, tour, wait list in fact will change the success of Rancho. In my opinion one of the reasons Rancho is successful is because of it's unique lottery system which allows parents from all over Novato to have a chance at getting their kids in Rancho. 2)My comments are directed to individuals on this site who want to destroy the character and uniquenesss of Rancho.
Tony May 19, 2011 at 01:51 AM
Jenni, (Sarcastic comment to follow) Thank you for your evenhanded comment and for supporting Rancho!
Michael Christian May 19, 2011 at 12:58 PM
No apology necessary, you have been rude for some time now. Mostly for making your judgements about people and not posting your full name. Check the Schoool Fuel website, Tony, I give money to Rancho, I support the school and all its students and teachers. I do not view following the law as a dismantling, especially since every other school follows those same rules. And this is why it is not a dismantiling. You are entitled to you opinion, but it is uninformed. You clearly do not understand what Open Enrollment means. Every student, by law, already has access to every school, shall I post you another URL? Of course not because you refuse to research the facts. What you need to understand, is that compliance enables MORE people the chance to attend Rancho. By removing any prerequisites, all any family needs to do to apply for enrollment, is get a transfer application at the schoool, NUSD, or online. Thats it. Nothing else. That is enabling and liberating. In addition, a third grader who moves to Novato will now have the same chance as every other third grader on that waitlist, rather than being at the end of the line. If your definition of dismantiling is providing more students access to Rancho, then I say ,save your checks and get your own English tutor to teach you the definition of the word. Your view is that allowing more students to apply and a chance to "get in" will ruin the school, explain that to anyone who is still willing to debate with you.
Tony May 19, 2011 at 04:39 PM
Michael Christian, you are a bully and I see your spin cycle is still on!!!!!!! You really must learn to listen to others whom you disagree with. What a shame that you still can't answer the question asked. By the way who are you to require people to post their full name, is that the rule on this site? Do you want to change the rules of the Patch as well? I have noticed you have attacked others on this site with your "full name" requirement... wow you certainly are a real piece of work. Unfortunately your ego is too inflated and you believe whatever you say without having learned the art of listening to others, so the only person incapable of debating with me is you, you just say the same rubbish over and over again. I still am very sorry, sorry to see that you have such a hard time answering a simple question.
Michael Christian May 19, 2011 at 04:53 PM
It been a pleasure conversing with you Tony...one last URL for you to the Patch terms of use http://novato.patch.com/terms Registration We want everyone to enjoy Patch, ............ You may not allow others to use your account and you may not assign or otherwise transfer your account to any other person or entity. (If another person or entity wants an account, they can easily sign up themselves.) Patch believes in transparency, and we ask that all your registration information be truthful. You may not use any aliases or other means to mask your true identity.
Tony May 19, 2011 at 08:11 PM
There is no pleasure conversing with you. Your last post makes no sense much like all of your posts, so no surprise there!!!! Maybe you should read the rest of the terms specifically the bullet that states: "violates any party’s right of publicity or right of privacy;" So stop harassing people about their full name, although being a bully that has got to be hard for you.
Tony May 19, 2011 at 08:21 PM
Michael Christian believes that anyone who does not disclose their full name on these posts is breaking the terms of the patch (please read the posts above) please stop this abuse by flagging his remarks as inappropriate. Note: He only targets those that do not share his same opinions as there are many users going by their first names such as myself. Rather than discussing the fact or answering others questions he is abusive and bullying other users on this site. He also posts the same messages on different articles without contributing to the content of the forum.
Marcus Griffin May 19, 2011 at 10:39 PM
In the sake of violating confidentiality I should mention Michael Christian is a pretty good tennis player. He'd be great if he spent more time on his game rather than bullying people.
Peter Hamilton May 19, 2011 at 11:15 PM
I am thinking we put Mike and Tony in a ring and sell tickets for School Fuel. What do you think fellas? Its for a good cause. I hear Tony is a pretty good boxer...
Karen Gelsman May 20, 2011 at 03:18 AM
Wow. Interesting group of posts to catch up on. I am an emotional person. I have a strong opinion on this debate. I hold back on comments because I have dear friends who are on the polar opposite side of what I believe. I really hope we can all meet in the middle somewhere. We can't exist and grow until we find that middle. I do appreciate those comments that state facts and URL's when making a point. Try-and I know it is difficult! Try to look at the big picture. We all support and love our kids...
Edwin Drake May 20, 2011 at 03:25 AM
There's nothing interesting about this debate. It's a circle of "haves" trying to keep out the "have nots." Same old story, elitism over the common good.
Danny Skarka May 22, 2011 at 08:46 PM
Rancho has been a thorn in the side of NUSD for years. The neighbors hate the traffic it causes. They can't rent out the fields for rec athletics because the neighbors complain about the noise. The grades at Rancho make the other school appear lacking. NUSD would like nothing better then to get all this over with. The argument that Rancho is "elitist" defies the definition of the word. Anyone can go to Rancho, or at least try. And that is the core of what makes Rancho what it is. Parents. I was a Rancho parent. We went through the effort of intra-district transfers, the lottery, the stress. Parents who do that are naturally more proactive. The result is you have much more parental involvement in the school and that's what makes the difference. We both work. I was driving a Saturn. We're not rich parents. It's not money or background or language. It's being a part of the process. It's the same curriculum. The same books. Why doesn't NUSD stop for a moment and look at what has made Rancho a better school. Learn from what works. The common good is finding things that work and exploiting it.
Michael Christian May 23, 2011 at 03:07 AM
Danny,simply put, the issue is compliance to No Child Left Behind, which all NUSD schools need to do, some were not, and that needs to be corrected.
Michelle Lawrence May 23, 2011 at 03:01 PM
So how do we get those non-engaged parents involved? If parental involvement is the secret, and many believe it is, what's the secret to engaging other parents?
Michelle Lawrence May 23, 2011 at 03:22 PM
Tony - "something is working". Working for whom? It's obviously not working for the neighborhood kids. It's working for those that attend Rancho presently but at what cost? And *why* is it working? That's the question.
Michelle Lawrence May 23, 2011 at 03:27 PM
Oh dear. Talk about anger Tony. I think you might be projecting just a bit. I am not "angry, confused and misinformed. " And I perceive myself as advocating "for" something, not against. I am "for" making Rancho a neighborhood school - how is that anti-Rancho? I don't want the school closed. I won't even address the rest of your angry rant.
Michelle Lawrence May 23, 2011 at 03:31 PM
"Yes I believe the proposed changes with the lottery, tour, wait list in fact will change the success of Rancho. In my opinion one of the reasons Rancho is successful is because of it's unique lottery system which allows parents from all over Novato to have a chance at getting their kids in Rancho. " How will no longer requiring a tour hurt Rancho? How will requiring an annual lottery for each opening hurt Rancho?
Tony May 30, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Instead of changing rancho by making it a neighborhood school we should concentrate on providing more classes and program improvement for all the school in Novato.
Alexandria Crenshaw Prichard September 14, 2011 at 10:07 PM
I have two kids now at San Jose . Having many kids now attending the middle school that were once at Rancho and Loma, I hear almost on a DAILY basis from my kids that some Rancho kids still think they went to the "better" school. I even had a kid come over to my house and tell me in Second grade she was read the star test to guarentee they all knew how to read. I have parents calling me a liar for spreading this rumor. This girl is not a liar. I have had people say to my face there are too many monirities at the neighborhood schools. As with most things that occur in this town, I'm sure my post will get deleted and no one will hear my words or my stories.


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