Long post ahead, you’ve been warned!
As reported by Eve Pearlman (video!), on Friday the State Superintendent, Jack O’Connell, came for a visit to Alameda to meet with student leaders regarding the issue of budget cuts. The student leaders from Encinal and Alameda High Schools were articulate and well spoken as usual, even putting Jack O’Connell is a position of endorsing the Parcel Tax right there and then. But of course, since he won’t be paying for it, it was probably easy for him to say that he would, but I digress.
Too bad the kids didn’t ask him for a pledge to deny any appeal to his office for the ACLC/NCLC/Nea Charter School, which has the potential to funnel away more than a million dollars away from the very kids that he promised to support at his meeting on Friday, making any cuts that have currently been made by the school district worthless and the school district needing to go back to the drawing board to play another round of what do we cut next.
And today, as promised by the leaders of ACLC/NCLC/Nea, they will come before the Alameda County Board of Education to appeal the decision made by our own School Board. The final vote will not be taken until April, but the public hearing will be held today. While some will decry the decision made by our School Board as being nitpicky and having concentrated on small problems, those folks clearly were not listening to the presentation (or read the application itself) which did not provide a comprehensive outline for the K-5 program as required by the model charter school application. But we should overlook that as them simply forgetting to cross a t or dot an i?
ACLC/NCLC/Nea leaders have time and time again insisted that they are a part of AUSD, but rather than striving to cultivate a positive relationship, with this decision to seek approval for their charter no matter what the cost during this difficult financial time, it would seem that they would rather the relationship be adversarial and competitive. ACLC supposedly contains the best and the brightest that Alameda has to offer, but the student leaders who stood tall during the walkout and protest, in front of countless media, and before the state superintendent were kids from Alameda and Encinal High Schools, the kids who will bear the brunt of an additional million plus dollars cut from the budget if this deficient charter application is approved.
If you want to weigh in on this application, a handy gmail address has been created that sends fowards directly to all members of the Alameda County Board of Education and the County Superintendent: AlamedaCtySchools@gmail.com That way you don’t have to individually cut and paste everyone’s email like I had to do.
Suprisingly, only one of the seven member County Board of Education got back to me, even if it was just a form letter basically saying: “Thanks for your email.” And that was Yvonne Cerato, the Trustee from the Tri Valley.
In other news, it would appear that ACLC has gone on the defensive, putting out a handy “cheat sheet” in order to support their application.
It interesting that ACLC claims that:
…We are urging the ACLC and NCLC communities to support AUSD’s parcel tax, even though the benefits to ACLC and NCLC are likely to be zero to very small…
Really? So ACLC students don’t take advantage of the sports programs through the school district? If an ACLC student wants to play baseball, basketball, water polo, track and field, football, swim…ACLC creates from scratch a whole team for those few students? Pays for facility maintenance, lights when there are games or practices that go into the night, coaching stipends, etc…?
If an ACLC student wants to participate in drama or band, whole productions are formed around that student at ACLC? Including hiring a drama teacher, costumes, facility rental, buying scripts, coordinating music and sets, etc….?
If there is a special needs student, then all the paraprofessionals needed to assist that student are hired by ACLC, covering all the costs that accompany those paraprofessionals, like salary, benefits (medical and retirement)?
If an ACLC student wants to participate in a club, does ACLC build a club around that student? Including finding a sponsor willing to stay after school hours, help with fundraisers, provide a location for the kids to meet?
If an ACLC student wants to take any number of electives like foreign language and AP Classes, are those classes built around that ACLC student as well? Taking time to hire a Spanish teacher (and all relative costs), French teacher (and all relative costs), or a Social Sciences, English, History, etc… teacher with the ability to teach an AP class (and all realtive costs)?
Or do they simply outsource all the most costly expenses to the School District, paying (and sometimes not paying — they only recently gave a token amount of money to the boosters club apparently) a fraction of the cost of what it takes to actually provide the services. Is the expense justified by saying, ah well this portion goes to help light the classroom, this portion to the teacher’s services to teach/grade/advise/mentor the student, this portion to help heat/cool the classroom, this portion to pay for the electricity costs for the computer/overhead projector, this portion goes to chalk/white board pens, this portion goes to making copies of assignments, this portion goes to janitorial services to clean the classroom, etc… I imagine that often the portions tend to exceed whatever payment comes from ACLC to the school district to “buy” these services from them.
And I have to say I am really offended by this statement made by ACLC:
…We will seek a west end location to make attending NCLC easiest for west end parents, many of whom cannot place their children in the higher scoring elementary schools in Alameda…
The implication is that there is something inherently wrong with West End school like Paden, Ruby Bridges, and Washington. As though having a kid in a “higher scoring elementary” is the end goal of all parents, or rather, should be the end goal of all parents. That it’s not that the West End schools (or any school for that matter) may not provide the right “fit” for the student, and the ACLC/NCLC/Nea will offer the “choice” of a different model, but rather that they will assure the student or rather, the student’s parents, that they will offer a “higher scoring” alternative rather than a different kind of education. As if a higher scoring elementary is indicative of the success of that school and not the program and teachers that are a part of that school.
Nothing in the cheat sheet addresses the direct criticism of the charter school application itself. While they may believe that they have a terrific education model for the K-5 program, what they failed to do is show it. No amount of “debunking” claims with general point by point feel good blanket statements can correct that deficiency in their application.
It’s not that ACLC has built a better educational mouse trap, it’s simply that they have found mice with a propensity to run it with with more skill than some of the other mice.
And so I leave you with this letter written by Vice Mayor Lena Tam. While the Council has no real say in issues for the School District it is refreshing to see a Councilperson take a principled stand on an issue that will make huge impacts on our school district, this was written to Gay Plair Cobb who is our representative on the County Board of Education:
Dear Gay –
Thank you for your service on the Alameda County Board of Education in representing the City of Alameda. I am writing to ask for your help in upholding the denial of the NCLC charter school application that is being appealed at your March 11 board meeting. This charter school application was denied by the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Trustees on January 9, 2008.
The NCLC charter school proposal presents an unsound educational program alternative for the K-6 pupils to be enrolled in the charter school. Alameda’s elementary and high schools are outstanding from a performance perspective and offer ‘tried and tested’ programs for our students. Unlike the BASE charter school in Alameda, which offers programs that meet special needs, NCLC’s proposal does not provide an alternative that has been tried in the elementary school level. In addition, the NCLC Charter Proposal includes a plan to deny promotion of K-5 students, who do not meet promotion expectations, to the high school level (6-12 program). This aspect of the proposal further diminishes the likelihood of achieving a racial and ethnic balance which would reflect that of the District. This balance is important in Alameda and one of the criteria in the evaluation of charter schools.
While financial considerations may not be paramount in the consideration of a charter school application, the NCLC charter school program would further exacerbate an untenable financial crisis facing AUSD. The Governor’s proposed budget cuts and the suspension of Proposition 98 would force AUSD to cut educational programs, increase class sizes, lose teachers and close schools. This is clearly unacceptable to the residents of Alameda.
Please vote to deny the NCLC (and later the Renaissance Leadership Academy) charter school petition and uphold the findings of the AUSD.
Lena Tam | Vice-Mayor, City of Alameda