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ACCS Meeting Notes for February 10, 2010

Meeting notes taken at the ACCS meeting on February 10, 2010.

Advisory Commission on Charter Schools
An Advisory Body to the State Board of Education

California Department of Education
1430 N Street, Room 1101
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Members Present

Beth Hunkapiller, Chair
Dr. Vicki Barber
Carol Barkley*
Dr. Paul Cartas
Gary Davis
Mark Kushner
Corri Ravare
Curtis L. Washington

Members Absent

Brian Bauer

*Carol Barkley is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s designee.

Principal Staff to the Advisory Commission

Iqbal Badwalz, Consultant, CDE Charter Schools Division
Julie Klein Briggs, Consultant, CDE Charter Schools Division
Matthew Dunkle, Consultant, CDE Charter Schools Division
Angela Duvane, Staff Services Analyst, CDE Charter Schools Division
Bonnie Galloway, Consultant, CDE Charter Schools Division
Darrell Parsons, Consultant, CDE Charter Schools Division
Michelle Ruskofsky, Consultant, CDE Charter Schools Division

Call to Order

Chair Hunkapiller called the meeting to order at 10:28 a.m.

Flag Salute

Corri Ravare led the members, staff, and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Agenda Order

Chair Hunkapiller announced that the agenda would be followed today as printed.

Approval of Meeting Notes

Chair Hunkapiller called for a motion to approve the meeting notes from August 25, 2009. June 17, 2009, ACCS meeting notes.

Action: Dr. Barber moved that notes of the meeting held on August 25, 2009, ACCS be approved as presented. Ms. Ravare seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously.

Public Comment

Chair Hunkapiller called for public comment.

Dave Patterson, Executive Director of Western Sierra Collegiate Academy, thanked the Advisory Commission on Charter Schools (ACCS) for their hard work and support of the school and invited ACCS members to visit the campus.

Item 1: Schedule 2010 Meeting Dates.

Ms. Barkley presented the calendar indicating available dates for ACCS meetings at the California Department of Education (CDE). Dr. Cartas stated that he has a scheduling conflict with June 9, 2010, and August 11, 2010. Mr. Washington stated that he will likely miss a meeting held on April 6, 2010.

Action: Mr. Kushner moved to approve April 6, 2010, October 5, 2010, and December 9, 2010, as future meeting dates. Dr. Cartas seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously.

Item 2: California Department of Education Projects and Priorities – to include, but not be limited to, an update on charter school issues discussed at the January State Board of Education meeting, an update on the Public Charter Schools Grant Program, and Clarification of Mitigating Circumstances under Senate Bill 740.

Ms. Barkley explained why the ACCS items in December were carried forward to the SBE without a recommendation from the ACCS. She further explained that the SBE did not act differently than the ACCS on the December 2009 agenda items with the exception of the material revision of Livermore Valley Charter School.

Ms. Barkley gave an overview of the Public Charter Schools Grant Program and stated that a stakeholders meeting comprised of representatives of the SBE and major organizations will be held to discuss grant applications. Chair Hunkapiller asked if public comments would be accepted. Ms. Barkley asked that any public comments be sent to her, or the Charter Schools Division.

Ms. Barkley explained that according to current regulations charter schools can request mitigating factors in a current or prospective period and clarified that there is no blanket policy as to what will or will not be approved by the ACCS.

Dr. Cartas asked for clarification on grant application dates. Ms. Barkley stated that no dates have been set.

Item 3: Appeals of Charter Petitions That Have Been Non-renewed: Approve Commencement of the Rulemaking Process for Amendments to California Code of Regulations, Title 5, sections 11967, 11967.5, and 11067.5.1.

Chair Hunkapiller clarified that this item is for discussion only. Ms. Barkley introduced Matthew Dunkle, a Consultant in the Charter Schools Division, to present this item. Mr. Dunkle explained that SBE requested these regulations be drafted at its January 2009 meeting. Mr. Dunkle gave an overview of the draft regulations. Mr. Dunkle notified the ACCS that stakeholder meetings will be held to revise the draft regulations and welcomed commissioners and members of the public to contact him to provide input on the draft regulations.

Dr. Barber asked for clarification on the timeline for completing the draft regulations.

Mr. Dunkle stated that the goal is to have the draft regulations to the SBE at the May 2010 meeting.

Dr. Barber then clarified that if the draft regulations were given to the SBE in May 2010, then they should be presented to the ACCS at the April 2010 meeting. Dr. Barber expressed concern that this would not give the ACCS time to add substantive input on the document and that the timeline was optimistic.

Chair Hunkapiller stated that the time for input and involvement is now.

