Tuesday Meeting to Discuss New K-8 Charter School

Interested in learning more? The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, but it's unclear whether it's open to anyone.

A national group is working with a Novato foundation to create a new charter school for students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

The North Bay Educational Foundation announced on its Facebook page that an informational meeting is set up for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at for anyone looking to learn more about the new effort.

It's unclear whether the public is invited to the meeting. An email was circulated by NorthBayEdu@gmail.com to selected people and an event was posted on Novato Patch, and both asked for people to send an email to that address for an RSVP to attend. 

The location of the proposed school isn't mentioned on the Facebook page nor on the site of Core Knowledge, a North Carolina-based group that runs charter schools all over the country.

Leslie Benjamin, spokesperson for the , said the district did not have a comment on the issue because nothing has been presented to the district about the new proposal — just a mention that it was in the works. Board of Trustees President Cindi Clinton also held back until more information is out in the open.

"They did meet with the trustees and the district to let us know it was coming, but until they send a proposal I don't really have a comment," she said.

In September 2011, supporters of l's district-wide enrollment and lottery entry system worked on a plan to change the school to a charter school, but the idea was put on hold by the school district. Earlier this year, school trustees voted the phase in neighborhood enrollment at Rancho and allow more walking-distance families to have their kids automatically enrolled.

Novato Federation of Teachers president Aaron Fix said the union has not taken an official position on charter schools, but he said teachers who leave the union to work at a charter school would be at-will employees.

"If this is the case, I think those teachers who would go are making a very poor choice," he said. "... I believe that most teachers think that the rights and protections that they enjoy happen automatically, and that just isn't the case."

North Bay Educational Foundation says it offers students and parents "benefits not realized at conventional schools," including extended academic enrichment hours before and after school, English immersion/literacy classes, tech-based core subject instruction for middle schoolers and the Core Virtues character development program.

The founder and chairman of Core Knowledge, E. D. Hirsch Jr., was a professor of education and humanities at the University of Virginia, according to his published bio. He is the author of several acclaimed books on education issues including the best-seller Cultural Literacy.

Core Knowledge has 57 schools in California, according to its website. As of the 2009-2010 school year, it had 770 schools in 45 states plus the District of Columbia.

Novato Patch left messages with representatives of Core Knowledge and the North Bay Educational Foundation but received no answers in time for publication of this story.

Rancho, a former "back to basics" school located in the Presidents neighborhood of Novato, did not have traditional geographic boundaries to mark which students will attend the school until earlier this year when a gradual change was voted in for the 2012-13 school year. Rancho and  at Hamilton are the only elementaries in Novato that have had no enrollment boundaries and draw kids from all over the city. Rancho has used a lottery system to formulate its student population.

Rancho has a student population less ethnically and socioeconomically diverse than other Novato schools, according to district statistics. It has some of the highest test scores in Marin County year after year and is a huge source of pride for the school and the district. The Rancho curriculum has been identical to other elementary schools since 2005, yet parents have waited in long lines each year to participate in the lottery.

