Sunday, May 24, 2009

Chino Champion- Charter Backers Plead Their Case by Brenda Dunkle

Proposed school would avoid bureaucratic pitfalls, they say

Support for Chino Valley's first charter school was voiced by proponents Monday when they spoke to the school board in support of a 300-page petition, which is scheduled by the board for action June 18.

The board did not discuss the petition Monday.

Rhodes Elementary School teacher Toni Santoro implored the board to let her group "go out on limb and put students first."

More than a dozen speakers supported the Oxford Preparatory Academy.

The petition was submitted April 30 by parents and teachers primarily Rhodes Elementary. Their school is designed to be a public charter, charging no tuition and staffed by credentialed teachers. It would receive its funding from the state, as do other public schools.

Charter schools are generally exempt from most laws that apply to regular public schools, so administrators, faculty and parents have considerable freedom in designing their educational programs.

"This district has become so big it's like a business, " Ms, Santoro said. "This charter will never, ever be run like a business."

Another speaker, Rebecca Watson, said Oxford will offer a racial balance similar to that in the district now. She said the charter will open its doors to all comers, including home schooled, private school students, and the students from Gird, El Rancho, and Los Serranos elementary schools, which are currently slated for closure.

Rhodes teacher Nancy Taylor, one of the lead petitioners, said Oxford would allow teachers and administrators to choose the best day for teacher preparation. The Chino Valley district recently decided to designate teacher work days, usually held as minimum at elementary schools, to correspond with the minimum days of the high schools they feed into.

Ms. Taylor state that the charter school will be freed from the bureaucracy of having to purchase items from approved vendors, as the Chino Valley district requires.

Renay Prescott, president of a Rhodes parent group, said this is her fifth yearin that group and she still doesn't understand how the district wants it to operate. She said the group was told this year that a traditional jog-a-thon could no longer be held. Later, she learned that jog-a-thons were again OK.

"We're quick to be denied and slow to be approved (by the district)," she said.

She said the charter would allow the use of the most inexpensive vendors, as well as make it easier for parents to donate more items to the school.

Denise Hobbensiefken, president of Magnolia Junior High's Parent Faculty Association, said she was shocked by the "significant difference" of academic rigor between elementary schools and junior high in Chino. She said that many "hardworking teachers in the district are handcuffed by bureaucracy."

She and her family believe so strongly in Oxford that are willing to give up their summer vacation to help the charter school get prepared for classes this fall, she said.

Rhodes teacher Amy Valenzuela, a founding member of the charter, said Oxford will operate on the principle that "all students are not only unique, but gifted." She said enrichment classes, such as music, choir, band and foreign language will be offered.

Rhodes teacher Marci Herrera said Oxford will be community service oriented and may have an academic partnership with Grand Canyon University.

Karl Yoder, Chief Financial Officer for Delta Managed Solutions LLC, which provides assistance to California charter schools, said he believes Oxford's charter cannot be denied by the district because it has met all of the requirements for acceptance.

Mr. Yoder said the potential fiscal impact of a charter school on a school district is not a legal basis for denying a charter. He said Oxford would like to lesson the impact on the Chino Valley district by possibly renting a facility or contracting services from the district.

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