Ms. Barkley clarified for Dr. Barber that the current discussion was on the draft of the non-renewal regulations, not the draft of the revocation regulations.

Note: At this point in the agenda, the petitioners for Item 4 were not present in the meeting room; therefore, the ACCS postponed hearing Item 4 until all parties could be present.

Item 5: Consideration of Mitigating Circumstances Impacting the Current Funding Determinations for Options For Youth Public Charter Schools and Opportunities For Learning Public Charter Schools.

Ms. Barkley introduced Iqbal Badwalz, a Consultant in the Charter Schools Division, to present this item. Ms. Barkley explained that this is the same item presented at the December 2009 meeting and requires ACCS approval. Mr. Badwalz gave an overview of the item and the mitigating factors for Options For Youth (OFY) and Opportunities For Learning (OFL) Public Charter Schools.

Representatives from the OFY and OFL Public Charter Schools were present and addressed the ACCS on the impact of the mitigating factors on both schools.

Action: Dr. Barber moved to approve the mitigating circumstances for OFY Public Charter Schools and OFL Public Charter Schools. Ms. Ravare seconded the motion. The motion was approved by a vote of six in favor and two opposed.

Item 6: Consideration of Requests for Determination of Funding Rates as Required for Nonclassroom-based charter schools.

Carol Barkley introduced Angela Duvane, an Analyst in the Charter Schools Division, to present the item. Ms. Duvane presented 46 requests for funding determinations and reported that 15 of these requests were from new schools. Ms. Duvane also stated that 3 of the requests were from OFY and OFL schools requested 100 percent approval with mitigating circumstances.

Dr. Barber requested a discussion on the requests for funding determinations from OFY and OFL. Dr. Barber expressed concern that this particular operator was asking to open with a 100 percent funding rate instead of the normal 85 percent funding rate. Ms. Duvane explained they had a different set of mitigating factors. Mr. Badwalz stated that the schools are being conservative in their budgets and referred to the attachments provided by the schools to supporting their request. Chair Hunkapiller clarified that the California Education Code allows for 100 percent funding of new schools. Chair Hunkapiller suggested the ACCS vote on the 15 new schools and vote on OFY and OFL as a separate item.

Action: Dr. Cartas moved to approve all but the OFY and OFL schools. Mr. Davis seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously.

Chair Hunkapiller asked for public comment on OFY and OFL.

Colin Miller representing the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) noted that the law requires a five-year span for continuing schools and asked if, in these cases, the motion could be to give schools five-year approvals.

Jan Miller representing the California Teachers Association (CTA) pointed to the 2005 extraordinary audit for OFY and OFL and questioned their mitigating factors. Mr. Miller further requested an update on last year’s action and advised that giving out more funds when some funds were still in dispute was not wise.

Mr. Kushner requested a report on Jan Miller’s request for an update on last year’s action.

Chair Hunkapiller directed CDE staff to present each OFY and OFL school for consideration separately.

Action: Dr. Barber moved that schools numbered 1130, 1131, and 1132 be approved for 85 percent funding for two years. Mr. Kushner seconded the motion.

There was a discussion amongst the ACCS members regarding schools numbered 1130, 1131, and 1132. Mr. Kushner asked if a funding determination could be reopened at a later date. Ms. Barkley confirmed that a funding determination could always be reopened.

Mr. Washington expressed concern that these funding determinations were not posted to the Web for public access prior to the ACCS meeting. He would like clarification on how the public can access this information before meetings. Ms. Barkley explained that all documents were available at the CDE ten days prior to the ACCS meeting. Mr. Washington requested a solution on how members of the public can access information without coming to Sacramento. Chair Hunkapiller and Ms. Barkley both acknowledged Mr. Washinton’s concern and explained that were are working to improve this process.

Chair Hunkapiller asked for representatives from OFY and OFL to address the ACCS.

Representatives from OFY and OFL explained to the ACCS that the 3 schools in question are stand-alone charters and therefore qualify for the full 100 percent funding. They also asked if they 100 percent funding rate was not approved, would the school have an opportunity to come back and justify the 100 percent funding rate at a later date? Chair Hunkapiller confirmed that OFY and OFL could appeal a less than 100 percent funding determination a later date. Dr. Barber asked for further evidence that these new schools would not have the same issues that are being questioned, or litigated, with the existing schools.

Action: Dr. Cartas moved that schools numbered 1130, 1131, and 1132 be approved for 85 percent funding for two years. Mr. Kushner seconded the motion. The motion was approved by a vote of seven in favor and one opposed.

