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ACCS Meeting Notes for June 16, 2010

Meeting notes taken at the ACCS meeting on June 16, 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, June 16, 2010

Members Present

Brian Bauer, Chair
Dr. Vicki Barber
Dr. Paul Cartas
Beth Hunkapiller*
Mark Kushner
Corri Ravare
Curtis L. Washington

Members Absent

Gary Davis

*Beth Hunkapiller is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s designee.

Principal Staff to the Advisory Commission

Iqbal Badwalz, Consultant, CDE Charter Schools Division
Bonnie Galloway, Consultant, CDE Charter Schools Division
Darrell Parsons, Consultant, CDE Charter Schools Division
Michelle Ruskofsky, Education Administrator, CDE Charter Schools Division

Call to Order

Chair Bauer called the meeting to order at 10:03 a.m.

Flag Salute

Chair Bauer led the members, staff, and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Agenda Order

Chair Bauer announced that the agenda order would not be revised.

Item 1: Consideration of Requests for Determination of Funding Rates as Required for Non-classroom-based Charter Schools

Mr. Badwalz presented the item and noted the CDE recommendations on each school.

Chair Bauer asked for questions from the ACCS commissioners.

Mr. Washington expressed concern that the item was updated as late as June 11, in close proximity to the date of the commission hearing.

ACTION: Dr. Barber moved to approve the schools with a 100% funding recommendation. Dr. Cartas seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously by a vote of seven in favor and none opposed.

Item 2: Consideration of Requests for Budget Crisis Mitigating Circumstances Flexibility for the Current Senate Bill 740 Funding Determination Period for California Virtual Academy at Kern, California virtual Academy at Jamestown, California Virtual Academy at Sonoma, California Virtual Academy at Sutter, California Virtual Academy at San Mateo, California Virtual Academy at Kings, Desert Sands Charter High School, Vista Real Charter High School, Crescent View West Charter High School, Antelope Valley Learning Academy, Mission View Public School, Sierra charter School, Julian Charter School, and Pacific View Charter School

Mr. Badwalz presented the item and noted the CDE recommendations on each school.

Chair Bauer asked for questions from the ACCS commissioners. Hearing none, he called for a motion.

ACTION: Dr. Cartas moved to approve the requests for mitigating circumstances. Dr. Barber seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously by a vote of seven in favor and none opposed.

Chair Bauer, in response to news of Mr. Badwalz’s departure from the Charter Schools Division, acknowledged Mr. Badwalz’s thorough reporting and fine work accomplished on behalf of the commission and the Charter Schools Division.

Item 3: Island Union Elementary Charter School District: Consideration of Petition to Renew Districtwide Charter

Mr. Parsons presented the item and reviewed the staff report. In particular, Mr. Parsons noted that Island Union Elementary School District (Island Union ESD) has met criteria for renewal as established in California Education Code (EC) Section 47607. Additionally, Island Union ESD demonstrated continuous improvement of curriculum, including: an API growth of 62 points, a small school atmosphere that addresses student needs, and a focus on music, arts, and athletics. Mr. Parsons also noted that Island Union ESD’s outreach extends beyond the school’s geographical boundary, and as a result, 55% of the student population originates from outside the geographical boundary.

The CDE recommended approval for a five-year term, ending June 30, 2015, conditional on technical modifications as set forth in Attachment 1 of Item 3.

Chair Bauer called for questions from the ACCS commissioners.

Mr. Washington expressed a concern for charter school excellence, and asked Mr. Parsons for his opinion on Island Union ESD’s excellence. He also inquired whether or not Island Union ESD could be utilized as a model for other all-charter districts. Mr. Parsons answered in the affirmative, citing the school’s API growth of 62 points as support. Mr. Parsons deferred to Ms. Robin Jones, Superintendent of Island Union ESD, to answer further questions from the commission.

Ms. Ravare inquired about the parental involvement in the charter school. Ms. Jones described a parental Saturday school program that informs parents of events at Island Union ESD. She also described parent volunteer weekends, during which parents assist in the cleanup of school grounds.

Mr. Washington inquired about the faculty tenure and turnover rates. Ms. Jones responded that teachers and support staff have been teaching for over 20 years. Ms. Jones also noted how many of their teachers are retiring, which she considers a loss to the school.

Chair Bauer commended Island Union ESD’s work, and asked for public comment. Hearing none, he called for a motion.

ACTION: Mr. Washington moved to approve staff recommendation for renewal of the Island Union ESD charter for a five-year term, to the SBE. Ms. Ravare seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously by a vote of seven in favor and none opposed.

Item 4: Alvina Elementary Charter School District: Consideration of Petition to Renew Districtwide Charter

Ms. Galloway presented the item and reviewed the staff report. In particular, Ms. Galloway identified that Alvina Elementary Charter School (Alvina ECS) has met one of four criteria required for renewal, described in EC Section 47607. Alvina ECS had a 2009 API statewide rank of 3 and a similar schools rank of 2. The school has consistently made AYP goals while maintaining lower class sizes. The CDE recommended approval. Ms. Galloway indicated that representatives from Alvina ECS were present to comment.

