At Mt. Diablo school board President Gary Eberhart’s request, the superintendent has posted a list of Questions and Answers regarding the proposed Clayton Valley HS charter conversion on its website. I am posting it below, in case blog readers would like to comment on it.
“Clayton Valley Charter Update
Charter Petition Process
1. What should I do if I signed the petition saying I am “meaningfully interested in teaching at the charter” but have changed my mind?
A. If you are no longer are interested in teaching at the charter, please e-mail or call Julie Braun Martin in the Personnel Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or 682-8000 ext. 4136 by September 5, 2011. The district is required to verify that at least 50 percent of the current permanent teachers are meaningfully interested in teaching at the charter, or the petition cannot be considered for review. Regulations exclude probationary teachers from the decision.
2. I was surprised that so many teachers were willing to sign the document. Did they have a chance to thoroughly review the charter petition before they signed it, and did they understand the implications to their employment rights?
A. We do not know whether teachers read the petition before signing, or whether the changes to their employment rights were fully explained to them.
3. When will the public know whether the teachers who signed the petition saying they were ‘meaningfully interested in teaching at the charter’ really plan to teach there? I’m worried that some of the teachers at my school will lose their jobs because of this.
A. If the charter is approved, the district staff will recommend to the board that teachers be required to resign from the district if they work at the charter school. If the charter is approved, we will request that teachers who plan to work there voluntarily submit a resignation to the District by February 1, 2012, effective June 30, 2012. The February time frame allows the charter school to have ample time to recruit teachers. The Feb., 2012 deadline also allows the District time to absorb senior tenured teachers from Clayton Valley High School who will bump into other schools, displacing more junior teachers. Once an employee submits a resignation and the board votes on it, the resignation is irrevocable.
Charter School Board
4. Who will be on the board of the charter, what experience do they have in running a school and do they have a background or significant experience with school finance?
A. The charter petition does not identify the members of its board. We understand that the charter proposers are in the process of identifying Board members. The petition indicates that the board will be composed of 2 teachers, 2 parents, 1 classified staff member, 2 members at-large, 1 retired teacher and 1 administrator. At-large members cannot be current employees of the charter.
5. If a current CVHS teacher chooses to work for the charter, do they retain district seniority and tenure?
A. No. Teachers at charter schools are at-will employees of the charter school and are not District employees. If the charter is approved, the district staff will recommend to the board that teachers who choose to work at the charter be required to resign from the District. Those teachers will lose their District tenure and seniority rights. The charter could grant seniority status and tenure, but those rights would only apply at the charter, and teachers would not have rights to employment in MDUSD.
6. Can teachers who want to work at the charter school take a leave from the District for one year or for any period of time?
A. The district, in its sole discretion, can permit or refuse to allow employees to take a leave to work at a charter school. Staff recommends against this. It is too difficult to plan, and unfair to the district teachers who remain, to hold positions within the district for teachers on leave who chose to work elsewhere. Teachers should be required to resign from the district to teach at the charter school and if they decide to reapply to the district, then they will need to go through the hiring process.
7. What happens at a charter school if a teacher needs an extended leave of absence because of a medical condition? Does the charter school have to pay the teacher who is out plus the sub? Where does that money come from?
A. The charter school board would decide whether to grant leaves of absence and whether or not those leaves are paid. It is unclear how substitute costs related to paid leaves would be funded as the current budget information received from the petitioners does not include a line for substitute teacher expense.
8. Will teachers at the charter have the right to transfer back into the District?
A. No. The district, in its sole discretion, can permit or refuse to allow employees to transfer back to the district from the charter for a limited period of time. Again, if the charter is approved, the staff will recommend against allowing such transfers. In considering transfers, the district must consider the equity of allowing teachers who leave to work elsewhere to return and thereby displace other district employees. If we were to permit transfers back, it would be unfair to our employees at other schools who could lose their jobs to make room for transfers from the charter.
9. Do the Ed Code rules for teacher termination apply to teachers at the charter school?
A. No. While the district must strictly adhere to the due process dismissal rules as set forth in the Education Code, charter schools do not have to abide by those rules. Charter school teachers are at-will employees who can be terminated at any time without cause unless the charter board decides to give them protection from at-will dismissal.
10. Will the teachers and classified staff at the charter be covered by the district’s current bargaining agreements?
A. The charter petition says employees of the charter will be covered by the collective bargaining agreements in place at the time of conversion until it negotiates different agreements. However, those agreements would be between the employees and the charter, not the District. The charter board would need to adopt the contracts as written for this to occur. The charter board could modify any district agreements, or they could write new ones from scratch. Again, contract negotiations would be between the charter school and the charter employees union.