Ms. Duvane introduced a group of schools recommended for a five-year determination based on decile ranking. Ms. Duvane clarified the terms that qualified these schools for a 100 percent funding rate.

Action: Dr. Cartas moved to approve the staff recommendation for 100 percent funding for five years. Mr. Davis seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously.

Ms. Duvane presented a group of schools for 100 percent funding for four years and clarified that school number 730 should be funded for four years instead of five years. She further stated that schools numbered 146, 723, 730, 873, 939, and 1056 have mitigating factors.

Chair Hunkapiller asked if any ACCS members would like to remove any of the schools listed by Ms. Duvane from the current staff recommendation. Chair Hunkapiller asked for clarification on whether any of the schools listed could be funded for a different length of time at the discretion of the ACCS. Ms. Barkley confirmed that the ACCS has this discretion. Dr. Barber asked if any of the schools listed for this funding determination were schools classified under the Alternative Schools Accountability Model (ASAM). Ms. Duvane did not have this information at hand.

Action: Dr. Barber moved to approve the staff recommendation for 100 percent funding for 4 years. Mr. Davis seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously.

Chair Hunkapiller advised the ACCS that charter number 285, Gorman Learning Center has been pulled from the agenda.

Ms. Duvane presented the next group of schools for consideration and explained that these schools required determinations for prior years due to audit findings. The commissioners discussed the process for determining funding determinations and audits.

Chair Hunkapiller asked for motion.

Action: Dr. Barber moved to approve the staff recommendation for 100 percent funding for these schools. Dr. Cartas seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously.

The commissioners discussed mitigating factors as they applied to funding determinations. Ms. Barkley stated that there may be a need for CDE staff to report back to the ACCS next year on the schools that had mitigating factors

Item 4: Consideration of the Appeal fo the Revocation of MATTIE Charter School, Which Was Revoked by the Long Beach Unified School District

Chair Hunkapiller explained in detail the role of the ACCS in regard to making recommendations to the SBE. Chair Hunkapiller clarified that the SBE makes the actual decision to overturn or uphold a charter revocation if it deems the revocation is based on substantial evidence. Chair Hunkapiller further stated that when making a decision on revocation, the ACCS is legally obligated to only consider the administrative record as submitted to the SBE.

Chair Hunkapiller invited Michelle Ruskofsky, a Consultant in the Charter Schools Division, to review the California Education Code as it pertains to the requirements for a chartering authority to revoke a charter and review the CDE staff report for the Multicultural Achievement Technology Teaching Innovative Experiences Academy Charter School (MATTIE). Ms. Ruskofsky also provided an overview of the time line of the MATTIE revocation appeal to the SBE and the 27 findings for revocation made by the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD). Ms. Ruskofsky reported that the CDE recommends that the ACCS recommend that the SBE uphold the decision made by the LBUSD to revoke the MATTIE charter.

Ms. Barber reminded her fellow commissioners that at the December 2009 meeting the commissioners had asked MATTIE representatives to provide a specific rebuttal matrix to the 27 findings and asked if MATTIE had in fact submitted this matrix to the CDE. Ms. Ruskofsky stated that the CDE had received a letter from Dr. Denice Price on January 26, 2010, that was included in each commissioners’ packet of information.

After advising representatives from MATTIE and members of the audience on the 15-minute time limit for presenting information to the ACCS, Chair Hunkapiller clarified that the public comment period would follow presentations, and then commissioners would deliberate on the appeal. 

Chair Hunkapiller invited representatives from MATTIE to come forward and present their evidence. Chair Hunkapiller also advised that it would be most helpful for MATTIE representatives to focus on the 27 findings made by the LBUSD, and the evidence in the administrative record.

MATTIE representatives Dr. Denice Price, Eric McKee, former state legislator Mervyn Dymally, and parents of former MATTIE students stated that the claims from the LBUSD of fiscal mismanagement were unfounded as MATTIE had supplied documentation refuting these allegations. Dr. Price reviewed the January 26, 2010, letter to Chair Hunkapiller and stated that she was disappointed that MATTIE was advised by the CDE to have their response materials submitted to the CDE by January 27, 2010, in order for these materials to be distributed to the commissioners.

Dr. Price expressed that MATTIE representatives feel that LBUSD did not give MATTIE proper time to remedy the 27 findings for revocation. MATTIE representatives expressed concern that many former MATTIE students are not currently enrolled in school due to a dispute between MATTIE and LBUSD regarding student records. MATTIE further stated that LBUSD violated charter law by not providing support to MATTIE or adequate time to respond to LBUSD’s 27 findings for revocation.