KMM June 12, 2012 at 04:18 AM
It was published in today's IJ under the In Your Town section...so of course it's open to the public.
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) June 12, 2012 at 04:56 AM
Yes, open to the public, but they said RSVP to an email address. That's leading some people to believe they might not be let into the meeting if they don't do that.
ZorbaGT June 12, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I heard you have to take a tour before you are let in
Anne June 12, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Of course it's open to the public!!! This could be awesome for Novato!!!
ZorbaGT June 12, 2012 at 02:45 PM
the website says need a password....not egzactly public. It seems like only a few are in the know....again. Just some Rancho people
Jeffrey Vaillant June 12, 2012 at 03:18 PM
It would be great to read that the NUSD staff and Board encouraged education rather than giving out negative statements of no comment. They must feel challenged or pressured?
Patty Maher June 12, 2012 at 03:19 PM
With the closure of Hill last year and the new boundaries having Sinaloa continue to burst at the seams and San Jose now with an even larger proportion of socio-economically disadvantaged kids, I find myself interested on a personal level in hearing what a new charter might offer at the middle school level. I definitely did not feel this way at the start of 2011.
KMM June 12, 2012 at 03:43 PM
the RSVP is just for a general headcount...for seating, etc...
Anne June 12, 2012 at 03:55 PM
I read about another K-8 charter school - Rocklin Academy in CA and it sounds like this is what they are trying to do in Novato and if that is the case it would be amazing for Novato! http://rocklinacademy.com/ra/knowledge.jsp
Tina McMillan June 12, 2012 at 04:51 PM
With Hill closing, having the option of a second Novato, K through 8 Charter would be wonderful. It is almost impossible to get into our Waldorf Charter because it gives priority to siblings before new students. Unless it expands there is a long waiting list for the middle school. It is a great program for folks wanting to work with Waldorf style teaching. The Core Knowledge curriculum looks interesting: http://coreknowledge.org/about-the-curriculum. Here is a PDF "Core Knowledge, What Every Child Needs To Know" http://www.coreknowledge.org/mimik/mimik_uploads/documents/396/CK_brochure.pdf As far as teachers leaving the district, when state laws changed to allow charters throughout California they didn't keep the teachers in the public school system. If I were a teacher I would want to protect my benefits but I would also want to be part of a school where I wouldn't get a pink slip each year and where I would be able to have the resources to better educate ELL and ED students. Core Knowledge looks promising. Until we vote in November it will be difficult to know what if any financing will actually reach public schools due to the Governor continually cutting the budget. Perhaps this is a better option for all. Only time will tell.
LoveNovato June 12, 2012 at 07:45 PM
I've just been to the website, someone above said you needed a password--not sure what that's about, but I didn't see anything about a password. Lots of info there if anyone is interested www.northbayedu.org
Tina McMillan June 13, 2012 at 05:37 AM
What a wonderful presentation! The tremendous effort that has gone into investigating the Core Knowledge Curriculum and putting together a plan for a PreK through 8th Grade Charter School is impressive. Now it needs community support. I remember when the Novato Waldorf Charter School struggled to create an alternative education here in Novato. Both charters are grassroots efforts by passionate individuals who want to increase the kinds of education that are available in Novato. Thank you to all the volunteers and the board of North Bay Educational Foundation. Your efforts are our gain. An additional K through 8 program with a preschool element with the curriculum to support English Language Learners as well as GATE students is a monumental step. Here is a link to the Core Knowledge website with data about the program's effectiveness: http://www.coreknowledge.org/mimik/mimik_uploads/documents/106/How%20Do%20We%20Know%20This%20Works.pdf There is a fundraiser on Thursday June 14th at Ghiringhelli http://www.ghiringhellisnovato.com/. 15% of the proceeds will go to help the Charter. Just mention North Bay Educational Foundation to your server!
Y. Chang June 13, 2012 at 05:39 AM
This is great! I might not have to send my kid to private school in the next couple of years. I fear for my child's safety as there is violence, knives, bullying and extreme bad behavior at my child's Novato public school. Closing Hill was such a bad idea and for what? The stories I hear about our two middle schools is daunting. I am scared. I really like this idea of the Charter School. I want to learn more. I want to have options. Not happy with School Board or NUSD.
Tina McMillan June 13, 2012 at 05:47 AM
Y. Chang Here is a link to the website for North Bay: http://www.northbayedu.org/ Here is a link to the website for Core Knowledge: http://www.coreknowledge.org/research Please pass it on to folks that may be interested. The more people that know about it the more likely it will have the enrollment to get off the ground.
Anne June 13, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Tina - Thank you for your posting!! This is very exciting for Novato!
MarinMom101 June 13, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Finally it sounds like something people in Novato can work TOGETHER on. There have been too many efforts to divide this community lately. Sounds like a positive option for our children. Thank you to those who have put thought and effort into this project. I applaud you!
Novato Chess Club June 15, 2012 at 02:31 PM
We need another middle school that focuses on discipline and structure--Hamilton 6-8 middle school is a joke...no discipline - no bells - no education for many of those attending there...right on charter schools! SJMS fell tremendously this yr...Really sad to see in one year
Answerme June 15, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Our schools could do without the smear campaign. SJMS increased API to 837 from 832 and has a Statewide Rank of 8 out of 10. Hamilton Elem went from 845 to 856 and moved up to statewide rank of 8 from 7.Good, but always can improve. There is nothing wrong with Charter Schools, they just shouldn't be formed secretively by a select group of parents (as this same group tried early this school year). Perhaps, given their broad reach, a partnership with the NUSD or MCF would be better and could specifically address our needs. As for the new school "foundation" presentation, I would rather my childs future handed over to people trained and practicing education. Not so sure a guy with "2 years of being involved in the schools" and a pawn broker by trade, as well as a "construction engineer with many years on PTA" are the right choice to lead the effort. Maybe its just me, but I would want some certified educators runnning things. People who practice addressing the needs of students on a daily basis. Especially when public funds are involved. From what I heard, no teachers or educators had presented at the meeting. Hopefully that changes if this moves forward.
Tina McMillan June 15, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Charters are started by parents, from all walks of life, and run by educators. The people on the school board, like the charter, are not educators by trade. The families that started Novato Waldorf Charter were not educators by trade. Teachers and educators make the choice to join a charter once it completes the process of being approved. During the meeting MJ Lawson said that teachers from an existing Charter that uses Core Knowledge curriculum were invited to the meeting but as this is so close to the end of school year had their own commitments. The plan is to have more meetings as they see what level of public interest is spurred by this program and those future meetings will include teachers in existing Core Knowledge programs. Here is a link to other Core Knowledge schools in California: http://www.coreknowledge.org/mimik/mimik_live_data/view.php?id=194&sp_id=1&record_id=5 The ones marked in red have earned the honor of being visitation sites. The closure at Hill has been painful for many families. Some people would like smaller middle schools. Working with the district is key to moving forward with any Charter. I understood from the presentation that that Shalee Cunningham was part of a Charter herself. Hopefully she will have an understanding of the benefit and the man hours it takes to get one off the ground.
Novato Chess Club June 15, 2012 at 08:06 PM
anyone who sent their child to Hamilton Middle School knows what is going on over there---the elementary program is excellent there....SJMS was run by a strong Principal, Jeff King, and he was excellent---but the reality of this year does not reflect the past--and in one year....amazing the difference---No smear campaign....but variety and choice is American...and more choice is good in education, period!
Novato Chess Club June 15, 2012 at 08:50 PM
@ Patty Maher---exactly my sentiments!
Erin P. June 19, 2012 at 05:23 AM
It is very easy to be a "nay sayer" for those who are trying to stick their necks out for a positive change. I was very impressed with the speakers. They were offering another alternative to what we currently have which is a good idea. We have two middle schools that are crowded. We have teachers who are doing more and more with less and less. We have more and more high risk children that are deserving of services without the resources to provide to them. Bravo for anyone who is trying to help Novato and trying to do something that is inclusive and for the common good.
Erin P. June 19, 2012 at 05:25 AM
Good comment
Erin P. June 19, 2012 at 05:26 AM
Tina, You have been a wealth of information and we really appreciate your well thought out fact based discussion.


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