Ross Valley (WALMART) Charter

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Community members following the bitter division caused by the Ross Valley Charter may be surprised to learn that the self-identified “home grown,” charter was recently awarded a $325,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation (here). The Waltons made their billions exploiting labor overseas and in the U.S., resulting in the shuttering of American mom and pop stores, leaving small towns devastated and the global environment spoiled by rabid consumerism (here). Apparently, the only good thing to come out of Walmart is this pint-sized yodeling sensation. The community has spoken; RVCorp is under-enrolled and the community has united against them. However, in a stunning move, they have aligned themselves with a right-wing family looking to destroy public education and unions, and to fundamentally alter the small towns we love (maybe this legal form came in handy?).

The Waltons are the founders and owners of Walmart, and are the wealthiest family in America (watch Bernie Sanders on the Waltons) who famously made $12.7 billion in one day (link). The Waltons are on an “ideological crusade” to apply their brand of capitalism to public education in this country. In what the Washington Post described as, “The WalMartization of Public Education,” they have invested heavily in charters and vouchers in their well-funded efforts to dismantle one of the cornerstones of this nation, public education. According to this recent and damning work by The Guardian, the Waltons, along with their peers, the Koch Brothers, are also secretly using their dark money to attack and discredit teachers and their recent strikes. Members of the .01%, the extremely politically conservative family apparently believes that their wealth entitles them to set public policy for Americans coast-to-coast. According to Bill Moyers, they’ve had a huge influence on the Los Angeles Unified School District, where they’ve given $85 million for charters, and $1 million to back pro-charter candidates. The Waltons (Penners) even gave $250,000 to defeat a ballot proposition in California in 2006, which would have provided universal preschool to all children, and provided better working conditions for the most underpaid teachers of all, preschool teachers!

But wait, there’s more!!

The Waltons are just the latest addition to a slew of billionaires who are leaving their massive footprints all over our community. As of 2011, the Waltons had donated $31 million to the California Charter Schools Association, where today, the Walton Education Coalition Director, Joe Williams, sits as the Vice Chair along with RVCorp board member, Kristi Kimball. Ms. Kimball heads the Schwab Foundation, which heavily invests and funds charters and other school privatization schemes (read last year’s blog, Who is Really Backing RVC). It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to surmise that Ms. Kimball had a hand in getting RVCorp their first billionaire-backed grant in the form of the $150,000 grant awarded by billionaire Reed Hastings, owner of Netflix (read our blog about that here and check out our diagram of dark money connections here), and put in a “good word” for RVCorp with her colleague, Joe Williams.

Dear community members. If you moved here for the community and small town flavor, anchored by our excellent public schools, please STAND with us to protect it from this right-wing billionaire assault, charading as a feel-good, locally-grown charter school. What can you do?

  1. Hit us up for a sign or magnet: hello@standwithrossvalleyschools.org

  2. Help us continue our work and donate to our gofundme.

  3. Spread the word! Share these blogs widely with friends and neighbors, on social media, but also IN PERSON! If you have connections at local preschools, even better! We will have packets to distribute to interested folks within a week. Email us if you’re interested in receiving a packet.

  4. If you have friends at the charter, please talk to them. Ask them how they feel about their school being funded by WalMart and ask them to come back to our excellent, truly public schools.

Together, we CAN save our schools and community from the incursion of these billionaire ideologues.

Say No to Billionaire Bullies!

“The definition of bullying is when there’s a power imbalance and there’s repeated harm against those who are less powerful… (At a) macro and policy level…the billionaires and the technology companies who have the power...are attacking public education… If you look at who’s getting attacked, (it’s) women and children... in communities of color… the least politically powerful and most disenfranchised in our community… and teachers…(which is) primarily a female profession… Easy targets…”
— Dr. Roxana Marachi, NAACP, March 12, 2018

As the Ross Valley community reels from the continuing and ongoing disruptions instigated by the Ross Valley Charter (which filed suit against our public schools for the second time, on March 16, 2018), it is appalling to learn that the charter’s continued malfeasance and hijinks are being financed to the tune of a $150,000 grant. The grant was given by The Hastings Fund, which is financed by the deep pockets of Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, who also had a direct role in the creation of the public education wrecking ball, Proposition 39. Hastings, his Fund’s CEO, Nareev Kingsland, RVC Board member, Kristi Kimball, and other powerful operators (explained more fully here and here), are not only running roughshod over the Ross Valley community and its kids, by continuing their attacks on our excellent and highly-rated public schools, they are supporting a group of operators with a proven record of discrimination, about which the ACLU expressed “grave reservations.” Despite their claims to the contrary, RVC is a true astroturf group.

For those who are new to the charter school and public education/privatization debate, Mr. Hastings looms large. After a successful career in the tech industry, he decided that the free-market ideals of competition, disruption and consumer “choice” (i.e., shopping), needed to be applied to public education. He’s gone on to become one of the most powerful education “Deformers,” applying his billions of dollars and his outsize influence to reduce supports and resources for neighborhood public schools, hurting vulnerable children and educators along the way.

Mr. Hastings was appointed by then Governor, Gray Davis, to the California State Board of Education (SBE) in 2000, becoming its President in 2001, where he remained until 2005, when he resigned after some in the legislature questioned his policy directives. The SBE proved an excellent perch from which to begin his assault on public education. In November of 2000, while sitting on the SBE, he spent $1 million to ensure the passage of Proposition 39, which ostensibly lowered the bond threshold for passage of public school facility construction (from 66% to 55%). As local residents are probably well aware, Prop 39 contained a trojan horse requiring public districts to house charters. According to this article from 2000, “the agreement between two of the state's fiercest Proposition 39 proponents -- Hastings and the teachers union -- has given charter operators a significant boost unseen in many other states.” Mr. Hastings has not been shy about his disdain for democratically-elected, local school boards, and his stated desire to do away with them entirely. In addition to his own fund, Mr. Hastings serves on the board of KIPP, a controversial and highly profitable “non-profit” charter chain which recently won approval at the State Board of Education for new charters in San Francisco and San Jose, over the objections of locals, the NAACP, and overriding the votes of those communities’ democratically elected boards (sound familiar?). He also has financially enabled Rocketship, another highly contested charter chain (link).

Despite The Hastings Fund’s purported intention to, “expand educational opportunity,” because, “too many children do not have access to amazing schools,” and “to partner with communities” to “increase… access to rich and holistic educational experiences,” Mr. Hastings and his cronies are actually reducing our 2,000 kids’ access to our already amazing schools and teachers, all in support of a new charter based on a 20-year program with a proven track record of discrimination against the very children he professes need saving from public education. The very undemocratic way RVC came into being, and the lack of regard they continue to show for the larger Ross Valley community, is the polar opposite of “partnering with.”

