All five Clayton Valley City Council members spoke in favor of a teacher-led petition to convert Clayton Valley High School in Concord to a charter school during a packed Mt. Diablo school board hearing Tuesday.
Most of the roughly two dozen other speakers at the meeting also threw their enthusiastic support behind the proposal, which trustees expect to approve or deny on Sept. 13. If it is denied, petitioners plan to appeal to the Contra Costa County Board of Education and the state, if necessary.
“Our physical building and grounds are deteriorating to the point of embarrassment,” said Clayton Vice Mayor Howard Geller. “We, of the City Council, feel strongly that a charter school run by qualified teachers and members of our community would not only bring back the quality of teaching we once had, but also make our community one that people will want to live in — to attend what we are confident will become the jewel of high schools in education for our area and the Mt. Diablo school district.”
The only people who spoke against the petition were the principals of Northgate High in Walnut Creek and Ygnacio Valley High in Concord, which are also in the district. The crowd — decked out in blue T-shirts endorsing the charter — booed Northgate Principal John McMorris, after he said Clayton Valley could accomplish its goals within the district. Ygnacio Valley High Principal Bill Morones referred to a U.S. Department of Education study that showed charter schools on average don’t perform better than other schools.
But many charter supporters disagreed with McMorris and Morones, saying they want to break free of the district so they can reinvigorate the school. Rep. George Miller, D-Concord, who didn’t attend the meeting, is also in favor of the plan.
Here is an excerpt of a supportive letter Miller sent to the district:
“I believe that the proposal by the Clayton Valley Charter High School Steering Committee presents an important opportunity for the Mt. Diablo Unified School District to explore alternative educational forums and opportunities in your very diverse and dynamic district.
During my time in the Congress serving on the Education and Workforce Committee, including serving as Chair of the Committee, I have had the opportunity to witness the growth and evolution of the public charter school movement in California and across our nation.
The record of charters to date is mixed but there are many well thought out programs that are providing both learning and teaching environments with significant improvements in both school and student performance. Many of these charters also fulfill the original mission of public charters, which is to give school districts the opportunity to try different models for teaching and learning under more flexible rules and regulations and to serve as laboratories for experimentation for their districts. When done right, important feedback can be shared with districts on such topics as classroom teaching and preparation, time management, professional development, collaborative student learning, use of technology and other common academic interests.
I believe that the Clayton Valley Charter High School Steering Committee proposal has the real potential to be one of the success stories of the public charter school efforts in California. I personally met with the lead petitioners and we discussed their comprehensive research, their innovative ideas, and their plan of action. They displayed enthusiasm and commitment to the limitless potential of this movement that was inspiring. This energy, coupled with important partnerships with some of the best charter support groups in the business (California Charter Schools Association, ExED accounting firm and the law offices of Middleton, Young and Minney), should undoubtedly lead them down the right path.”
Parent Faculty Club President Alison Bacigalupo said charter organizers would post information about the election process for charter board and committee members soon on their website at https://sites.google.com/site/claytonvalleycharterhighschool. The Powerpoint presented by teachers Pat Middendof and Neil McChesney is at https://sites.google.com/site/claytonvalleycharterhighschool/powerpoint-3-8-9-11.
District staff did not make a recommendation and trustees didn’t speak for or against it. Board President Gary Eberhart asked Superintendent Steven Lawrence to post Questions and Answers about the petition on the district’s website at http://www.mdusd.org/Pages/default.aspx.
After the meeting, California Charter Schools Association Vice President Nick Driver sent me a 2009 EdSource study of charter schools in the state, which shows that charter high schools in California outperformed noncharters by 8.6 points on the API and middle schools outperformed noncharters by 26 points, while elementary school charters collectively underperformed.
“Overall,” Driver said in an e-mail, “if you were to take all three levels in the aggregate, charter schools in California outperform, since high schools account for 40 percent of all charter schools.”
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