by Brenda Dunkle
A non-profit group that wants to open a charter school in Chino hills is petitioning to open a similar school in Mission Viejo.
Oxford Preparatory Academy is seeking to establish college themed charter kindergarten through eighth-grade schools at the former Los Serranos Elementary School site in Chino Hills and at the former O'Neil Elementary School site in Mission Viejo.
The Chino Valley school would be a public, charging no tuition and staffed by credentialed teachers. It would receive its funding from the state, as do other public schools. Charter schools traditionally have their ownschool board, allowing parents to have greater control over what happens at the school.
Both Los Serranos and O'Neil were considered low enrollment schools by their districts and were closed in June to help cut costs.
Los Serranos on Pipeline Avenue, between Valle Vista and Bayberry Drives, remains empty. It is a Chino Valley Unified School District owned facility.
O'Neil houses the adult school program for Saddleback Valley Unified School District. Both school districts held public hearings this month on the respective charters.
The Chino Valley school board is expected to vote on the charter when it meets at 7 p.m. Thursday December 10. A site for that meeting has not yet been determined.
The Saddleback school board is expected to vote on the charter when it meets at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday December 8.
Oxford is making its second attempt for a Chino Valley spot after it petitioned unsuccessfully this spring to open a charter school this fall. At the time, the school board said it has several questions about the charter that had not been addressed.
Proponents of the charter were out in force at the Nov. 15 Chino Valley school board meeting during a public hearing on the proposal.
Rhodes Elementary School Principal Sue Roche, one of the co-founders of Oxford, said the school would use the theory of Multiple Intelligences to teach children. Under that theory, students are taught in one or more of eight ways through which they seem to learn best, including musically or visually. Multiple Intelligences is used at Rhodes, which for the last two years has had the highest scores in the district in the on statewide tests and is the top scoring elementary school in San Bernaradino county.
Ms. Roche said the charter will have a culture of "teacher quality, parent involvement and the belief that all students are gifted."
"Training and staff development will be the foundation of our success," she said.
Oxford co-founder Jason Watts, Assistant Principal at Chaparral Elementary in Chino Hills and a former Assistant Principal at Rhodes said the charter's petitioners include educators with a proven success rate.
Karl Yoder from Delta Managed Solutions told the school board that his firm has been retained by Oxford to provide budgetary and other office-type services. He assured the board that the charter would have control over its funds and its budget process would be transparent.
Last spring, Mr. Yoder told the Chino Valley school board that the potential fiscal impact of a charter school on a school district is not a legal basis for denying a charter.
If Chino Valley public school parents opt to send their children to the charter, it could potentially reduce state revenue going to the Chino Valley Unified School District.
"I can tell you this is one of the strongest charter petitions I've ever seen, " attorney Jerry Simmons of Middleton, Young & Minney LLP, told the board. His firm is helping Oxford with technical and legal assistance. He maintains that Oxford has met all legal criteria required to be granted a charter.
"The administrators are some of the best and brightest in the state," Mr. Simmons said.