Several speakers on behalf of MATTIE addressed the ACCS regarding the need for MATTIE in the community. They expressed concern that when the school was closed, the students had a hard time getting back into school because most of them had been expelled from other schools. All speakers appealed to the ACCS to reopen MATTIE. Dr. Price stated MATTIE has done everything in their power to do what they were asked and that MATTIE was not given a chance to prove the difference they were making with the students.

Chair Hunkapiller asked if the commissioners had any questions.

Dr. Cartas asked MATTIE representatives if any of the 27 findings of facts from LBUSD were accurate and if MATTIE had evidence to refute any of the 27 findings. A discussion ensued in which Dr. Price stated that LBUSD rushed MATTIE to open in the fall of 2007 and was promised money that the district did not deliver. Dr. Price then stated that Mr. Suarez [from LBUSD] encouraged MATTIE to borrow money from Charter Schools Capital. Dr. Price expressed that MATTIE representatives trusted the district’s oversight and that they now felt like they were misled. Dr. Cartas asked if MATTIE had a plan to remedy the items identified in the 27 findings from LBUSD. Dr Price stated that they did have a plan, but that everything they submitted to LBUSD was ignored by LBUSD.

Dr. Barber asked for clarification on when MATTIE was given a charter number and when the school actually opened. Dr. Price responded that the school was approved by LSBUSD in August 2007. She further stated that MATTIE opened on September 3, 2007, and was shut down on September 16, 2008. Dr. Barber asked if the school received an API score. Mr. Kushner accessed the CDE Web site to retrieve data on MATTIE. Mr. Kushner advised his fellow commissioners and the audience that in 2008-09, 54 students were tested and that MATTIE received an API score of 365, and a statewide rank of 1. Dr. Barber expressed her concern that MATTIE representatives feel they had a school that was working, but that the data does not substantiate that the school was in fact successful.

Dr. Barber also expressed concern regarding financial information that showed MATTIE had a $900,000 deficit at the time MATTIE was closed. Dr. Price stated that the $900,000 deficit was incorrect. Dr. Price stated that MATTIE’s funds were held up because of LBUSD’s actions and because of a court judgment brought against MATTIE by the Charter School Capital. Dr Price stated that MATTIE was financially current at the time of revocation. Dr. Barber asked Dr. Price if MATTIE could afford to open immediately if the SBE voted to overturn the revocation. Dr. Price replied that MATTIE has reorganized their board and are currently working on getting funding, but that MATTIE could open one site immediately.

Chair Hunkapiller invited representatives from LBUSD to address the commission. James Suarez, Assistant Director of Special Projects at LBUSD, came forward and expressed that LBUSD has a very positive and fruitful relationship with their charter schools. Mr. Suarez acknowledged that MATTIE served a high-needs population of students and that in the beginning, LBUSD held high hopes for MATTIE. Mr. Suarez stated that in regards to MATTIE, LBUSD went above and beyond the law related to charter school authorizers. Mr. Suarez refuted the allegations made by MATTIE representatives. Mr. Suarez stated that he did not recommend that MATTIE use Charter School Capital and that he advised them to get information from Charter School Capital in writing. Mr. Suarez stated that LBUSD held meetings with MATTIE, advised them on board policies, and provided an MOU for MATTIE. Mr. Suarez further noted that LBUSD sent a retired curriculum specialist to work with MATTIE and offered to pay outside consultants to help with board governance issues, but was refused twice. Mr. Suarez expressed that LBUSD has no desire to close schools, but when the LBUSD board was presented with overwhelming evidence, they had no choice but to revoke MATTIE’s charter.

Dr. Cartas asked if MATTIE had admitted accountability to any of the 27 findings. Sue Ann Evans, legal counsel for LBUSD, responded that MATTIE representatives had admitted accountability for several of the 27 findings. Dr. Cartas and Ms. Evans went through several of the 27 findings and asked for clarification on several points of LBUSD’s evidence. Dr. Cartas asked if MATTIE provided evidence of resolution of any of the 27 findings. Ms. Evans stated that none of the findings were resolved.

Mr. Washington asked for clarification from LBUSD regarding the student population of MATTIE in regards to the number of students who were expelled from other schools, the number of special education students, and the ethnic comparison to other schools in the area. Mr. Suarez explained that LBUSD only had 15 students expelled in 2007-08, so MATTIE’s claim about serving large numbers of expelled students is untrue and that LBUSD never intended MATTIE to be a feeder school for expelled students or special education students. Mr. Washington asked how MATTIE’s student population compared to other charter schools demographically. Mr. Suarez stated that MATTIE was very comparable to other schools in the area.

