RVC

Just a Sign? Think Again.

For the last 2 years, we have taken report after report of Stand signs being brazenly stolen or defaced in acts of vandalism. We have heard reports of blatant trespassing. Many households have reported that as soon as they replaced their sign, it would be stolen, again.

You may say to yourself, yes, but it's just a $5 sign, what's the big deal? But, think again.

These signs symbolize our First Amendment Rights. They symbolize our voice as a community. These signs are the vehicle with which we are able to be heard on an issue that impacts each and every one of us, one level or another.

This community rallied and donated to Stand so that we would have the ability to have our voices heard when they were undemocratically silenced. One $5 sign has very quickly added up to thousands of dollars in stolen property that was paid for by this community. People donated their hard earned money for a sign to support a cause that they believe in, only to have another person yank it out of the ground and toss it in a dumpster as if their neighbor’s voice doesn't count. Are you okay with that? We aren't.

If you believe in the First Amendment, you will not approve of anyone attempting to squash your right to free speech, even if they don't like what you have to say, perhaps especially if they don't like what you have to say.

And, while we understand that some do not like the messages that the signs send, we also understand that theft is theft! Most of us teach our children from a very young age the simple concept that stealing is bad. Even if it’s something you really, really want, or, it only costs a few dollars. We all know it’s morally wrong to steal - and it’s also against the law. The same is true for trespassing and vandalism. We firmly believe that these many transgressions should not be dismissed - that we should not let these acts silence us.

If you have been the victim of a sign or magnet theft and would like either replaced, please let us know by emailing hello@standwithrossvalleyschools.org

Please also consider filing a police report.

Because it’s not just a sign.

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".

 

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

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.

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

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.

A White Hill Student's Perspective

By Jackie McKillop-Herr and Ella Acker


[Editorial Note: We are thrilled to share this critical point of view, from our young, independent guest bloggers. The authors’ organic effort to communicate their thoughts and feelings regarding the impact of Prop 39 got our attention. Upon writing their perspective, nearly 150 of their peers had quickly endorsed their essay with signatures of support. More signatures are rapidly being added as of the posting of this blog. As they are minors, we will not be publishing the list of supporters.]

Do you have a student who will attend White Hill Middle School next year? If so, are you aware of the effects that the incoming Ross Valley Charter School (RVCS) will have on your child? We are 8th grade students who have spent the past three years at White Hill Middle School (White Hill). We are concerned that bringing the RVCS to White Hill will reduce the classroom space, quality of classes and White Hill’s unique learning programs. We think these changes will create confusion, and make it harder for students to get a good middle school education. We are not alone in our concerns. So far, 140 White Hill students (with more being added every day) have signed our petition to keep RVCS from disrupting education at White Hill Middle School.   
            
White Hill classrooms are split up by grade; 6th grade buildings, 7th grade buildings and 8th grade buildings. With RVCS moving into the 6th grade buildings, White Hill teachers and students will have less space. Different classes will need to share the same classroom. For example, when a music class is not in session, a 7th grade math class will move into that classroom. Since the equipment needed to teach a math class is very different from the equipment needed to teach a music class, students and teachers will have to spend time each day moving materials and equipment around. Some students are concerned that their expensive instruments are at risk of getting damaged or lost during daily transitions.   

We already feel like many of our classes are rushed. Carving time out from our already short class periods is going to make it harder for us to focus and learn. In addition, teachers will have to spend their valuable preparation time moving equipment and materials between classrooms rather than focusing on lesson plans or helping students individually. We are worried that all of this moving around will make things chaotic and confusing.  Middle schoolers already have a hard time focusing – so why make it harder?

As 8th graders we know that middle school can be a difficult time. After many years of having only one teacher, middle schoolers have multiple teachers in different classrooms and lots more homework. The school is much larger, and there are many students from other schools that you don’t know. Also, middle schoolers are going through a lot of personal changes. Adding more change, more students, and a whole new RVCS program at an already difficult time seems like a bad idea for all students.   
        
We are also worried that the Ross Valley School District will be forced to let go of some of our amazing teachers if the charter school is formed. We have already seen so many of our teachers leave our schools to teach in other school districts that pay more. Shouldn’t we be trying to keep our teachers rather than sending them away? It seems disruptive and unfair to lose even more of our amazing RVSD teachers to support the RVCS program that benefits only a small portion of our community. 

We know students who participated in the MAP program at Manor School, and many  enjoyed it. These students are our friends. The older ones (who are friends of our older siblings) are in high school now, and doing fine mixed in with non-MAP students. If MAP had not existed for our , and everyone had gone through the same program, we think things would have turned out pretty much the same as they are now. It seems that no matter which elementary school program each of us went through, all of the students get along, and it really doesn’t matter. Adults in charge, why are we making a program that will pull the student body apart when really it’s just the parents who need to be pulled together?