Chair Bauer called for questions from the commissioners.

Ms. Hunkapiller inquired about the percentage of English learners and special needs students that attend Alvina ECS, relative to the composition of the district. Ms. Galloway indicated that the school has fewer English-learners than compared with other schools, but the figures represent a growth from five years ago.

Chair Bauer inquired about Avlina ECS’ performance, compared to other all-charter districts. Ms. Galloway noted that Alvina ECS ranks lowest in comparison to the other all-charter districts. Chair Bauer requested that CDE staff identify the API rankings of similar schools. Mr. Parsons clarified that Alvina ECS’ demographics are comparable to other schools in the area, which generally have API scores in excess of 800, so while Alvina ECS represents the lowest-performing all-charter district, it is still relatively high-performing. Chair Bauer affirmed that while Alivina ECS performed relatively low, it was still high-performing.

Mr. Washington inquired whether Alvina ECS provided a superior education for students. Ms. Galloway responded in the affirmative, citing that Alvina ECS maintains smaller class sizes, which allows for a personalized learning environment. Additionally, half of the student population came from districts where the students were struggling; the personalized approach provides a service to these students.

Mr. Kushner asked if Alvina ECS had innovative programs. Ms. Galloway responded that Alvina ECS’s model of staffing is flexible, and would defer to the school’s representatives for elaboration.

Chair Bauer called for additional questions. Hearing none, he called upon the Alvina ECS petitioners to present.

Mike Iribarren, Superintendent of Alvina ECS, presented. Mr. Iribarren noted that the school has taken measures to address the drop in Hispanic population. The program focuses on staffing, in particular, and API scores have been increasing. The school intends to continue to push to breach the 800 API score barrier.

Chair Bauer called for questions from commissioners.

Chair Bauer inquired about what targets the school has established to meet API goals, and also asked Mr. Iribarren to comment on the large percentage of student population at Alvina ECS that originates from outside districts. Mr. Iribarren responded by mentioning a five-year plan for meeting proficiency goals, and also indicated that the school does not conduct student outreach; enrollment is solely based on the interest of parents in the school’s education program. Chair Bauer inquired about Alvina ECS’s innovative programs that are directly tied to the school’s charter status. Mr. Iribarren referred to the flexible staffing model that the school utilizes, as well as describing how the school pinpoints student needs and allows students to grow.

Mr. Washington asked the petitioner to describe the effect of the flexible staffing model on faculty. Mr. Iribarren explained that the staff is very stable, and they appreciate having instructional aides in the classroom because it allows them to work on a more personal level with students.

Ms. Hunkapiller asked the petitioner to comment on the use of instructional aids for intervention practices. Mr. Iribarren noted that intervention practices focus on math and reading interventions for struggling students.

Chair Bauer called for final questions. Hearing none, he opened the floor to public comment. Hearing none, he called for a motion.

ACTION: Dr. Cartas moved to approve staff recommendation for renewal of the Alvina ESD charter for a five-year term, to the SBE. Mr. Kushner seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously by a vote of seven in favor and none opposed.

Item 5: Lifeline Education Charter School: Consideration of the Request by the Lifeline Education Charter School to Extend Approval of its Charter under Oversight of the State Board of Education for up to Two Years until June 30, 2012.

Dr. Barber disclosed that Lifeline Education Charter School participates in her district’s SELPA.

Ms. Galloway presented the item. Ms. Galloway reviewed the staff report, and indicated that Lifeline Education Charter School (Lifeline ECS) was initially authorized by the SBE in September 2007; if the school is granted another two-year extension, they will be able to complete a five-year term. There is only one year of API data for Lifeline ECS for the 2008-2009 school year; the school did not meet API targets, but has implemented changes to the education program. 2009-2010 CAHSEE scores for Lifeline ECS are higher than 2008-2009 CAHSEE scores for surrounding schools. The CDE recommends a two-year extension of the charter term, on the condition that if the school fails to meet API targets, the school must develop a student achievement plan and present it for review by the SBE.

Chair Bauer called for questions from the commissioners.

Chair Bauer inquired as to how many times Lifeline ECS has come before the ACCS and the SBE for any reason. Ms. Galloway deferred to Mr. Parsons. Mr. Parsons indicated that Lifeline ECS has presented interim assessment results at four SBE meetings this year.

Dr. Barber asked for confirmation that information in the staff report was prepared by CDE staff. Ms. Galloway confirmed.

Chair Bauer called upon the petitioners to present.