Dr. Barber asked for clarification as to why LBUSD allowed MATTIE to open so quickly without adequate planning. Mr. Suarez responded that LBUSD had done extensive planning with the Minister’s Alliance, an affiliate of MATTIE, and that it was the MATTIE representatives who wanted to rush the opening of the school. Dr. Barber and Mr. Suarez engaged in a discussion regarding MATTIE’s timeline for opening, student testing and scores, teacher credentialing, and MATTIE’s financial status at the time of revocation.

Mr. Washington inquired about the status of former MATTIE students that are currently not enrolled in a district school because of MATTIE’s closure. Mr. Suarez stated that LBUSD has made several attempts to get student records from MATTIE and had not yet received any records. Mr. Suarez stated that LBUSD performed home visits and wrote to MATTIE’s attorney to try to find information on these students, but LBUSD never received any response from MATTIE or their attorney.

Chair Hunkapiller asked for public comment.

Mrs. De La Cruz, a parent of a former MATTIE student, spoke to the ACCS about her son. Mrs. De La Cruz stated that she has not been contacted by LBUSD. Mr. Kushner asked why Mrs. De La Cruz had not enrolled her son in another school in the district. Mrs. De La Cruz explained that she had tried to enroll her son in other schools, but due to his age and special needs, she has not been successful.

Monique May, a counselor from MATTIE, presented a letter signed by LBUSD verifying that she delivered documents to LBUSD.

Dr. Greta Price, a consultant for MATTIE, spoke about the activities currently going on at MATTIE. Dr. Greta Price explained that she has been an educator for 25 years. She further stated that it takes more than a year to see something perfected and she believes that, if given an opportunity, things would be corrected at MATTIE.

A MATTIE counselor commented about student test scores and explained that low test scores were due to the fact that some students were constantly rotating in and out of school. She further stated that many of the students were from probation camps, or were special education students that may have only been enrolled in MATTIE for a week and the school did not always have copies of their IEPs.

Hearing no additional public comment, Chair Hunkapiller returned the discussion to ACCS members. Chair Hunkapiller reminded the ACCS members that their duty is to weigh the evidence presented in the administrative record and discussed in today’s proceedings. Chair Hunkapiller asked if any members had questions about the substantiality of the evidence presented by LBUSD in support of its revocation decision.

Dr. Cartas asked CDE staff if there were any findings of fact in which the school admitted fault. Ms. Ruskofsky stated that MATTIE submitted to the CDE arguments regarding 8 of LBUSD’s 27 total findings, which the CDE found to not refute LBUSD’s evidence in support of revocation. Mr. Kushner asked if MATTIE could prepare and submit a new charter for approval by LBUSD. Chair Hunkapiller confirmed that MATTIE, just like any charter petitioning group, could prepare and submit a new charter to LBUSD.

Chair Hunkapiller asked ACCS members for any additional questions about any of the findings of fact. Hearing none, Chair Hunkapiller addressed MATTIE representatives and stated that if the ACCS voted right now, it would most likely uphold the revocation. She further informed MATTIE representatives that they could consider withdrawing their appeal before a motion is brought before the ACCS and pursue other options to serve students in the community.

Dr. Barber stated that since MATTIE came before the ACCS in December 2009 and now in February, the ACCS should make a recommendation to the SBE. She further expressed that the 27 findings are serious allegations and an official vote needs to be made for the record. Chair Hunkapiller noted that MATTIE has the right to withdraw their appeal at any point in time. Dr. Barber reiterated that the ACCS should act on the appeal. Mr. Kushner asked for clarification in that by pulling their appeal, MATTIE could not file another appeal at a later point and come before the ACCS again. Chair Hunkapiller responded that Mr. Kushner was correct in his statement.

Dr. Price asked for clarification about the consequences should MATTIE withdraw its revocation appeal.

Jonathan Williams, Member of the State Board of Education, explained that withdrawing the appeal from consideration by the ACCS meant that MATTIE could go back to their stakeholders and community and make a fresh start with a new charter. Mr. Kushner clarified that if MATTIE chooses to withdraw its revocation appeal today, MATTIE will still have a revocation on record from LBUSD.

Dr. Price expressed her “dismay” regarding MATTIE’s revocation and stated that she was disheartened because she believes MATTIE was “sabotaged.” After a brief discussion with MATTIE representatives, Dr. Price stated that MATTIE will withdraw their appeal.

Adjournment

Chair Hunkapiller adjourned the meeting at 1:06 p.m.

Next ACCS Meeting

The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 6, 2010, at the CDE Building, 1430 N Street, Room 1101, Sacramento.

Questions: Charter Schools Division | charters@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-6029 
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