11. The charter school plans to open in September 2012 and district teachers are not required to give notice until June 2012 of their intention to return to the District. How will the District plan to absorb those teachers who decide not to work at the charter school?
A. If the charter is approved, the District will ask CVHS teachers who plan to work at the charter to submit a resignation form by Feb. 1, 2012 to be effective at the end of the 2011/12 school year. If the district is unsuccessful in getting resignation forms, it will have to do precautionary layoffs by March 15, 2012 in order to reduce or eliminate the number of FTE equal to the number of teachers who are eligible to teach at the charter. This will impact staffing at most, if not all, secondary schools.
12. The charter school will be funded at a higher rate than CVHS currently is funded. Will the district cover the shortfall by taking funding away from other schools?
A. Yes. The charter will be funded at the charter high school rate, which is higher than the unified funding rate the district currently receives. The board will have to determine how to cover the shortfall. The difference is about $800 per student at the charter school. There are currently about 1900 students at the school, so the district would lose about $1.52 million dollars each year the charter was in operation.
13. Would CVCHS be willing to forgo the high school funding rate and to be funded at the lower unified rate so as not to create a financial drain on the remaining schools in the district?
A. The budget projections that the charter submitted were based on the higher funding rate. They can negotiate a lower rate with the district, but at this point, they have not indicated they are interested in a lower funding rate to minimize impact to the rest of the district.
14. Is the proposed budget realistic? Can the charter proposers do what they say they want to do with the amount of revenue they project?
A. The charter proposal includes little detail about programs and costs. The ExEd firm that developed the budget for the proposers, and who the petition says will be their business services provider, said in a meeting that they used typical charter budget figures which assume most teachers will be lower on the salary scale. If the charter hires mostly teachers on the low end of the salary schedule, those predictions could be realistic. If they hire experienced teachers, costs would rise significantly. The charter proposers have also indicated that they do not plan to use union custodial or landscape maintenance services, but instead will contract out those services. Charter schools are not required to use the district’s services, and can achieve cost savings by hiring low wage employees.
15. I notice also that the budget that is proposed contemplates a $2 Million loan, presumably for startup expenses. If the sponsors cannot meet projected enrollment or revenues do not match predictions, and the school is forced to discontinue operations, who then pays back the loan? Does this obligation fall back on the District? Have the sponsors said anything about where they will get this loan?
A. The charter will be an independent corporation. The district will not be liable for debts of the charter as long as the district meets its obligation of fiscal oversight. If the charter is approved, the District will follow the oversight obligations to minimize its legal exposure for debts and other obligations of the charter. However, the district will have to adjust its budget, if necessary, for any costs associated with reabsorbing the students back into the District, including the expense of hiring staff and teachers if the charter school is unsuccessful. The charter application does not specify the source of the charter will acquire the $2 million loan.
16. What is the district’s response to comments by the sponsors that the district’s assessment of the financial impact of the conversion is overblown, because it does not take into account the savings that would be realized from expenses relating to the operation of the high school that would be taken off the district’s books?
A. The district will not realize significant savings if it no longer operates Clayton Valley High School. This fact is due to all of the budget reductions that have been made to district office staff prior to now. In fact, we are not aware of a single district level position that could be reduced as a result of Clayton Valley High opening as a charter school.
17. How long will the charter school day and year be?
A. The information in the charter petition is vague. Bell schedules and calendars were not included, but there is a statement that the school year could be longer.
18. Would my child have to attend school in the summer at the charter school? We usually take a long vacation in the summer, and the petition says the summer induction is mandatory. How long is the induction, when is it, and what happens if we are on vacation during that time?
A. There are no specifics about the mandatory summer induction in the proposal.
19. Will the charter require all students to wear uniforms?
A. There is mention of uniforms in the charter petition, but no clear information.
20. What are the courses of study being offered at the charter school?
A. The petition says ‘a full catalog of courses’ but there are no other details included.
21. What kind of grading system will be used at the charter?
A. There is no description of a grading system.
22. What will be the graduation requirement at the charter?
A. The petition indicates the ‘goal’ is 230 credits, but does not contain a clear timeline to achieve this goal.
23. When will the curriculum plan for the charter school be developed?
A. The petition did not provide a timeline.
24. When will the charter assessment plan be developed?
A. The petition did not provide timeline for developing the assessment plan.
25. How will teaching effectiveness and student learning be monitored to ensure that instruction is rigorous and students are engaged and learning at the charter?