Jim Armstrong, consultant for Lifeline ECS, and Paula DeGroat, Director of Lifeline ECS presented. Mr. Armstrong explained that Lifeline ECS has a brand new staff that is open to perform whatever is asked of them, the school is developing curriculum and a set of assessments, average daily attendance is very strong, and the school implements a tightly structured tutorial program that is mandatory for students that hold grades below a “C” average. Mr. Armstrong acknowledged that the school is still lacking in basic math and algebra, but the school is revising its curriculum and teachers are working with students in a personalized setting. Mr. Armstrong indicated that if the school receives its two-year extension, they will enact a parent education program, and will refine the education program to include more expository writing and a more in-depth math program. Ms. DeGroat apologized for bringing Lifeline ECS into this situation, expressed that she has learned to get more people involved, and as a result of her efforts, the students are accelerating.

Chair Bauer called for questions from the commissioners.

Dr. Barber commended both presenters.

Ms. Hunkapiller inquired about the school’s planned response if API scores do not increase. Ms. DeGroat indicated that the school would be facing revocation. Mr. Armstrong expressed certainty that the school would improve scores.

Chair Bauer explained that it is difficult to track the progress of charters over a curtailed period of one to three years. Chair Bauer expressed that there appears to be great energy at the school, but noted there was a fifty point drop in API scores. He inquired about the school’s plan to respond to a continued drop in API scores. Mr. Armstrong explained that the school has learned whether or not certain policies are effective, and that the school has developed a strong belief in parental involvement.

Chair Bauer noted the school’s API score in 2008 was 582, and in 2009 was 571. Chair Bauer inquired about what the school was prepared to do should the downward trend in API scores continue. Ms. DeGroat indicated that the school would undertake intensive professional development, and would examine benchmarks, assessments, and curriculum.

Chair Bauer inquired if the school was prepared to undergo revocation, if the API results do not meet expectations. Ms. DeGroat indicated that she would accept the consequences. Mr. Armstrong explained that the school needs to understand what progress it has made.

Chair Bauer commended the petitioners for their progress with a student population that continues to struggle. He also indicated that the standardized testing results would need to pan out for the school’s continued existence.

Chair Bauer called for questions from the commissioners. Hearing none, he opened the floor to public comment.

Colin Miller of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) expressed support for the school’s request. He indicated that the school is only asking to fulfill the five-year term of its charter, and that there has been much scrutiny over the school’s test scores. He indicated that it would be worth waiting for the next test results to be released.

Stephanie Farland of the California School Boards Association (CSBA) expressed that it was unfair to compare 2009-2010 CAHSEE results with 2008-2009 CAHSEE results for different schools. She explained that every district is working hard to increase their CAHSEE scores. Dr. Barber asked if Ms. Farland had reviewed dropout rate data that was included in the CDE staff’s report. Ms. Farland indicated that she had, but that she still did not agree with comparing different-year CAHSEE data.

Chair Bauer called for a motion.

MOTION: Dr. Cartas moved for approval of a recommendation for a one-year extension of the Lifeline ECS charter petition, and that the school return to the ACCS for review in 2011.

Mr. Kushner indicated that if the school were to return in 2011, the commission would not have API data for that year.

Dr. Barber indicated that if the API results do not show improvement, the school should return for review in the fall.

ACTION: Chair Bauer moved for approval of the recommendation of a two-year extension of the Lifeline ECS charter petition, on the condition that the school returns to the ACCS for review in fall 2010 should the school fail to meet its schoolwide API target. Mr. Kushner seconded. The motion was approved by a vote of six in favor and one opposed.  

Item 6: Long Valley Charter School: Petition for Renewal of a Charter School under the Oversight of the State Board of Education, Which Was Denied by the Fort Sage Unified School District and the Lassen County Board of Education

Ms. Galloway presented the item. She reviewed the CDE staff report, and explained that Long Valley Charter School (LVCS) is located in a rural area, was initially approved for a four-year term, and was renewed for a five-year term in 2004. Fort Sage Unified (FSUSD) denied renewal of the school in 2010. LVCS is the only school in FSUSD to meet API goals. The school meets three of four criteria for renewal as described in EC Section 47607. Ms. Galloway noted that there was a finding in the school’s 2001-2002 audit that required a substantial reimbursement to the CDE, but payments made in accordance with the repayment schedule have been made. Ms. Galloway also noted that the school appears to have a sustainable budget, and will face financial challenges in the upcoming year as will many other charter schools. The CDE recommends approval of renewal by the SBE, under the conditions as follows: modification of the charter petition with guidance from CDE staff; a five year term to elapse in June 2015; and termination of approval if the school fails to open by the end of September 2010.

Chair Bauer called for questions from the commissioners. Hearing none, he called upon the petitioners to present.

Michael Yancy, Education Director for LVCS, presented. Mr. Yancy explained that LVCS serves both local students and students from the surrounding area, provides a successful independent study program, offers a personalized education program that includes art and music, incorporates a benchmark assessment program, incorporates extensive community involvement that includes working with local businesses to integrate vocational skills into the education program, and offers after-school tutoring. Also, the school’s API growth outperforms all other schools in the district. Following this presentation, Mr. Yancy presented a video of parent and alumni testimonials.

