Thursday, April 23, 2009

Clear View School ends its charter status...not with a bang but a whimper

Charter ends, but another may begin
By Chris Moran
Sand Diego Union-Tribune
April 16, 2009

Background: In 1994, Clear View Elementary School converted itself into an autonomous charter school in the Chula Vista Elementary School District.

What's changing: A majority of teachers voted to let the charter – its permission to operate – expire in June.

...In June, Clear View will become the first charter school in Chula Vista to give up its exemption from much local bureaucracy and state regulation and revert to a traditional public school...

Seven of the 29 teachers who wanted to continue working for a charter have drawn up plans for another autonomous campus – Leonardo da Vinci Health Sciences Charter School – at a vacant church nearby.

Last month, they petitioned the Chula Vista school board for permission to open this summer. They are scheduled to get their answer Tuesday when the Chula Vista school board next meets.

...Few teachers were still using project-based learning. The school exercised its freedom primarily through how it spent money.

Nor was the school achieving its potential. From 1999 to 2008, Clear View was the least improved of the Chula Vista district's schools. It also posted the lowest reading and math scores for non-English-speaking students of all 44 district schools last year.

This year may not be much better. The vote on whether to stay a charter school caused internal strife that ended friendships and caused some employees to avoid the teachers lounge, Principal Sherroll Stogsdill-Posey said.

[Maura Larkins´note...This is typical of teacher CULTURE in CVESD and elsewhere. Politics supersedes professionalism with distressing frequency. And children suffer the consequences.]

“I do believe it will have had an effect on instruction this year,” she said. “This has become such a huge issue that it can't not seep in.”

...Then the economy tanked, Chula Vista became a foreclosure capital and the number of teaching jobs stagnated. Now the district has to release temporary teachers because of its tight budget.

...Reading specialist Meg Rabine voted to end the charter...For her, resigning from the district could have meant losing $10,000 to $15,000 a year in salary for the rest of her career. Although she supports charters, Rabine came to Clear View because she respected and liked its teachers. If the school stayed charter, most of those teachers would have left Clear View for the secure employment of the district's traditional schools...

Amber Goslee isn't ready to abandon charter schools...In Goslee's class, students record songs on laptop computers. They write scripts and make videos. They design learning stations from which their peers glean information on plate tectonics.

After eight years of teaching, Goslee also has much to lose if her new venture fails. But the way she figures it, she has more to lose if she abandons the charter's ideals.

“I don't want to stay in schooling, in education, if it continues to be so scripted,” Goslee said. “I'd rather have my freedom than my security.”

Goslee is among those who drew up the da Vinci plans for 160 kindergarten through sixth-grade students...

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Chula Vista's ballot information on Prop A is misleading

The sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet we received with the Official Ballot regarding Proposition A, is very misleading. The pamphlet states on p. 4, that Proposition A would among other points:

"MAINTAIN after-school programs like STRETCH and DASH that keep kids away from drugs, gangs and crime." In fact, There is a pamphlet in the mailbox today in favor of prop. A, in which, among others, Patricia Aguilar, President of Crossroads II, states: "Prop. A will ........ maintain after school programs that give kids alternatives to gangs and drugs."

I have contacted Patricia Aguilar to ask her to specify exactly what after school programs will be maintained with prop. A. I'm waiting to hear from her.

Several weeks ago, the city of Chula Vista officially handed over the running of the after school programs in the 33 elementary schools where DASH and STRETCH is operating today to the YMCA as of the new school year starting in July. Nancy Kerwin, the Executive Director of Student, Family, and Community Services and Support, called me before the March 10th district meeting and told me that even if Prop. A passed, it wouldn't be nearly enough to save DASH and STRETCH. In fact, the money first goes into the general fund and is then dispersed down the totem pole. DASH and STRETCH are towards the bottom of that pole, besides, the City no longer has a say. When they withdrew their funds, they lost their voice.

The district has already officially voted to 'seamlessly transfer' the said programs to the YMCA. They have already contacted parents in multiple ways just to inform us that all is saved even without the tax initiative.

To date, the transition thus far has been anything but seamless. Some principals are pulling in DASH and STRETCH staff to tell them that they won't be here next year. Teachers are congratulating the two time award winning staff, only it's not for a job well done for these past ten years, it's for being saved. Only thing is, they haven't been saved. Children are confused and crying to their coaches, giving of their own money in an attempt to save these programs, while trusting parents are being carefully misled. We are tired of being misled.

I feel it is very important that the thousands of families whose children attend DASH and STRETCH, and others who support them, know all the facts before deciding whether to vote Yes or No on Proposition A. After all, we are the one’s paying the price with more than just our wallets.

Elisa Betancourt


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Castle Park High School loses girls sports case; when will Randy Ward hire lawyers who advise schools to follow the law?

A judge has ruled against Castle Park High School regarding the equality of girls' sports facilities (see story from SDUT below).

Shame on San Diego County Office of Education-Joint Powers Authority and its member school districts for helping schools to ignore the law and, even worse, to engage in retaliation against those who complain about violations of law.

Instead of wasting tax dollars in endless litigation, SDCOE lawyer Daniel Shinoff should have settled this case and many other cases. Even worse is Shinoff's systematic removal of good school employees by helping the school district retaliate against those who complained. The Castle Park High case in Sweetwater Union High School District (see story below) is all too familiar.

The firing of the Castle Park High coach is reminiscent of
1) the Coach James "Ted" Carter case;
2) the Mary Anne Weegar case (also in Sweetwater Union High School District);
3) the Rodger Harnett case.

In another example of unlawful retaliation, SDCOE recently sued this blogger for serving a deposition subpoena on Risk Management Executive Director Diane Crosier.

It's time for SDCOE Superintendent Randy Ward to hire lawyers who will guide schools toward compliance with the law, instead of lawyers who try to help schools get away with wrongdoing. But most importantly, the retaliation has to stop. A judge recently told Mr. Ward that he should conduct investigations of wrongdoing instead of firing whistle-blowers.

Judge rules school shows bias in sports
By Brent Schrotenboer
San Diego Union-Tribune
April 2, 2009

SOUTH BAY — A federal judge has ruled that Castle Park High School has allowed “significant gender-based disparity” in sports at the expense of female athletes.

In a summary judgment this week, U.S. District Court Judge M. James Lorenz ruled that Castle Park is not in compliance with Title IX, the 37-year-old federal law that forbids sex discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal funds...

The remaining claims will go forward in court, including one that the district retaliated against the plaintiffs by firing their coach after they complained of discrimination.

The plaintiffs showed that while female enrollment at Castle Park was 45 percent to 50 percent since 1998, female participation in athletics was 33 percent to 41 percent during those years...

Over the past 11 years in the county, the Ramona school district, Mesa College and the Grossmont Union High School District have faced similar legal complaints involving Title IX and subpar softball facilities.