Via its CEO, Mr. Kingsland, the Hastings Foundation is closely linked to RVC Board member, Kristi Kimball, who works for billionaire Charles Schwab, doling out his billions to charters across the country (including KIPP). Both Mr. Kingsland and Ms. Kimball sit on the California Charter Schools Association’s (CCSA) Board, one of the biggest lobbying groups in California (here). Mr. Kingsland cut his teeth helping to transform 90% of the New Orleans School District into charters, in a stunning example of what Naomi Klein has dubbed, “The Shock Doctrine.” According to this study from Stanford’s Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, these changes have "created a set of schools that are highly stratified by race, class, and educational advantage, operating in a hierarchy that provides very different types of schools and to different types of children. While some have choice; others do not." Mr. Kingsland casually concedes (here), that despite the these radical changes, and the firing of thousands of mostly African American female educators, "the school system is far from excellent".  Nonetheless, Mr. Kingsland and Ms. Kimball had a conversation here, comparing “the charter sector” to Uber (spoiler alert: charters are “1000 times more difficult than Uber”), and this one, where he likens public school districts to “greedy corporations,” and closes with this statement, “...shout out to Kristi Kimball for ideas that this post was built upon.” Good to know that Ms. Kimball believes districts, staffed with educators who have heeded a call to teach and work with children, are “greedy corporations.” That attitude toward our excellent public schools explains a lot of RVC’s actions, doesn’t it?

The Ross Valley community is dismayed that its kids and excellent teachers are being bullied by those who use their billions to exploit undemocratic policies, which have already decimated many urban districts (New Orleans, Detroit, Oakland and Los Angeles). We cannot remain silent as these ill-conceived laws are applied to our small, underfunded, and high-performing school district. For those who insist we are a wealthy district and can afford a pet-project charter school advocated for by the privileged (with a history of discrimination) please take note: California’s per-pupil funding comes in 41st in the country and Ross Valley School District’s per-pupil funding is at the bottom 10% of state funding. Despite this, our neighborhood district schools perform in the top 7% of the state. We have no choice but to Stand up to these bullies and their assault on our excellent, democratically-governed schools; a fight against the privatization of public education that threatens to run our schools - and so many other underfunded public schools - into the ground.

Go Public, Not Charter!

RVC - Temper Your Antagonism, Please?

As many of you may know, in Sept and Oct. of 2017, the charter went on a campaign to secure signatures for their "Intent to Enroll" (ITE) forms for the 2018/19 school year. These forms are the basis for the projected enrollment numbers used for RVC’s Prop 39 facilities request to RVSD.

Stand discovered that this “recruiting” included emails to private school parents asking for signatures on ITE forms, whether or not they intended to enroll their children at RVC. The email, from an RVC parent who is on RVC’s Leadership Council, specifically stated, "This is a legal hoop we have to jump through for space for next year."  Additionally, we know RVC representatives were regularly stationed at local (and not local) farmers’ markets and parks asking people to sign ITE forms for "more information," and making it clear it wasn’t a commitment to enroll.

Despite these dubious tactics, on 1/31/18 RVSD accepted the charter’s ITE-based forecast of 144 in-district students for the 2018/19 school year in good faith.  Based on this projection, RVSD offered six classrooms/teaching stations, which equates to approximately 24 students per class, the equivalent to district class sizes. RVSD also offered a reduction in the use of the Multi-Purpose Room, gym, outdoor space, etc. from 20% to 17% as RVC’s enrollment forecast is 45 fewer students than this school year.

On 2/16, the charter sent a threatening letter in response to RVSD’s offer. In this letter, the charter demanded that RVSD revise its offer by 2/21 and claimed they would take legal action -a circumvention of the legally binding timeline laid out in the Prop 39 law, which is the very law the charter themselves invoked.  On 2/17, after the demand letter was sent by RVC to the district, the charter had a special closed session board meeting, where the board voted unanimously to sue the district if they didn't get what they wanted by 2/21. 

On 2/21 RVSD replied to the charter’s demands, essentially saying that they would continue to follow the Prop 39 timeline and advised the charter to "temper its antagonism as litigation at this point is entirely premature."

On 2/23 the charter responded to the district, stating that they are well within their rights to sue because they believe RVSD is not providing enough classrooms to the charter. They closed this letter stating they would be sending their "formal" reply to RVSD's offer of six classrooms soon.

On 3/1, this time following the legally prescribed timeline, the charter sent its formal reply to the district demanding ten classrooms for their “projected” 144 in-district students.  Six classrooms for teaching stations and four classrooms for art, music, and specialized space. In the letter, they also requested the following: 

·      More allocated parking spaces, despite a lack of available parking at White Hill.

·      Upgraded outdoor lighting – None of the RVSD elementary schools have what would be deemed “upgraded lighting”. 

·      Better/mended fencing.

·      Shared use of the White Hill picnic tables, in addition to the picnic tables designated solely for the charter.  Will White Hill students, likewise, get to use the RVC tables and space?

·      And, more...

Recently a charter supporter (and former MAP board member) claimed in a social media post that RVC does not have to use the classrooms the way they are allocated.  Meaning, they can demand classrooms for art and music and use them instead as homerooms, likely to accommodate more out of district students. This despite the fact that Prop 39 law clearly states that district facilities allocated to the charter through Prop 39 are for IN-DISTRICT children only.

None of these actions – (illegally?) inflating enrollment projections in order to secure more space; demanding RVSD revise their offer, under threat of legal action and outside of the Prop 39 prescribed timeline; demanding classrooms for art and music for in-district students but then using the rooms to house out-of-district students - lead to a peaceful co-existence with RVSD. Nor is RVC being a good neighbor to their neighbor's children or to the teachers at White Hill, as they claim they wish to be.

If, in its negotiations, the district does offer more classrooms than the preliminary offer of six, will the charter still sue RVSD to get more classroom space for out-of-district students? Can the community trust that the charter will only ask for what it really needs to serve its in-district students, as the law prescribes?  Taking much-needed district classrooms and filling them with out-of-district kids is morally wrong and not the intention of Prop 39.  We join other voices in our community and ask RVC to do the right thing - take only what is needed for your in-district students.

Charter school says they will sue RVSD if they don't get what they want

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THANK YOU to the community members who attended the prop 39 charter school board meeting last night.  

At the board meeting, charter leaders made it crystal clear that they will sue RVSD if they don't get what they want.

For those who were not able to attend, here is a brief recap:Prop 39 and enrollment: 

•   The charter discussed the prop 39 letter from RVSD.  Kristi Kimball stated that she thought it was “pretty shocking” that the district did not account for any specialized space.  The specialized space is what the charter is basing its space allocation argument on.

•   The board stated that that RVSD provides art and music.  The “District’s fingerprints are all over this. Those teachers are paid and tenured.” The charter is trying to prove that these specialized classrooms are provided to the student population by the district and should have been allocated or included in the space given.

•   The charter discussed the PRAs submitted to RVSD.  They only got 1/3 back of what they requested.  Conn Hickey said it will take another 2 weeks to get the additional info from  the PRA to come back from the district.

•   Mr. Hickey spoke about a letter that will be submitted to the district to ask for resolution as they are under a time crunch. If the district does not provide them additional classrooms, the litigious prop 39 charter, will once again, sue our school district. 

•   Comments made by the charter school leaders included, “We can’t wait” (referring to the back and forth legal Prop 39 steps deadlines) as “March is the time to enroll” and it is “not easy to get a court date”.   Mr. Hickey stated that he is “pretty confident that if it gets in front of a judge they will side with us”. 