Chair Bauer indicated that LVCS’s API score is 740, which is highest in the school district and also exceeded growth targets, both schoolwide and in reported subgroups. LVCS has met AYP goals, and is the only school in FSUSD to meet AYP goals.

Chair Bauer called for presentations by the district.

Tim Halliburt, trustee of the district, and Brian Young, Superintendent of FSUSD presented. Mr. Halliburt explained that the district review of the LVCS petition submitted for renewal found that the petition was lacking. In addition, LVCS made errors in reporting its ADA, causing a liability in excess of one-million dollars. LVCS is past due in payments for district fees, and FSUSD is concerned that LVCS, if renewed, will increase its debt to the district. Mr. Halliburt also noted that in 2006, LVCS placed two portables on its campus without authorization from FSUSD; these portables did not meet building code and presented a safety hazard to pupils. Mr. Halliburt also noted that LVCS submitted several documents for FSUSD Board review, one day before the review was to take place; subsequently, the district was not given sufficient time to review these documents. Mr. Halliburt also noted that FSUSD has extended numerous opportunities for LVCS to participate in districtwide professional development, or in districtwide sports teams, to which LVCS has not responded.

Dr. Barber noted that CDE data indicates that LVCS is out-performing all other schools in the district. She inquired as to how FSUSD concluded that there was a performance issue problem with the charter school. Superintendent Young indicated that California Education Code indicates that the intent of charter schools is to increase the performance of lowest-performing students. He believes that the school is not carrying out this mission, and also noted that LVCS was in Program Improvement (PI) for one year.

Dr. Barber noted that the district reported that 70% of their student population qualifies for Free and Reduced Priced Meals (FRPM), and that LVCS only retains a 12% population of students that qualify for FRPM. She noted that this finding was not included in previous investigations, and inquired as to whether the data had been certified. Superintendent Young indicated that the data had not been certified. Mr. Halliburt indicated that there are two large state prisons in the area that account for the large number of transient population. Mr. Halliburt expressed that he never had any doubt about the education program of the school, but believed that the school was only admitting the highest-performing students, a practice referred to as taking the “cream of the crop” or “creaming”. Dr. Barber responded that data provided by FSUSD does not support this conclusion.

Dr. Barber noted that the school acknowledged an error in its ADA reporting, but this error was resolved between the school and the State. She inquired if FSUSD had any evidence to the contrary. Superintendent Young indicated that if the school closes, this liability will be passed on to the district.

Dr. Barber noted that FSUSD reported an amount of $100,000 owed by LVCS, and also that this figure seemed relatively large. She inquired for what period of time the district had calculated the figure. Superintendent Young deferred to Chris, the business manager of FSUSD. Chris explained that approximately $30,000 of the amount owed represents transportation fees.

Dr. Barber noted that these findings were not included in the board action. Superintendent Young explained that he was advised that he would be able to bring up other issues at this time. Dr. Barber inquired, if FSUSD’s assertion is that LVCS cannot pay their bills, why was this not brought up in the board action. Superintendent Young indicated that he had only been aware of the issue within the last two weeks. Dr. Barber requested clarification that the district was unaware of being owed a sum of $100,000 for the last two years. Superintendent Young deferred to Chris. Chris indicated that she had just received this information for their auditor.

Chair Bauer called upon representatives of the County Office of Education to present. As the representatives were not present, Chair Bauer opened the floor for public comment.

Lynn Hayes, grandmother of a student at LVCS, indicated that the student was enrolled in LVCS because of the sub-par academic program of FSUSD schools. The student, since his or her enrollment in LVCS, has shown significant academic growth and has expressed a personal interest and satisfaction in attending LVCS. In response to the prior accusation that LVCS perpetrates “creaming”, Ms. Hayes indicated that the school simply has a strong academic program.

Jeff Rice of A+PLUS Personalized Learning expressed his support of the charter renewal, specifically citing that the school is dedicated and has a personalized learning approach.

Colin Miller of the CCSA expressed his support of the charter renewal. He indicated that while the district has brought up concerns, none of these concerns appear to be legitimate causes for closure. In response to the prior indictment that all liabilities of the school would be absorbed by the district upon closure, Mr. Miller indicated that this was false.

Eric Premack of the Charter School Development Center (CSDC) expressed concern that the renewal issue did not belong here. He vouched for a legislative fix to address authorization abuses.   

Chair Bauer called for a response from LVCS.

Lisa Corr of Middleton, Young, and Minney, LLP (MY&M) presented. Ms. Corr indicated that the previously mentioned audit finding was not an issue during the charter school’s previously approved renewal by the district. The portables installed on the school site have since been permitted, and the district had not previously raised issue with the portables. The oversight fee, identified by the district, was not addressed in the findings. LVCS believes they have overpaid transportation fees to the district by a sum of $25,000. LVCS strongly contests the accusation of cherry-picking. Ms. Corr also indicated that, shortly following the LVCS denial to renew, FSUSD approved its own charter petition that appears to be identical to the LVCS charter petition.