You might wonder why we are writing this blog as 8th graders who will soon be leaving White Hill to start high school. You might think that this isn’t our problem since we won’t be at White Hill next year anyhow. As 8th graders, we think we have a unique view of our RVSD education, especially the middle school years. We hope that by sharing our experiences and ideas, adults in charge will find a way to work together to continue to give all students a great education that prepares us well for high school. This is really important to us. Is it to you? What’s your STAND?
 

Ross Valley Charter: A Pawn of the Lobbyists

In light of Ross Valley Charter's March 1, 2017 response (here) to the Ross Valley School District’s Prop 39 offer of classrooms at White Hill (here), we want to remind the community about the charter’s legal and financial relationship with the the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA).

The January 23, 2017 letter (link here) from Superintendent Dr. Rick Bagley to the charter was a response to the charter’s repeated requests for mediation. The letter revealed why Dr. Bagley and our elected trustees are not interested in sitting down with the charter to discuss these matters over a cup of coffee, as many in the community, including San Anselmo Town Council Member John Wright (link here), have urged.

The charter's CFO and Treasurer, Conn Hickey, signed a $40,000 interest-free loan commitment (link here) with CCSA to finance the charter’s litigation against our school district (IJ article link here).  The purpose:  "To prevent RVSD from rejecting [RVC's] attendance projection in its request for facilities under Proposition 39 and for no other purpose."  

CCSA is a pro-charter school lobbying group, funded to the tune of over $20 million a year (link here).  These powerful outside interests are fueling conflict in our local community. Go here and read more about the billionaires who fund CCSA and other groups seeking to privatize public education.

The loan also states that the charter, CCSA, and Young, Minney & Corr (the charter’s attorneys) have “formed a coalition for a common purpose.” The document specifies that CCSA must agree to the terms of any settlement reached between the charter and our public school district. If the CCSA is not satisfied with terms the charter agrees to, the charter may be subject to “immediate or accelerated repayment of the loan,” with a 10% "interest" penalty. Thus, any potential settlement’s terms will be controlled by the agendas of outside interest groups seeking to set legal precedent, not trying to come to the table in good faith to heal our community.  This loan will be paid back with our tax dollars received by the charter through state and federal funds.

If you would like to read more about a handful of the numerous CCSA-backed lawsuits filed against public school districts on behalf of charters, click here, here and here.

If you believe that Ross Valley Schools should have transparent government by our locally elected and accountable leaders, not powerful outside interests, STAND with us. STAND for our teachers and children in the face of this deep-pocketed, outside group.

Did you say ‘negative message’? Respectfully, we disagree.

The Families and Friends of Ross Valley Schools are committed to engaging the greater community in the ongoing open discussion regarding educational policy, both locally and nationally. We wear our orange with pride, and have carefully considered our initial STAND message, which is two fold:

  1. STAND! with your awesome neighborhood school- be it Brookside, Hidden Valley, Manor, Wade Thomas or White Hill. STAND with your exceptional teachers. STAND proudly with your friends. Our children are excited to feel the energy being created around a sense of pride in their community. Proud and happy looks great on them. We were invited to a competition, and the school spirit is rising!

  2. One of our goals is to support, advance and enhance outstanding truly public schools, whose noble aim is to serve the greatest number of students at the highest possible level for each of them, within the constraints of finite public resources. Thus, in keeping with this mission, we support the broad policy: ‘Go Public! Not Charter’

Our second message is clearly a matter of policy, not a judgment of the people who support or disagree with the policy itself. Most of us speak daily about issues regarding our government. There is no reason to abandon our commitment to honest free speech on this particular and relevant topic. Among the many principles with which we STAND, the First Amendment is near the top of the list.

Our current debate represents an opportunity for each of us to speak with our children about educational policy and perspectives. We might agree or disagree with, or be curious about, a particular policy position. STAND believes in the common good. We believe that children are able to understand the concept that supporting truly public schools--or not-- and explicitly opposing charter schools--or not--  is a point of view on policy, not individuals.

Let’s break it down: ‘Go Public!’ is a broad-based statement of support for our truly public schools. ‘Not Charter’ clarifies that STAND does not recognize charter schools as truly public. They have little transparency or local accountability, and are often for profit, or indebted to some heavy-muscle lobbying groups. Proponents of charter schools will say that public vs. charter is a difference without a distinction. Respectfully, and strongly, we disagree. The vocalization of this disagreement is a right that each and every one of us can celebrate. Our disagreement is not personal; it is a Civics lesson.