•   It should be noted that the charter wants to sue in March, before final demand offers are due to be completed under the Prop 39 process. All because they see the urgency, and parents make decisions about schools in March. So once again, like when they were MAP, they are walking away from the process that they invoked, to go nuclear and file a lawsuit.  This is the same behavior exhibited by the charter leaders in 2014 when they walked away from mediation and filed for charter. 

•   The prop 39 charter stated that there are allegedly 25 TK/K students on the waitlist for this year (2017/2018) from WISE/Heartwood. They want to open the eighth classroom to accommodate this group. If the charter school adds the classroom and gets that attendance, the charter alleges that it will meet the 165 students per their original application and will avoid the material revision and fees due to the district.  However, this is not accurate. The fines are levied on low numbers of in district children, not the total number of children enrolled.  

•   Although the increased enrollment may allow the charter school to avoid a material revision, they are still required to revise the petition prior to allowing the founders/teachers and siblings to have priority.

•   RVC is confident that the July material revision will allow for the carve outs for siblings and children of staff/founders to occur.  There was further discussion about the sibling policy.  The majority of in district siblings will have priority, but not the out of district. 

•   Last night, rather than “hold seats’ for these illegally prioritized applicants, the charter board voted to reduce the number of seats available in the lottery.  This is a violation of the enrollment policies in the approved charter petition and the SBE should do their job and not allow RVC to enroll any children outside of the lottery process.

•   The return of the White Hill library was mentioned in passing. The agreement is in their hands for signature. But they are concerned that, should they add the 7th class - and maybe the 8th class - in this school year, that they will need all the space that is available to them. The internal battle is whether they make a sacrifice in space in 2017-2018 to create an advantage for the 2018-2019 school year.

Budget:

•   Once again, the charter board did not provide any update on its progress towards finding $250,000 in grant funding, with $150,000 needed in March. 

The definition of litigious is:

a : disputatious, contentious

b : prone to engage in lawsuits

 As it becomes clear that RVC will be suing RVSD if they don't get what they want, we thought we would remind our supporters of RVC's own words.

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 Ross Valley Charter will be suing our school district for the second time. The charter is certainly "prone to engage in lawsuits".

 

RVC's Trump Connections, Part 2

 "Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships. I call it competition--the American way." Donald Trump, November 2016

"Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships. I call it competition--the American way." Donald Trump, November 2016

Why does RVC keep claiming they are the champions of underserved, English Language Learners (ELL), and low income (FRL) kids? We find their claims to be disingenuous, but familiar, given the claims made by right wing education reformers across the country, and even in our own backyard. Click here to read the article about how “ed reformers,” operating as “Innovate Charter” in San Francisco, funded by the Waltons, Schwab ($500,000) and others, are using race and the performance gap between African American and white/Asian students, to justify a privatization push there, rankling NAACP leaders and dividing the SFUSD community. Charter folks there echo the California Charter Schools Association’s (CCSA) language, describing this as a “war,” and causing San Francisco parents to ask, “Are we at war?”  

As many readers know, Schwab and the CCSA have a direct link to the Ross Valley Charter. The Schwab Foundation, is headed by RVC Board member and Fairfax resident, Kristi Kimball, who also sits on the CCSA board. According to Fortune, Schwab was one of the largest donors to Donald Trump’s inauguration, giving  $1 million. It is unclear if the donation came from the Schwab Foundation, or Charles Schwab himself (perhaps this could be a question for the next RVC board meeting?). This newly discovered Trump connection adds to what we already know about RVC and its connections to right-wing groups and billionaire “reformers” (click here for a refresher and here to read the California Charter Schools Association’s congratulations to Betsy DeVos).

How can RVC continue to claim to care so much about disadvantaged children while maintaining such close links to the President and his top funders? How can they claim to be motivated to serve underserved kids when they had a proven record of discrimination against them?

We ask our friends and neighbors, do we really want our excellent public schools disrupted and privatized by billionaire-backed and right-wing groups? We say no, and invite you to STAND with us for our truly public, neighborhood schools.

RVC's Trump Connections Part 1

We hear over and over again from RVC’s taxpayer-funded marketing materials and public statements, that they exist to provide a better education to English Language Learners (ELL), and low-income kids (FRL) than that which those kids could get in our public schools. In addition to being insulting to their colleagues in the Ross Valley School District (RVSD), and other districts (read how San Rafael fought off a charter with similar, dubious intentions), they also are papering over their history of discrimination and poor outcomes teaching English Language Arts (ELA) to ALL kids. This is the same group which maintained a discriminatory program (read the investigation report here), then had the lowest scores in the RVSD for teaching English, and now has very close ties to the Trump administration, which is anything but a champion for those (or any?) kids.

 MAP's Language Arts scores were the lowest in the RVSD.

MAP's Language Arts scores were the lowest in the RVSD.

According to the RVSD’s November 2015 report on standardized tests, 85% of Manor "K-5" students met or exceeded the state standards with ten ELL kids, while only 70% of MAP’s 3-5th grade students met or exceeded standards with only one ELL. Clearly, Manor “K-5” was doing a much better job teaching language skills to all students, including ELL students.

Tune in for Part 2, in which RVC's Trump connection will be explained.

 

Vaccination Rates in the Ross Valley

In recent years, many parents in Marin County and other communities have made the decision to opt out of vaccinations, completely or partially. This controversial practice places the health of all school children and their extended communities in jeopardy. When surrounded by a significant population of unvaccinated children, even fully vaccinated students are at risk of contracting potentially dangerous diseases, such as pertussis. For the small number of truly medically-vulnerable children who cannot be vaccinated, the risk of contracting a vaccine preventable infection skyrockets. Senate Bill 277 was passed in 2015.  The law requires that incoming kindergarteners in California have up to date immunizations. Medical exemptions are allowable, but new personal belief exemptions will not be honored. For those students who had PBEs prior to SB 277, the law allows them until 7th grade to complete immunizations. Ross Valley Charter’s unacceptably low vaccination rate threatens the health of all of their students, teachers, and staff as well as the health of the community at large.

Of 129 RVC students:

  • 67 are fully vaccinated as defined by SB 277, California’s mandatory vaccination law.
  • 26 have a status that is not clear, absent the student's birth year, from the information RVC provided via a public records act request. An additional PRA has been submitted to ascertain if these children are fully or partially vaccinated. 
  • 25 have personal belief exemptions (PBE).
  • 10 have personal medical exemptions (PME).
  • 1 student is partially vaccinated, was conditionally admitted, and is catching up on a conditional schedule. The law allows for this. 

Assuming a best-case scenario—that the 26 whose status is not clear are indeed fully vaccinated as defined by SB 277—the charter's vaccination rate is 73%. In a worst-case scenario, if all 26 are not fully vaccinated, it is 54%.

As noted earlier, all personal belief exemptions that were on file prior to the implementation of SB 277 are valid until those “grandfathered” children, currently grades 2 through 6, reach 7th grade. The majority of RVC’s 25 PBE students are concentrated in the older grades. Per California law, new PBEs are no longer accepted at any campus-based school, and those 25 students will need to be compliant by 7th grade in order to attend any campus-based school in the state.