Chair Bauer called for comments from commissioners.

Mr. Washington expressed concern for the divisiveness of the community. He indicated that there should be a fix to prevent the necessity of turning LVCS into a state-authorized charter school. He expressed that the community should be devoting its energy to its students.

Dr. Barber expressed agreement with Mr. Washington’s comments. She added that she was troubled by how information presented was not addressed in the findings. She encouraged FSUSD and their board of trustees to reexamine their procedures and re-review their information.

ACTION: Dr. Barber moved to approve staff recommendation for renewal of the LVCS petition for a five-year term, to the SBE. Dr. Cartas seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously by a vote of seven in favor and none opposed.

Item 7: Petition for Establishment of a Charter School Under the Oversight of the State Board of Education: Consideration of the National Career Academy Charter School Petition, Which Was Denied by the Sacramento City Unified School District and the Sacramento County Board of Education

Mr. Parsons presented on this item. He indicated that neither the petitioners nor representatives from the district were present.

Dr. Barber proposed that a motion be called without a presentation.

Chair Bauer agreed, and inquired of the commission members if any member would prefer to hear the presentation. Hearing no objections, he called for a motion.

ACTION: Dr. Cartas moved to approve the staff recommendation to recommend denial of the National Career Academy Charter School petition to the SBE. Dr. Barber seconded the motion. The motion was approved by a vote of seven in favor and none opposed.

Chair Bauer called for a break at 12:20 p.m. to reconvene at 12:50 p.m. after which they would hear Item 8.

The meeting resumed at 1:05 p.m.

Item 8: Petition for Establishment of a Charter School Under the Oversight of the State Board of Education: Consideration of the Request for Renewal of Today’s Fresh Start Charter School, which was denied by the Los Angeles County Board of Education.

Ms. Ruskofsky presented the item. Ms Ruskofsky indicated that the petitioner was present, and representatives from the Los Angeles County Board of Education (LACOE) were not.

Chair Bauer indicated that the commission would take LACOE’s absence into consideration.

Ms. Ruskofsky explained that Today’s Fresh Start Charter School (TFSCS) began operations in the 2003-2004 school year for a two-year charter term as approved by LACOE. LACOE renewed the charter for a five-year term in 2005. On April 6, 2010, LACOE denied renewal of the TFSCS charter petition. CDE staff reviewed the charter petition, budget information, reasons for denial from LACOE, and the response from TFSCS. Based on materials reviewed, staff determined that because the school met its API growth target, it met one of four criteria for renewal under EC Section 47607. However, the school does not present a sound educational program or financial practices. TFSCS falls under the lowest 5% performing schools in California and demonstrates limited academic success. Significant elements of the school’s education program are not reasonably comprehensive, such as although the school identifies at-risk students as the target student base, the TFSCS petition does not address specific measures to handle at-risk students. Ms. Ruskofsky also noted that LACOE cited multiple findings, including: failure to meet student outcomes; failure to comply with building codes and regulations; failure to implement recruitment strategies; and issues with the school’s governance, including a violation of the Brown Act. Ms. Ruskofsky added, it is difficult for the CDE to gauge the merit of LACOE’s findings, as the CDE does not have firsthand experience in dealing with the school. Additionally, if the school is awarded a Title I School Improvement Grant (SIG), and the school is approved by the SBE, then the SBE will be responsible for ensuring that the school implements one of four intervention models as a requirement of the SIG grant. The CDE did not make a recommendation on the school’s renewal. If the school is to be renewed, then the CDE recommends the following conditions: the petition should be revised to include a more comprehensive education program, and measureable pupil outcomes (to include API targets), as well as other minor technical amendments.

Chair Bauer called for questions from the ACCS commissioners.

Mr. Kushner requested a confirmation that the CDE is not making a recommendation on the subject of the petition renewal. Ms. Ruskofsky confirmed.

Dr. Barber inquired as to whether or not data provided by the firm Sloat, Higgins, Jensen, and Associates was accurate, in particular the second page of the memo that contained figures comparing TFSCS API data with that of neighboring schools. Ms. Ruskofsky indicated that the data in question had not been verified by CDE staff, and that the data provided in the CDE staff report was established independently of data provided by the firm.

Dr. Barber noted that MY&M expressed confidence that TFSCS will move out of the persistently lowest achieving school status within the upcoming months. Ms. Ruskofsky indicated that the CDE will not be able to corroborate such information until API data is released. She also indicated that in any case, the school will still have to employ an intervention model if the school is awarded a SIG grant.

Chair Bauer inquired as to what options were available for the intervention model. Ms. Ruskofsky responded by reiterating that the school’s authorizer would have the responsibility to ensure compliance with the intervention model. She added that the school intends to employ a transformation model.