Let’s address the concerns expressed by one of Marin County’s four charter schools that STAND signs, which are not yet displayed, are upsetting their children. Parents have the opportunity to explain that our message is no different from one that says ‘Vote Democrat! Not Republican’. Would the President’s child take that party/policy affiliation as an attack on his/her family? Probably not. And if they did, there is no doubt that adults could explain it if they chose to. It is a party/policy position. We must never compromise our First Amendment Right- or our neighbor’s- to take a stand.

It is also unfair to make the assumption that the charter school’s children are the only children in the District who are upset. A great many of the District’s students are also upset, angry and hurt from the forthcoming disruption to their schools and teachers. They must be allowed to express their authentic feelings. We cannot hide reality from them, nor should we. We, as parents, can explain to them that the charter school chose to exercise Prop 39 to make this happen, and that no matter what, we will make it work. We can explain that the charter’s purpose was not to harm them. The charter simply took a policy position that exercising Prop 39 was a good idea. It is up to us to explain that this was not personal. We are looking at two sides of the same coin.

If your child has expressed some distress, we are confident you have the tools to assure them that not everyone supports the same causes in our community. Regardless of your personal position on this issue, we continue to STAND for respectful expression and conversation. STAND itself is a diverse group of individual community members. We recognize that not every STAND supporter will adhere to our mission statement. However, we have been heartened by the support and feeling of community which STAND has inspired. 

So while we are unhappy that any child in the district is sad or angry or concerned, we want to be clear that all of our children are experiencing these feelings as a direct result of the charter invoking Prop 39. Our ultimate message is a warm invitation to the charter students and teachers to return to Ross Valley Public Schools.  We want to do what is best for 100% of the children in our District. Our goal? Everyone send your children to our superb, truly public schools. We welcome you with open arms.

With this being stated, we again ask RVC to rescind their Prop 39 facilities request.  And if you would like to sign or view our petition in support of this request, it is available below.

Stating a policy preference, tacitly or openly, is an honored and protected right in this amazing nation. This is not the time for silence. Not now. Not ever.

 

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/request-to-ross-valley?source=c.em.mt&r_by=11553673

 

An Open Letter to the RVC Community

By Allison Waugh,
Mother of a Fourth Grader at Wade Thomas

As both a parent and a taxpayer, and with all my might, I’m asking Ross Valley Charter (RVC) to take pause and rethink your decision to open this Fall. I don't know when parents began using the entitled viewpoint that ADA (average daily attendance) is connected to a specific child and therefore, ADA should follow a child. I'd like to offer a different, and what I believe to be truer, understanding of ADA. ADA is community money. It is taxpayer money allocated to our community to educate our children. Yes, for logistical reasons, school money is supplied in per-pupil increments. But let's be honest here. That ADA is not my son's personal education fund. Nor is it your daughter’s personal education fund. It is community money. Plain and simple.

If you still think ADA should follow your child, then I ask you, “How far does this line of thinking go?” In each ADA allotment, there are funds set aside for special education. If a child has no need for these services, should his parents be allowed to have those funds go toward something else, leaving the pool of money for special education a bit smaller?

RVC, you are set to open in the Fall, crowding our 800+ middle school students into a space designed for 540 and shrinking our pool of district money by ~$250,000 in 2017-2018 and ~$500,000 each year after. I ask you, when do you take pause? You didn't when our community elected board said no. You didn't when Marin County’s board said no. Well now over 1300 members of your community have signed a petition saying no. So again, I ask, when will you pause and look back to your local schools to see if they can fill your educational needs, especially now that Manor has a pilot program for project-based learning. I remember when the head of my son's Waldorf school told me that no child can thrive in public school. Well you know what? For financial reasons, we decided to try our community school, and I'm so thankful we did. The fear that my son would lose his interest in learning and be stifled by worksheets and teaching to the test were unfounded. He and I both have great appreciation for the progressive elements within our public schools.

So before you create a very real threat to the health of our schools, please reconsider. Please rejoin our community and make our schools stronger with your energy and passion for education.

 

 

 

Block Betsy

President Donald Trump has nominated billionaire Betsy DeVos to be our next Secretary of Education.  DeVos has admittedly never attended public school; neither have her children or grandchildren.  She strongly favors publicly funded school choice:  "magnet, virtual, charter, home, religious, or any combination thereof.”  

In her home state of Michigan, DeVos has won her battle; the state now boasts the highest number of charter schools in the nation, even though test results have shown most Michigan charter schools have not performed better than the state's public schools.  A Detroit Free Press investigation concluded, “[T]he most accurate assessment is that charter schools have simply created a second, privately managed failing system.”

DeVos has spent millions of dollars - at least $1.45 million in 2016 - to defeat state legislation that would have required more charter school oversight in Michigan. To restate: Charters use public dollars, but without public accountability. According to the Detroit Free Press, “Michigan spends $1 billion on charter schools but fails to hold them accountable.”