A curiously high 8% of RVC students have personal medical exemptions, or PMEs. There is no school in RVSD with so high a percentage. Four medical practices provided nine legally acceptable letters of exemption. Three of the medical providers are recommended on an anti-vaxxer website:

*Dr. K Paul Stoller, Hyperbaric Oxygen Clinic of SF issued 3 of the PMEs. His website speaks volumes: https://www.jabevalscalifornia.com/

*Dr. Ron Kennedy, Anti-aging medical clinic in Santa Rosa issued 2 PMEs  

*Dr. Thomas Cowan – Holistic Family Medicine in SF issue one. He shares an address with Fourfold Healing and this website: https://fourfoldhealing.com/pages/about-us

 *The fourth PME provider, Pediatric Alternatives in Mill Valley, issued three. We note that one of the ten PMEs did not have an accompanying letter.

In order to compare apples to apples data to capture a snapshot of how RVC vaccination rates compare to RVSD rates, we look at the 2017-18 Kindergarten reports that were submitted to the state by November 1, 2017:

Percentage of TK/K students who are fully vaccinated as defined by SB 277:

What does this mean for our community? It means that herd immunity at RVC is threatened. It means that—by extension, on buses and sports teams, and at grocery stores and at White Hill as well as schools attended by RVC siblings—we, as a community, are no longer immune to the terrible diseases from which SB 277 is intended to shield us. It means that our most vulnerable—the very young, very old and immuno-compromised—are at unnecessarily high risk. From the campus currently rented to a preschool with vulnerable toddlers, to our middle school from which the kids return daily to homes throughout the entire Ross Valley, there is no campus that can safely house this school.

Herd immunity is meaningfully diminished below 80%, the point below which the CDC identifies communities as "most vulnerable."

It is worth repeating that only 73% of RVC students are fully vaccinated in a best-case scenario (the number is quite likely lower), and that even fully-vaccinated children are at risk when there is an outbreak at a shared campus.

It should be noted that a "community cluster", such as RVC, of unvaccinated children compounds the likelihood of an outbreak that spreads even more so than the raw data suggests. This article from the Washington Post explains the "community cluster" concept very well.

In 2010, a year in which several California infants died from pertussis (whooping cough), there was an outbreak in Marin County. The greatest concentration of cases was at Manor and Wade Thomas. The 2014 Marin outbreak was even worse. According to Harvard Medical School, in order for the pertussis vaccine to be effective, a vaccination rate of 92-94% must be achieved.

SB 277 was written to specifically address such dangers. According to the California Department of Public Health, “Schools with low vaccination rates are at increased risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Some children are allowed by California law to skip immunizations if a parent submits… a medical exemption (PME) at enrollment. Other children may be admitted to school on the 'condition' that they complete any remaining vaccinations when due. Until follow-up is complete, 'conditionally admitted' children remain under-vaccinated.”

It is the clear legal responsibility of the Prop 39 charter's overseer, the CDE, to hold the school accountable to follow state law 277 and ensure that all of the children are up to date with their vaccinations. Please contact Tom Torlakson (Superintendent@cde.ca.gov), SBE (SBE@cde.ca.gov), Mary Jane Burke (mjburke@marinschools.org), Marc Levine (assemblymember.levine@assembly.ca.gov) and Mike McGuire (senator.mcguire@senate.ca.gov) to ensure the charter follows the law.

We note that Marc Levine has accepted thousands of dollars from pro-charter interests and has been non-responsive to us, his constituents. He has failed to reach out to his colleagues at the CDE to request that they do their job. As such, it might be helpful to instead contact California State Senator Dr. Richard Pan, who might embrace our request that he and his colleagues pressure the CDE to step up and look carefully at RVC compliance. Voting districts have clear boundaries, but contagious diseases do not. It is a state-wide interest that our valley not become ground zero for the next deadly outbreak.

The second installment of this analysis, including updated statistics regarding the status of the 26 students whose initially provided data (without age) did not make clear if they are SB 277 compliant, will be published in the new year. That information will also determine the rate of fully vaccinated children (as defined by SB 277) at RVC, which is somewhere between 54% and 73%. The public records request has already been submitted. There are several credible resources for vaccine safety and information. This one is very useful: 

http://www.whyimmunize.org/vaccine-safety/

For those of you who need a bit of levity after reading this sobering information, we leave you with one of our favorite people sharing a perspective on vaccination opt-out: John Oliver. Happy holidays, folks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VG_s2PCH_c&app=desktop

RVSD Encourages RVC to 'temper its overreach"

Thank you to the RVSD Board, Superintendent and Staff for the highly-detailed response sent out yesterday in response to RVC's request for facilities under Prop 39 for the 2018-19 school year. In it, the District spells out its "objections and concerns with RVC's data, assumptions, methodology, supporting documentation and related issues which render RVC's projections for in-district ADA for the 2018-19 school year unreasonable..."

Some salient points: 

·      The prop 39 charter vastly overstated its projected enrollment for 2017-18 school year. As we have seen, the charter estimated 215 total students, 189 in-district - but now claim only 105 in-district

·      The prop 39 charter's documentation does not support its projected enrollment growth estimates for the 2018-19 school year. The charter estimates a total of 172 students, 144 in-district. The District estimates just 97 in-district students. 

·      The prop 39 charter's Intent to Enroll (ITE) forms are not an accurate estimation of actual enrollment since "the data from the past school year demonstrates that only a fraction of the students... will actually attend the charter school as represented."

·      The prop 39 charter failed to support its in-district average daily attendance (ADA) by the Nov. 1 2017 deadline.

Please take the time to read the entire letter here. We appreciate the Board's diligence, thoroughness and the amount of time that went into this and are thankful for your strong leadership and commitment to all the children and teachers of the Ross Valley School District. 

 

It’s Prop 39 season and guess who brought the turkey?

On November 1st, 2017, Ross Valley Charter once again demanded district facilities using Proposition 39 (Click here to read the “request” for 2018-2019), weaving in multiple threats of legal action against the district. Though the charter is forecasting 150 students, down from the 189 they projected last year, it will be no surprise to community members that the charter is using Prop 39 again, and the pro bono legal services of charter attorneys to ask for more - more classrooms, more time in the gym, more space for their teachers, and more access to the field. In sum, they are predicting fewer students will enroll,  yet they are demanding more space, while our White Hill children learn in portables and storage rooms, and our teachers teach from roving carts.

Proposition 39 was approved by voters in 2000, ostensibly to lower the voter threshold to approve new bond measures for school facilities from 66% to 55% (more history here). However, a backroom deal was made to include a clause permitting charter schools to have access to district facilities (here), which local residents are well aware, has become a wedge issue in the Ross Valley and roiled our community. According to Prop 39, a district is only required to provide space for in-district students (those who live within the Ross Valley School District), not the students who come from other districts. This is an important aspect of the law, and brings our immediate focus to the “Intent to Enroll” (ITE) forms, and the estimated number of students for 2018-19 submitted by the charter school.