Chair Bauer inquired if, under the transformation model, there is an understanding that the school governance must shift. Ms. Ruskofsky indicated that the school will have to appoint a new principal or director.

Mr. Washington inquired as to whether or not a conflict of interest would exist if the SBE, acting as the authorizer, would have to ensure the implementation of a transformation model, as well as evaluate how well the school performs. Lisa Corr (MY&M) responded by indicating that the school would function as its own Local Education Agency (LEA) for the purposes of the SIG grant, and that the SBE would only be responsible for oversight. Theresa Garcia, executive director of the SBE, clarified that the SIG grant would require that the principal be replaced; she added that, as the petitioner operates multiple schools, the administrator directly responsible for TFSCS would have to be replaced.

Dr. Barber indicated that under any of the SIG grant intervention models, both the school administration and elements of the education program would need to be changed. Ms. Ruskofsky and Ms. Garcia confirmed.

Chair Bauer called upon the petitioners to present.

Clark Parker, Chairman of the Board of TFSCS, Jeanette Parker, Superintendent and Administrator for TFSCS, and Lisa Corr, MY&M, presented. Ms. Corr explained that TFSCS serves approximately 540 students in K-8; 66% of the population is African American, 32% is Hispanic, and 90% of all students qualify for FRPM. Of eight surrounding schools that the student population of TFSCS would otherwise be attending, TFSCS has the second highest API scores. A five-year review of API scores from 2005-2009 reflects a net API growth of 3 points; however, a five-year review of API scores from 2006-2010 would reflect a net growth of 92 points. Ms. Corr also noted that the charter petition was deemed comprehensive and approved by LACOE during the 2005 renewal; this is the same charter petition that was submitted for renewal by the SBE.

Mr. Parker indicated that the education program is comprehensive. During the previous renewal, TFSCS had submitted a revised petition of 200 pages for LACOE’s review, however, LACOE requested that the petition be curtailed to its original length. The petition was modified as requested, and re-submitted to LACOE, where it was then approved.

Ms. Parker indicated that, in regards to the SIG grant, the primary administrator for TFSCS had already been replaced. She also indicated that the school has continued refining its education program, including the establishment of student assessment tools, and a significant increase of instructional minutes. Ms. Parker added that TFSCS intends to institute a summer school program, increase professional development, add computer labs and establish a community learning center.

Mr. Parker indicated he was advised that the fifty-three students that took standardized testing in 2004 were statistically insignificant to have a meaningful score. He expressed uncertainty why consideration was being given to the 2004 score in establishing TFSCS as a persistently low-achieving school.

Chair Bauer called for questions from the commissioners.

Dr. Barber inquired as to why the school submitted a charter petition with missing components, taking into consideration the high degree of scrutiny the school would receive. Ms. Corr indicated that the petitioners were unaware that they would be appealing to the SBE, as they submitted the same petition that was approved by LACOE in 2005 for renewal by LACOE this year. Mr. Clark indicated that they had received written correspondence from LACOE indicating that the petition was “final and complete.”

Copies of this correspondence were passed to the commissioners.

Dr. Barber indicated that the correspondence provided only stated that LACOE had accepted a complete application; it did not comment that the charter petition was comprehensive. Ms. Corr responded by stating that it was the petitioner’s understanding, based on the 2005 renewal, that the petition submitted in 2010 would be considered comprehensive.

Dr. Barber inquired as to why the school accounted for receipt of a COLA, when no school in California was to receive a COLA. Mr. Clark indicated that they had received an e-mail last year which stated that it was reasonable to estimate that the school would receive a 2% COLA. Dr. Barber requested clarification about what organization had advised the petitioners they would receive a 2% COLA. Mr. Clark indicated that they were not advised as such, but that it was reasonable to estimate; he did not have the specific name of the organization on hand. Dr. Barber expressed skepticism for the information in question.

Dr. Barber noted that the petitioners did not account for Accounts Payable payments in the budget. She expressed great concern of the financial situation, especially for the school’s ability to have accurate financial accounting. Mr. Parker noted that the CDE did not inquire about particular funding sources for the school. He referred to a facilities grant of $1.4 million, which was not included in the school’s budget because Mr. Parker indicated that it would be inappropriate to allocate those funds to the operational budget. He also noted that the facilities grant was halted by the State. Ms. Parker added that the school is working with a financial analyst.

Dr. Barber commented that the school’s financial information showed a significant number of errors, and questioned the school’s financial viability. She also expressed concern that payments were made against the $1.4 million of grant funds, and that this was not exposed to LACOE or to the CDE.

Dr. Barber noted that the petitioners reported an average salary level of $48,000. She asked the petitioners to clarify the number of certificated staff working at the school, and their average salary. Ms. Parker indicated that the school has approximately thirty-five to forty certificated staff, including teachers and counselors, and that the average teacher salary was approximately $48,000.

