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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.

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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