In its 2017-18 Prop 39 (submitted October 2016), the charter projected enrollment of 189 in-district students. However, as many of you are aware, as of October 31st, 2017, the charter reported a mere 105 in-district students. Under the law, the charter should have returned at least 3 of its 8 classrooms to the students and teachers at White Hill, something they have refused to do, claiming the district’s legal understanding of classroom allocation is incorrect. As things stand, the charter currently has the smallest class sizes in the district, though they contend they are lacking space. Their Prop 39 demand for 2018-19 includes 150 in-district students, which, as logic would have it, would indicate they need fewer classrooms next year, not more. Validating the charter’s in-district projections for next year, and the accuracy of their ITE forms, is critical to correctly allocating space. However, the charter has threatened our district with litigation (p.10) if they further vet any of the ITE forms on which the facilities calculations are based.

RVSD doesn't just have the right, but the responsibility to validate the ITE forms because of the associated impact to RVSD students and staff. Using 2017-18 as a benchmark, an assumption could be made that RVC’s enrollment will be 45-50% below their “projected” in-district numbers. Simple math would indicate that the charter will need fewer classrooms next year, not more. We beg the question, why wouldn't the charter want/expect RVSD to vet the ITE’s if they are concerned about the community, as they claim to be? Why the veiled threat of a law suit? What do they have to hide?

As our small, formerly close-knit community struggles to accommodate the divisions caused by the Ross Valley Charter, once again, they choose to subject us all to Proposition 39 and the pro bono legal weaponry of self-proclaimed, “Champions of the Charter Movement,” Young, Minney and Corr (here). Despite their claims to the contrary, Ross Valley Charter is again reaching for every billionaire-backed cudgel within arm’s reach, with which to pound our small district and community. As Trustee Mark Reagan said at the November 9 RVSD board meeting, “...the notion of 14 classrooms for 150 kids is not an educational discussion under any circumstances.” It seems that the Ross Valley is merely a new battleground for those who seek to privatize public education and create legal precedent, further hurting the majority of children, teachers and families in our community.

Take Action! Email Superintendent Bagley and the trustees and ask them to please do everything they can to ensure the validity of the Intent to Enroll Forms. Copy and paste their email addresses:

rbagley@rossvalleyschools.org; trustee.bauer@rossvalleyschools.org; trustee.capron@rossvalleyschools.org; trustee.pratt@rossvalleyschools.org; trustee.reagan@rossvalleyschools.org; trustee.stock@rossvalleyschools.org

Thank you for STANDing with us for our excellent, truly public schools.

RVC: Teetering on the brink of financial ruin?

The writing is on the wall. Ross Valley Charter is not financially viable. It is time to take a good long look at what the drastic difference between projected and realized enrollment means for the future of the school.

RVC projected a total enrollment of 222 students in their charter petition, which the State Board of Education approved after our district and county denied it largely due to financial unviability. The charter’s numbers have fallen a whopping 45% below their projections, far beyond the 25% level of decline which should trigger a material revision to ensure it has a sound financial budget, yet the State has declined to require one.  When the school opened on August 23rd, their total enrollment was 131. As they did all throughout summer, the charter claimed they would have new applicants and continued new interest. And yet, their enrollment has actually declined by an additional 5% during the first 3 weeks of school. At this time, they have only 124 students, almost 100 students less than projected. As a result, Ross Valley Charter is in a dire financial situation.

For 124 children, the charter receives less than one million dollars in ADA for the year. Based on the charter’s July financial report, the monthly payroll costs are $92,000, which is a yearly cost of $1.1 million. This means that the ADA is insufficient to cover the payroll costs, let alone the rent, subsidizing free and reduced lunches, office expenses, legal fees and all the other costs associated with operating a school. The charter opened its doors $400K in debt, including $130k in personal loans. They have already spent almost all of the $250K loan from the CDE they deposited in July. By our estimates, the charter will be out of money by March.

At their last board meeting, they stated they will not be able to make payroll in October without going further into debt and approved seeking additional short term personal loans of up to $100,000. These loans are meant to cover costs until the school receives a check from the CDE in October. However, here's the rub, the CDE sends three checks throughout the year. The first is based on a final enrollment projection given in July and the second two are based on actual attendance. The check that is coming to the charter school next month is based on 172 students, the number that the charter gave the CDE in July. However, the remaining checks, arriving in December and the spring, will be adjusted based on the actual attendance numbers released next month causing the school to be drastically underfunded later in the year.

On top of all that, the charter’s Memo of Understanding with the State Board of Education requires the charter to have reserves of at least 5% or 55K.  The charter does not have this cash and thus is already in violation of the MOU.

Charter enrollment has been consistently overstated and has persistently declined. Its finances are depleting. Hard earned taxpayer money is being wasted on a school that will not survive. Charter students will have their education interrupted when it fails. The truth about RVC's finances needs to be acknowledged and the State needs to intervene. The current situation is irresponsible and unfair to all of the children and tax payers in Ross Valley.

 

Charter Schools Don't Have To Follow Public Rules

There has been some question as to whether the Ross Valley Charter is truly a public school.  What makes a school a public school?  Good question.  Does the charter take California tax dollars?  YES, the per-student ADA.  So the charter gets public money.  What else makes itpublic?  Consider if the answers to these questions describe a public or private school:

·      Is RVC’s school board elected?  NO.

·      Are the teachers or employees of RVC Public employees? NO

·      Can the charter expel kids? YES

·      Can the charter fire employees without due process? YES

·      Does the charter have to follow conflict of interest laws that apply to public institutions? NO

·      Can parents, teachers and board members loan RVC money with interest? YES

·      Can the business of the charter - referred to repeatedly by RVC leadership as “the company” - be run by private or for-profit companies?  YES  (Click here for the website of the company the charter is using to run their back office operations)

·      Does RVC's law firm consider charters public? NO - click here to read more

We are not alone in this claim.  To learn more, check out the following recent statements by the experts:

Click here to read our new blog about the NAACP’s call for a strengthened moratorium on charter schools.  

Click here to learn why National Labor Relations Board decides charter schools are private corporations, not public schools

Click here to read the full position statement on charter schools from the Network for Public Education: "By definition, a charter school is not a public school. Charter schools are formed when a private organization contracts with a government authorizer to open and run a school. Charters are managed by private boards, often with no connection to the community they serve. The boards of many leading charter chains are populated by billionaires who often live far away from the schools they govern.” 

Click here to read the full National Education Association's Policy Statement on Charter Schools:  "The growth of separate and unequal systems of charter schools that are not subject to the same basic safeguards and standards that apply to public schools threatens our students and our public education system.  The purpose of this policy statement is to make plain NEA’s opposition to the failed experiment of largely unaccountable privately managed charter schools while clarifying NEA’s continued support for those public charter schools that are authorized and held accountable by local democratically elected school boards or their equivalent.” 

To show support for public schools, send a request for a magnet, sign, hat or T-shirt.  Use the link to sign up for our newsletter, and please follow us on FB and Twitter.

NAACP Calls For "Permanent and Rigorous" Local Control

As parents in the Ross Valley struggle over the impending opening of the Ross Valley Charter (RVC) and its displacement of White Hill’s sixth graders, the NAACP has doubled down on its 2016 call for a charter school moratorium (here). According to Education Professor Dr. Julian Vasquez-Heilig (here), “The report goes further than 2016 resolution in calling for a permanent and rigorous local role in authorizing and renewing charter schools. It would ‘empower those districts to reject applications that do not meet standards, and establish policies for serious and consistent oversight.’” Can you imagine where our community might be today if the decisions of our elected Ross Valley School District and Marin County Board of Education Trustees had been honored?