Dr. Barber concluded that the petitioners did not include a breakdown of administrative pay in their financial analysis. She inquired if this assessment included the petitioners’ salaries. Ms. Corr indicated that, in establishing a school, she would provide comprehensive financial documentation, such as a three-year cash flow. However, during renewal, she would defer to information in quarterly financial reports. Mr. Parker indicated that TFSCS had never had any findings in their audits. He also noted that the figure of $48,000 was derived from a formula based on the number of classes for each grade level, and was not a made-up number.

Dr. Barber asked, if the CDE was correct in its understanding that TFSCS would have to replace its top administration staff under the SIG grant, was Ms. Parker prepared to remove herself as Director if required to do so as a condition of the SIG grant. Ms. Corr indicated that TFSCS had already changed one of its top administrators, and that the petitioners were under the impression that they had already begun this process. Mr. Parker affirmed that the school board is prepared to do whatever is in the best interest of the pupils.

Dr. Barber requested clarification if the petitioner’s stance was that Ms. Parker was not in a leadership position in relation to TFSCS for the past two years. Ms. Parker indicated that she was in a leadership position. Ms. Corr stated that Ms. Parker had been caught off-guard by the question, but that Ms. Parker was prepared to do anything in the best interest of the students, including removing herself as director.

Chair Bauer commented that he was struck by the petitioners’ willingness to act in the best interest of the children. He also expressed concerns over the governance issues that were previously addressed, in particular the Brown Act violation and questions he has about the school board composition.

Chair Bauer inquired about the board’s procedure to fill vacancies. The petitioners indicated that Mr. Parker is the Board chair, while Ms. Parker also serves on the board. When there is a vacancy, parents nominate a replacement.

Mr. Parker responded to Chair Bauer’s concern about the Brown Act violation. Mr. Parker indicated that the violation referred to the board holding an evaluation of the chief administrator in a closed session. Mr. Parker indicated that this is not a violation of the Brown Act. He also noted that a lawyer attends 90% of the board meetings to ensure that all actions are taken transparently.

Chair Bauer noted that the petitioners would accept one of the four intervention models as part of the SIG grant. He also commented that he perceived a conflict of interest because Mr. Parker, the board chair, has a relationship with Ms. Parker, the chief executive. Ms. Corr indicated that Mr. Parker would recuse himself from any action involving Ms. Parker. Mr. Parker affirmed that they have no other interest than for the lives of the students.

Chair Bauer inquired about how often the TFSCS board meets. Mr. Parker indicated that the board meets four or five times per year.

Chair Bauer recommended that the TFSCS board take some action to remove any perceived conflicts of interest.

Dr. Cartas indicated the need to leave due to a prior appointment.

Dr. Cartas left the room at 2:37 p.m.

Chair Bauer asked what the petitioners were prepared to do if API scores did not meet expectations, if the petitioners were prepared to remove themselves from the TFSCS board, or for the SBE to initiate revocation. Ms. Parker indicated that she could not imagine that they would not meet the minimum target. Mr. Parker indicated that they were prepared to remove themselves from the board.

Chair Bauer applauded the work of the petitioners, in particular the service they provided for an underserved population. He also expressed disappointment that many of the issues brought up within the past two years, related to the charter petition’s quality, were not addressed and fixed. He expressed concern over how the SBE would interpret this.

Mr. Kushner indicated that even if the commission were to recommend approval, the petitioners would still encounter difficulty with the SBE.

Chair Bauer opened the floor to public comment.

A representative from Sloat, Higgins, Jensen, and Associates expressed support for the TFSCS charter school, and presented letters of support from assemblymembers from Los Angeles, Compton, and other areas.

A representative from the NAACP expressed support for TFSCS, indicating that the school has outperformed other schools in the area and provides a service with socio-economically deprived backgrounds. Dr. Barber commented that TFSCS is an underperforming school, and asked how the representative from the NAACP could characterize TFSCS as having a quality education program. The NAACP representative indicated that the school deserves a chance to succeed, and that the NAACP promotes Race To The Top because of schools like TFSCS. Dr. Barber commented that TFSCS is still a decile 1 ranked school. The NAACP representative responded by saying that the purpose of the NAACP is to advance opportunities to succeed, and that the TFSCS petitioners deserve a chance to succeed.

Eric Premack (CSDC) noted that TFSCS is not a member of his organization. He commented that it was frustrating to watch API scores be the subject of positive or negative conjecture, when the school’s population changes on a yearly basis and the API numbers do not mean anything.

Janelle Ruley (MY&M) indicated that TFSCS had prepared a public comment video but was unable to show it due to technical difficulties. With the commission’s permission, Ms. Ruley was allowed to show the video. During the presentation, it was determined that the video was not a public comment video. Mr. Kushner indicated that he appreciated the presentation nonetheless.

Chair Bauer asked for commission member comments.

MOTION: Mr. Kushner moved to approve recommendation of renewal of the Today’s Fresh Start Charter School charter petition to the SBE, open to amendments. Ms. Ravare seconded the motion, open to amendments.