A. The petition did not provide a description or details on how it will ensure rigorous instruction and engagement.
26. What specific strategies will be used to address the diverse learning needs of students at all ability and achievement levels, as well as of all racial, socio-economic, and linguistic backgrounds?
A. The petition does not provide a description or details about this.
27. How will instruction be individualized for students who are more advanced or behind their grade level peers? What will be the curriculum or teaching methodology for these students?
A. No details are provided in the petition.
28. What is the school calendar and how is the school day scheduled?
A. Several options were discussed in the petition but no definite selection was made.
29. Will there be a summer program for students wanting enrichment or remediation? What about students who need to make up credits?
A. A summer program is referenced in the petition for year 2 but there are no details about which students will be eligible or allowed to attend, or what the budget for this program would be.
30. How much English Language development will students who are English learners get? How will this instruction be provided? How will English learners be supported in core instruction?
A. The petition does not contain details relative to how much ELD English learners will receive, how that instruction will be provided or how English learners will be supported in the core instruction.
31. Historically, charter schools have not served large numbers of students with special needs. How will the charter school ensure it has personnel and resources in place to assess and support students with special needs so they have access to the charter experience?
A. The charter school must enroll all students whether or not they are in special education. The district would initially need to ensure that the charter school has an appropriate plan for special education students.
32. What is the suspension and expulsion appeal processes? (a) Where will students be placed pending their expulsion hearing? (b) Where will students be placed if they are in fact expelled from the school?
A. There is no appeal process if students are suspended or expelled from the charter school. The petition does not address where the students will be placed pending expulsion hearings or when they are expelled from the charter school. However, if students are expelled from the charter school, parents will most likely seek to enroll their students back in a district school.
33. Will students have the services of a school nurse? (a) What will be the role of the school nurse? (b) What will the services be for those students who have medical issues that prevent them from attending school?
A. The charter intends to be a ‘school of the District’ for special education purposes. Therefore, students whose IEPs require nursing services will have those services provided by the District. The charter school organizers have not indicated whether general education students, including those with Section 504 plans that require nursing services, will be provided with them.
33. If all CVHS students don’t attend the charter, will the district be operating CVHS at the same site?
A. For purposes of determining whether to grant the petition, the law requires that the district assume that all or the vast majority of current CVHS students will attend the charter and therefore, that the charter will use the entire facility.
35. I notice the budget does not have any line item for reimbursing the district for the use of the campus through rent or any other mechanism. Is this what is required by the Education Code when there is a direct conversion? It seems any other operator would need to pay for a facility.
A: There are California statutes that address the facility charges that a school district charges a charter school for the use of a district school. Beginning with its first year of operation as an independent conversion charter, the charter will have to pay a charge for the use of the district facility. The applicable rate is determined in statute.”
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This message doesn’t state who submitted the questions. Some of them could have been answered by reading the petition, which is available at https://sites.google.com/site/claytonvalleycharterhighschool.
It’s surprising that the district didn’t specifically answer the question about whether the district would save money by not having to operate the charter. Instead, it said the savings would not be “significant.” It also stated that no district office positions could be eliminated as a result of the conversion.
As I have previously pointed out, the School Closure Committee was given estimates for how much the district would save if it discontinued operating each campus in the district. The amount for Clayton Valley HS was listed as nearly $1.7 million — including several site administrators, office workers, campus supervisors and custodians — as well as utility savings. No district office staff were eliminated as a result of closing Glenbrook or Holbrook either, yet the district still saved money by discontinuing operations of those campuses.
The Q&A also doesn’t specify how much money the district would receive from Clayton Valley in rental income. These revenues would partially offset the loss of ADA revenues.
Also, the district knows how much each teacher at CVHS earns. It could provide the public with information about whether those who signed the petition are at the high or low pay range.
Finally, the Q&A doesn’t reveal whether district staff plans to recommend that trustees approve or deny the charter.
Although I normally pose only one question at the end of blog posts, this Q&A raises a few I would like to throw out:
1. In light of this new information, do you believe trustees should approve the charter?
2. If trustees approve the charter, do you believe they should require charter teachers to resign from the district? (Or, do you think they should allow a one-year leave of absence?)
3. Do you think the district should tell the public how much it spends to operate CVHS and how much it could charge in rent, so the public would know both the costs as well as the possible revenue loss associated with the possible conversion? (In essence, should the district reveal how much it would save or lose, when the cost of operations and possible revenues from rent are taken into consideration?)