Dr. Vasquez-Heilig goes on, “The report also goes beyond the moratorium by proposing the elimination of for-profit charter schools. It states that ‘no federal, state, or local taxpayer dollars should be used to fund for-profit charter schools, nor should public funding be sent from nonprofit charters to for-profit charter management companies.’” Though RVC is a nonprofit corporation, its finances are managed by a for-profit charter management company, EdTec.

As some of you may know, the NAACP was the group which brought the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case, which effectively outlawed segregation in public schools. Shouldn’t we heed the call of this vanguard civil rights organization as it advocates for equal education for ALL children, not simply those who have the social capital to “choose” a charter school in the public education “marketplace?”

We STAND for quality, locally-governed public education for all.

We STAND with the NAACP.

 

Skin in the Game: Questions About The Prop 39 Charter's Possible Conflicts of Financial Interest

We have recently discovered that several charter leaders have a direct, personal financial stake in the charter’s success and some stand to financially benefit from its operation[1]. Through a recent Public Records Act request, it was revealed that the charter received a total of $130,000 in unsecured, personal loans from charter board members, parents, and family members. Click here to read the email from Conn Hickey, the charter school CFO, explaining the sources of the loans and click here to see the list of people that loaned the charter school money. Additionally, two of the lenders have received payment from the charter for services provided. Click here to read the charter’s expenditures/payments records.

These unsecured, personal loans will presumably be repaid with our public tax dollars. This raises all sorts of ethical questions, which we encourage you to ask:

1)    Why did the charter not disclose the source of this revenue in their charter petition to the state? 

2)    Since three of five current board members (formerly four of eight) have a personal financial stake in the charter, does this create potential conflicts of interest?

3)    Due to its markedly low in-district enrollment (currently 104), the charter’s financial viability is now tied to their importation of out-of-district kids. Will the charter leaders’ personal financial stake impact their ability to make neighborly decisions with regards to White Hill students, teachers and classrooms?

4)    Not only is one board member also a teacher (raising interesting ethical and governance issues), but the same teacher has a personal financial stake in the charter as the lender of a low-interest loan.

5)    What is the significance of the co-lead petitioner’s father loaning the charter $60,000 with interest?  How might that family's relationships be impacted if the loan is not repaid, and how does this motivate that family (when advocating on behalf of the charter)?

6)    Despite the fact that the demand for this charter has clearly not materialized (the number of enrolled in-district students is lower than the district program upon which the charter is based), this monied group continues to assert its desires against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of our community. Is the repayment of these personal loans a higher priority than community well-being? Do the personal loans, and the charter proponents' possible desire to repay family members, have anything to do with this?

7)    What does it mean that two of the lenders (one current board member) have also received some monetary compensation from the charter and how might that impact board decisions?

8)    Why does the charter present these monies as cash positive reserves in their budget? This is akin to taking an equity line of credit out on your home, then putting it in the bank and calling it savings.

9)    Does this sound like the way a truly public school operates?

These are our tax dollars. These are our facilities. These are our teachers. This is our community.

Most importantly, these are ALL of our children. STAND for our excellent, truly public, neighborhood schools.  Click here to contact the California Department of Education and demand that they revoke this charter.  Follow up with a phone call to Cindy Chan's office at 916 322-6029

[1] Though the charter’s July 15, 2015 petition included an $85,000 unsecured loan in its budget, its source (personal loans) was not stated.

Questions worthy of consideration: How will my child be affected?

All parents of children enrolled in Ross Valley Charter should be questioning the charter’s viability and longevity. At the RVSD board meeting in June 2017, the RVSD staff discussed saving spots for children returning to the district from the charter.

By now, most people have heard the pleas not to enroll in RVC, for a perceived “gain” that is of little distinction from our wonderful neighborhood schools. But have they considered what their own child(ren) will lose?

Most people are also aware that RVC will have a serious negative impact on hundreds of children. But perhaps it is now time to explore the impact on RVC-enrolled children? We are curious: Have you considered the risk that is inherent with signing your child up for an unproven school, with a dubious financial future? 

  1. Will the charter school director be successful running RVC given he has assisted, yet never led, a school—let alone a brand new one? MAP enjoyed the deep knowledge, necessary administrative infrastructure, and support of a highly functioning district and its resources.

  2. Will the special education director meet the needs of the children given that (1) she just completed her special ed degree in last month; (2) has no experience being the primary teacher in a special education program for an entire school year; and (3) has no experience running an entire special ed program, particularly one that has been given a unrealistically low budget?

  3. As the charter has been actively recruiting English Language Learners and children with special needs, how much experience do RVC teachers have working with multiple children falling into these categories? At MAP, the teachers had disproportionately fewer numbers of these students. How will the time required to now serve these children, whom they historically did not serve, impact the children who require differentiation at the very high performing end of the academic spectrum?

  4. Is the charter school budget viable despite the current enrollment dropping by over 40% since its petition was approved?  The Marin County Office of Education unanimously denied the charter petition due to unlikely financial viability over 3 years and that decision was based on a full enrollment of 220 students. Overhead is fixed, income is now meaningfully lower, and margins are razor slim. How will the school handle the inevitable unanticipated expense?

  5. Are you aware that RVC is relying on an average donation of $700 per child in its budget?

  6. Will the Prop 39 charter school be able to attract enough young children to replace the large number of fourth and fifth graders who will quickly age out?

  7. If the state does not allow RVC to open due to the large drop in enrollment, or if you or your child is unhappy at RVC, where will your child end up? There may be unused classrooms at your neighborhood school, or your child may need to be placed at another school, where there is space in a grade. 

  8. What will it be like for littles to share a campus and building with middle schoolers?

  9. Are you aware that RVC is barely meeting the number of in-district children required for Prop 39, and may not be entitled to space at White Hill in 2018?

  10. Are you aware that your child's sibling doesn't have a legally guaranteed spot at RVC?

  11. How long will you be sitting in traffic driving your child to and from White Hill every day?  How will the neighborhood feel about the traffic increase, given that there was nearly zero interest from RVC families in coordinating a bus?

  12. Are you aware that progressive education-seeking families, who were exposed to the MAP experience in 2016-17, chose to remain at their wonderful neighborhood school?  For example, nine students whose parents had signed intent to enroll in RVC forms were placed in K at Wade Thomas, with a MAP teacher.  By the end of the school year, not a single student's parents had elected to enroll their child in RVC. Have you taken a moment to question the discrepancy between the magical marketing and the reality of what RVC will be?

  13. When will they hire two dedicated, credentialed teachers to teach your child art and music? When will they even be able to afford to?

  14. Is it in the best interest of your child (and family) to be a part of an unproven experiment? If it fails—or is not what you had hoped it would be— your local school community will happily and genuinely welcome you back. Yet, have you considered the energy required of your child to adapt to a new environment, with new friends and teachers, perhaps mid-year?

  15. Are you positive, and have you independently confirmed, that your out-of-district child will have a space in a classroom in year two and beyond, as the facilities provided by RVSD are only based on in-district enrollment?

  16. Is your leadership being honest with you?

 

Your neighborhood schools welcome you to our dynamic learning communities. Thrive with us.  Please reconsider.