Ms. Ravare commented that the function of an SBE-authorized school is to oversee a charter school from Sacramento and still ensure its success and performance. She noted it would be difficult to make a recommendation when the budget contains so many errors, or if there are governance issues. She expressed that she was reluctant to remove this choice out of the community. She inquired to the commission, what would they want to see improve in the charter school.

Dr. Barber commented that she did not feel that TFSCS was providing a quality education. She also indicated that, taking into consideration that the school is not high-performing, and that the financial information is sorely lacking, she did not know how, even with conditions, the commission could go forward with this.

Mr. Washington inquired of CDE staff what it would take for CDE staff to make a recommendation. Ms. Ruskofsky indicated that there would need to be substantive amendments to the charter petition, as noted in the CDE report.

Mr. Washington inquired if there was a timeline of availability when materials could be submitted for SBE review. Ms. Hunkapiller indicated that the timeline would be tight, but staff could work with the petitioners, depending on the recommendation of the commission.

Chair Bauer clarified that there may not be enough votes to make a determination, as five votes are required; as such, it would be up to the petitioner to decide how to procede with or without the commission’s input. He also indicated that he was disappointed to be unable to support the petitioners due to the number of issues that were brought up.

Ms. Corr responded by stating that revocation of the school would lead to 500 displaced students. She inquired how the commission could make a determination on the sole basis of the charter petition, and inquired how often commission members refer back to their charter petitions in the operation of their own charter schools.

Dr. Barber requested clarification on whether there were more options other than a five year renewal or denial. Ms. Hunkapiller clarified they could only decide on a five year renewal or denial. Mr. Kushner added that there would be opportunities for interim review, to his knowledge.

Mr. Kushner inquired if, as a condition of approval, the petitioners could be required to modify and enhance the charter petition to meet higher standards. Ms. Hunkapiller indicated that it could.

Mr. Kushner expressed concern that parents of students attending TFSCS should be notified of the potential closure, pending a decision by the SBE.

Mr. Parker indicated that, as per a letter sent by LACOE, LACOE would no longer act at the authorizer for TFSCS beyond June 30, 2010. Chair Bauer indicated that if TFSCS does not have an authorizer by June 30, 2010, they may not have any legal status, and therefore may not have a basis to renew, should the school want to postpone their SBE hearing until September.

Ms. Ruskofsky commented that there is no hard deadline for the release of test scores, and that scores may be released very late. As such, she advised that neither the commission nor the petitioner should postpone hearings for the purpose of waiting for the release of test scores.

Ms. Corr commented that the petitioners would prefer not to move forward without a recommendation from the ACCS.

Mr. Clark commented that the dip in API scores was due to a notice distributed by LACOE informing parents that TFSCS would be closing down. As a result, teachers left their positions at TFSCS and the school had to replace a majority of their staff. Once the school had re-established its faculty, the API scores increased. Mr. Clark also indicated that the school is high-quality, taking into considering where the students originate from. He noted that API scores increased for students by 150 points.

Chair Bauer thanked the petitioners for their comments.

ACTION: Chair Bauer moved to vote by roll call on the recommendation for renewal of the Today’s Fresh Start Charter School charter petition by the SBE. The vote was as follows: Chair Bauer, opposed; Dr. Barber, opposed; Ms. Hunkapiller, in favor; Mr. Kushner, in favor; Ms. Ravare, in favor; Mr. Washington, opposed. A determination could not be made by a vote of three in favor and three opposed.

Chair Bauer indicated that, as a determination could not be made by the commission, it would be incumbent on the petitioners to work with CDE staff to determine how to proceed at the SBE meeting.

Item 9: 2010-2014 Federal Public Charter Schools Grant Program Request for Applications

Ms. Ruskofsky presented the item. She explained that the CDE has submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) for 300 million dollars to fund the Public Charter Schools Grant Program. The ED should provide a decision by August 1, 2010. Once funding has been established, the Request for Applications (RFA) will need to be approved by the SBE as a means to accept applications and distribute funding to interested charter schools.

Ms. Hunkapiller commended Ms. Ruskofsky and Lupita Cortez Alcala, Deputy State Superintendent of the Government Affairs and Charter Development Branch, for their work on the federal application, and the Charter Schools Division for their work on the RFA. Ms. Ruskofsky agreed and extended her commendation as well.

Chair Bauer offered this thanks to Ms. Hunkapiller for her work in the Charter Schools Division, and to division staff for their thorough reporting.

ACTION: Ms. Ravare moved to approve the recommendation for approval of the 2010-2014 PCSGP RFA to the SBE. Dr. Barber seconded. The motion was approved unanimously by a vote of six in favor to none opposed.

Chair Bauer indicated that the next ACCS meeting, to occur on August 18, 2010, should include a discussion of mitigating circumstances and performance for non-ASAM schools.

Chair Bauer adjourned the meeting at 3:57 p.m.

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