RVC Parents:  Please commit to your local school district by June 15!

The time has come to choose where your children will be enrolled for the upcoming school year.  We hope you will choose to stay at your local public school. 

Per the charter school’s website here: “RVC will be notifying the schools our students are currently attending on or before June 15, 2017 to ask for student records.” When the charter school requests student records, standard procedure dictates that those students will be un-enrolled from their existing school districts.

The good news is that all children are welcome at local public schools, and students can be re-registered at any time, although not to a specific school.  Standard RVSD policy is to welcome late registrants back to a RVSD school based on “space available.”   http://rossvalleyschools.org/parents/stu-enrollment/2016-17-new-student-registration-2

We hope all prospective charter families decide to remain at their local public school districts, for the benefit of all children.  According to the author of this Huffington Post article dated 6/12/17, “The easy short-term answer is, ‘Just worry about your own child. Do whatever you must to find the best school for her….’  As these strategies gain acceptance and spread, the result is to undermine education as a collective effort on behalf of the entire community. Divided parents and their communities end up with little collective voice. Similarly, without unions, teachers have no unified influence. Millions of personal decisions about what appears to be good for a single child at a moment in time is a recipe for divisiveness, not collective good.”

Our excellent local public schools are already underfunded and facing attrition and reduced budgets due to naturally declining enrollment. The loss of any student to the charter is a further blow which will hurt all district students and teachers, including those at White Hill, where many charter students will likely attend middle school. A smaller overall pie means smaller slices for each of us.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-we-should-care-about-the-education-of-other-peoples_us_593ea655e4b094fa859f1a49?ncid=engmodushpmg00000003

As the great wizard said "Soon, we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy" - Albus Dumbledore

STAND Remains Committed to Civil, Fact-Based Discourse

STAND does not condone the personal attacks or uncivil tone of some recent statements against the charter or its supporters.  We remain committed to civil, fact-based engagement, and we ask our neighbors, whatever their point of view, to do the same.  

From the start, STAND has voiced our commitment to respectful civic engagement. On January 16, 2017, we wrote:

 

"We acknowledge that people sometimes disagree, strongly, and we ask that our entire community commits to doing so respectfully. We are one community, and while we may have different opinions and goals, we are still neighbors, teammates, and even friends." 

 

We all must remember that this is a public policy debate about how to spend our community’s education funds and about the future of public education in our state and nationwide.  While each of our children are being affected by the opening of the charter, and thus emotions run high, we must not give in to contempt for those with whom we disagree.   Every one us can do better to show respect and compassion for one another.  

https://www.facebook.com/harvardkennedyschool/videos/10154251688431403/?pnref=story

Who is Really Backing Ross Valley Charter?

If you want to know the truth, follow the money.

Despite the privately managed, taxpayer funded Ross Valley Charter’s claims that it is “the creation of local public school teachers and public school parents,” some of their high powered maneuvers and litigation begs the question - who is really behind Ross Valley Charter and what do they hope to gain from this? If you want to know the truth, follow the money (click here).

Through various Public Records Act requests (click here to read them) submitted by community members who wished to gain a better understanding of the charter school’s resources and motivation, it has become clear that the Prop 39 charter school is not just a group of local citizens seeking to form a school. What we now know is that two charter school leaders have connections to wealthy special interests, which are very interested in seeing this charter open its doors in our Ross Valley. The following heavy hitters are funding and fueling their local effort: The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA); their favored law firm, Young, Minney and Corr; and the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation. Holland and Knight, a high-powered lobbying and legal firm from Florida has provided pro bono work to the charter.

Why should we be concerned about these deep-pocketed backers of the Prop 39 charter school? If the current charter school leaders succeed, these special interest groups will have taken root in our small community and Marin County, and we might never be free of them. With the opening of the charter, the groundwork will have been successfully laid for the opening of more charters within the Ross Valley, potentially further eroding our community, weakening our public school district and removing local governance and control. Given the militant tone and approach of the charter’s backer, CCSA (Click here to read about their recent conference entitled “COMBAT WARFARE: LEGISLATIVE THREATS TO CHARTER SCHOOLS”), we need to prepare for this eventuality and STAND together.

The CCSA is funded by billionaires such as Charles and Helen Schwab, the Waltons (WalMart), Eli Broad and Reed Hastings, among others (click here and then click on each billionaire’s name to see their donations to CCSA, and here to read about these “power brokers”). These donors fund charters and pro-charter school board candidates across California and the country, in order to break and take our public schools while turning them into profit making ventures. They have even helped to fund a recent lawsuit seeking to gut the teachers’ union (click here to read the final outcome of that lawsuit). Because this is so-called “dark money,” it is difficult to illuminate all they fund, but a simple google search is telling.

Kristi Kimball, a local resident and member of the Ross Valley Charter School Board is also on the CCSA board, although her bio on the charter board website does not disclose this connection. Though apparently never an educator herself, Ms. Kimball has overseen the distribution of millions of dollars of charter school funding through her work for billionaire foundations such as the Hewlett Foundation and the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation. Click here to see the list of organizations her current employer, the Helen and Charles Schwab Foundation supports, including the CCSA.

The Prop 39 Charter School was represented by the charter industry law firm Young Minney and Corr in the recent lawsuit against our public schools (read the Marin IJ article here). But how could this local group of parents and teachers afford such expensive legal services?

A recent Public Records Act request helped illuminate how the charter has been able to fund such expensive legal actions. In their December 23, 2016 emailed response, Sharon Sagar, Charter School Board President wrote, “We want you to know that All YMC work on Prop 39 was pro bono, paid by CCSA, so we do not have any records for that work.” In other words, the Prop 39 Charter School’s legal assault on our district is being funded by CCSA which pays the costs of its legal services in order to maintain the fiction that the charter school is a local grassroots group. Further, the CCSA wrote a blog entitled ”Ross Valley School District’s Efforts to Thwart Families’ Right to Education,” about the suit, but it has been subsequently removed. This pro bono work is on top of the $40,000 loan the charter accepted from CCSA to cover the costs of litigating against our district around enrollment issues. Click here to read the letter from our Superintendent, which explains how the CCSA, Ross Valley Charter and Young Minney and Corr have a “tripartite agreement.”  Click here to read our blog about the loan.

Andrea Sumits’ involvement in the charter and in the MAP program has been extensive, yet her official role remains unclear. She served as the leader (“Facilitator”) of the MAP board, and then went on to serve as a member of the charter school’s board. Her spouse is the co-lead petitioner, and as local residents know, her comments appear all over social media. Additionally, Ms. Sumits was the named plaintiff (with another parent, on behalf of the charter) in the aforementioned lawsuit against our public school district, which has since been dismissed.

Perhaps more interestingly, Florida based law firm Holland and Knight employs Ms. Sumits, and has provided $80,000 in pro bono work to the charter. It is unclear whether Ms. Sumits is the attorney of record for the Prop 39 Charter School, but according to invoices from Holland and Knight obtained under a Public Records Act request (click here to read them), Ms. Sumits billed for 62 hours of work at a rate of $620 per hour as “Consulting Counsel.” Holland and Knight is a massive legal operation, employing over 1,000 attorneys across the nation. According to The Center for Responsive Politics, Holland and Knight was paid $14.5 million dollars as a result of their extensive lobbying work.

Rather than a “grassroots” effort we might better refer to the charter school as another “astroturf” group fronting for powerful corporate interests with its sights set on taking and breaking our children’s public school and transforming it into yet another private corporate venture.

As we take stock of the recent actions of Donald Trump and his appointment of anti-public school billionaire Betsy DeVos to Education Secretary, who are seeking to remake the Department of Education into a “school choice” promoting machine, it stands to reason that our public schools are under attack. We can expect greater pressure from the federal government and deep pocketed corporate groups such as CCSA to dismantle our public schools and replace them with more publicly funded and privately managed charters. The fight we face in Ross Valley to protect our schools is the fight happening all over the country to prevent the destruction of public education in America. With the end of public education, so goes our democracy.

We believe in true public education. Stand with us!

MAP 6: It's time to resign

There is an urgent matter that needs to be addressed before irreparable harm is done.  Unless the charter’s founding teachers resign, RVSD may have to give some teachers “pink slip” notices of termination of employment on May 15. 

Much of this could be avoided if the charter leadership would simply act in good faith by releasing their current enrollment numbers and formally hiring  their teachers.  There are 6 teachers, all former MAP teachers and founding members of the proposed charter, who currently work in the Ross Valley Elementary Schools, who have yet to tender their resignations to RVSD. Per the charter’s web page FAQ section:

“The six petitioning RVC teachers are long-term, tenured employees of RVSD. They will give notice of their resignations to RVSD when RVC’s site is confirmed and students are enrolled. As the District asserted in its February 2016 workshop, if the charter school does not open, the students that the District is currently projecting to leave for the charter school will not leave, so the District does not have to lay off teachers in March.”

Per charter school's Facebook post (here), "RVC today (April 12, 2017) officially accepted the District’s final offer.  We are grateful that this issue has been resolved and will work to be good neighbors as well as minimize our impact on the middle school."

The conditions set to hire the MAP 6 appear to be met. Why the delay?  Are there enough students for this program to be financially viable?  Public Records Act requests over the last 5 months show a pattern of steadily declining enrollment, with only 120 children enrolled in late March - 100 children short of the 220 students the charter petitioners expected to enroll.

At an RVC board meeting in January 2017, Conn Hickey stated that the teachers wouldn't risk losing their tenure.  Watch the video of Hickey and MAP 6 teacher and RVC Board Member Chris Lyons answering a question about teacher resignations  here.   If the teachers have so much to lose, why should families risk the education of their children?  Will the charter actually open?  Will it last the year?  Will it have enough students? Is the charter financially viable with a shortfall of 100 students?

Charter supporters say they don’t want to cause any harm to the district schools.  Yet the charter leadership is risking the livelihoods of many of our dedicated RVSD teachers and the the education of many RVSD students so the MAP 6 teachers can hedge their bets.

Out of consideration for all of the children and teachers in the district, we ask the RVC board to please hire the MAP 6 for the 2017-18 school year immediately so they may give their resignations to RVSD asap.

Low enrollment & lack of viability

The State Board of Education (SBE) sent a generic reply to our recent emails reiterating the charter school's final approval. This is not unexpected as the they have rubber stamped their phase of approval. The appointed SBE members were included in our list of recipients as a courtesy, and to raise their awareness of the opposition to this school. However, it is the elected (and therefore accountable) State Superintendent of Schools, Tom Torlakson, and the California Department of Education (CDE) who are responsible for the final approval, which will include a site visit to White Hill prior to opening. Regardless of their political position on charters, they are very sensitive to wasteful spending of taxpayer money on schools that are not financially viable (here). They may not want this one on their record, and continued public pressure should help ensure the review will be thorough. 

The approved petition stated the charter school would enroll 220 children. This is critical to their financial viability. Enrollment numbers obtained from several recent public records act requests document that they are nowhere near that number.  Ross Valley Charter reported 120 enrollees—if you believe that kids will be commuting daily from Nevada City and the Modesto area—and the enrollment has been steadily declining since December.  Click here for detailed information on their enrollment as of March 26th. 

Based on this information from Sharon Sagar, 32 children were "admitted" in the "lottery" on March 8th, and not one of them accepted the offer to attend the Prop 39 charter school. Moreover, on April 28th, the charter school refused to respond to the last request for enrollment, stating "they do not have the reports containing the information you requested" (here). Are we to believe that the charter school does not know who is enrolled in their school less than 4 months before it is opening?

Contextually, there are 104 in district enrollees in the 120 reported. That is 20% less than the number of children who were in MAP when it was a district program at Manor.  

Based on the lack of enrollment, this worthy fight is not over. They are approximately 100 kids short of being financially viable and meeting the requirements of the charter petition that was approved by the SBE.  We will continue to ask Tom Torlakson and the CDE to do their job and review the charter school's enrollment on August 10, before allowing them to open. We must keep up the pressure. Please continue sharing this letter and encouraging your friends and neighbors to speak out. 

This takes just one minute. Take action:

https://actionnetwork.org/…/deny-ross-valley-charter-condit…

Remember to follow us on twitter at https://twitter.com/STANDpublic to stay up to date with pop up locations, action items and breaking news.

RVCharter Leadership is Taking You for a Ride…Again

The turmoil in our community is being caused by one thing, and it's not STAND. It's not the appearance of signs and magnets. It's not even the existence of a charter school. The upheaval in our community is the direct result of the charter leadership's use of Proposition 39, a law allowing the hostile takeover of our children's school buildings.
 
Using this law, which was never meant for small, well-performing districts like ours, the charter is commandeering the 6th grade building at White Hill Middle School, displacing the entire District's 6th grade and eliminating the “soft landing” into middle school that a separate space provided.
 
Charter leadership has spun the tale that they were "forced" to invoke Prop 39 because the District wouldn't continue negotiating with them for the rental of Red Hill. However, as a community member just reminded us, it is documented here that, in fact, they attempted to shoot that missile at the District long before those negotiations even started. The charter's narrative of victimization at the hands of the District could not be farther from the truth.
 
In October 2014, around the same time they submitted their first charter petition, the leadership filed a Prop 39 demand for facilities, specifically a large chunk of Manor School. The filing demanded seven classrooms with the intention to expand to nine over the following two years. The charter’s previous incarnation as the Multi-Age Program (MAP) occupied six classrooms at the time. This Prop 39 expansion would have drastically reduced the space for the rest of the students on the Manor campus and would almost certainly have caused some neighborhood children to be moved to other schools. 

The maneuver occurred just a few months after MAP leaders decided it was a "complete waste of time" to work out the inequities at Manor and keep MAP as a program of choice within the District (here). MAP went rogue and became a charter to avoid District oversight. Now we can plainly see how they simultaneously began a long, drawn-out battle to take over District facilities using Prop 39.


Charter leadership has repeatedly stated they do not wish to displace District students, yet one of their first acts as a newly proposed charter school was an attempt to forcibly expand at Manor using Prop 39, which would have displaced students who were not in the charter from their neighborhood school.
 
The charter claims to be using Prop 39 only as a last resort. That is patently false.