In addition, there is a disconcerting lack of regard for how the creation of charter schools negatively impacts students attending their neighborhood public schools. In her Senate testimony, DeVos did not explain how she would safeguard the education of children attending truly public schools when charters siphon away limited public funds from school districts. A perfect example of this problem is taking place in the Ross Valley School District, where the establishment of the Ross Valley Charter threatens to take hundreds of thousands of dollars from RVSD and disrupt the students and teachers at our district’s shining star, White Hill Middle School. The RV Charter will negatively impact about 2000 district students for the benefit of the approximately 5-7% of the total in-district population who plan to attend the RV Charter.

Despite the damage the RV Charter is inflicting upon all of the Ross Valley School District children, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) approved a loan to the charter to fund litigation against our own district.  The CCSA determined that litigation against the school district would further “the promotion and protection of the charter school movement in the State of California.” The very same CCSA wrote in November of 2016, the “California Charter Schools Association congratulates Betsy DeVos, a longtime supporter of charter schools, on her appointment as Secretary of Education.”


DeVos’ testimony regarding her commitment to meeting the educational needs of individual children and to providing school choice for parents may look appealing, but it overlooks the greater good. In an ideal world, every child would have an education perfectly designed for him or her, but our public education system does not have the resources to turn this dream into reality. As long as charter school advocates continue to force privatized public schools upon our educational system, children in truly public schools will suffer.  DeVos’ privatized education model is not right for our country, and it’s not right for our community.

Heather Bennett
Eileen Brown
Robin Goldman
Stephanie Goldsborough
Samantha Lyman
Kelly Murphy

An Open Letter to Our Community

 Why would a supporter of Ross Valley Schools go to a charter Information Night?

        In the last few days, charter proponents have asked why members of the Families & Friends of Ross Valley Schools attended the January 12 Information Night for the proposed Ross Valley Charter, held at the Ross Valley School District property at Deer Park.

        Good question.

        On one level, there is a simple reason: Information Nights are one of the few ways we in the community can learn how the proposed charter plans to use our tax dollars.

        The school will be funded with each enrolled student's "ADA" dollars:  about $8000 per child per year. That's approximately $1.5mm annually based on the charter's intended enrollment of 189 students. There is no public oversight of that money, as the charter board is self-appointed. The proposed school was authorized by a state board, which is also appointed, not elected. 

            So how do we, as taxpayers, have representation? Especially because we have no vote, we view it as necessary to learn as much as possible. The evening was billed as an "Information Night." We were under the impression that all were welcome to attend, ask questions and get answers.

            Every taxpayer in the district, regardless of age of children, or choice of school, should be asking: Is this charter a good steward of our public dollars? We regularly ask the same question of the staff and board of RVSD. There, at least, we can attend regular meetings, and vote for the board.

            At the Information Night, we did have the opportunity to learn. A few of us attended part, or all, of the formal presentation. Some of us stayed outside. And still, we learned a lot.

            We engaged several dedicated charter supporters in conversation. We questioned. We listened. We disagreed Sometimes, we agreed. “We” means all of us: charter and district school supporters alike. It was a challenge, and at moments awkward, but we made some progress toward understanding each other's concerns and passions. It was a circle of dialogue, a valuable moment, and an important reminder: We are one community.

            We appreciate the question of reciprocity: Do charter supporters get to attend events for district schools? By all means, yes! In fact, charter supporters have been well represented at recent public events held at public venues. Recent examples: RVSD Board Meetings. Manor’s Expeditionary Learning information session. The Brookside Parents’ Association meeting.


            To every member of our community, we say: Please come to all future public meetings at public venues. Keep learning and connecting. Keep the dialogue respectful. We shall do the same, and hope that this will build better understanding across our community.

            This is a complex situation, and there are other reasons we attended the charter Information Night.
             
            First, we want to make sure the prospective families who attend these sessions have the balanced opportunity to consider the truly public options available to elementary-school children in our district.

            The project-based Expeditionary Learning program goes live at Manor next year. Brookside, Hidden Valley, and Wade Thomas offer a balance of proven traditional and progressive, common core-inspired curriculum. The Readers' and Writers' Workshops are especially enriching. The YES Foundation makes exceptional art, music, theater, poetry, library, and special events available to our elementary school kids, with even more opportunities - especially in STEAM fields - available for middle school students at White Hill.
             
            How did we present this information at the Information Night? At most, with a one-page welcome letter. The handful of us who attended welcomed guests and offered them directions to the meeting room when they asked where to go. We were not forming a line. There was no line:  Not inside the meeting room, nor outside. Supporters of the Stand campaign were respectful in our attendance, whether in the meeting or in the courtyard.
             
            Second, we want to show our support for every child in the Ross Valley School District.

            The charter only expects to serve a very small percentage of our district children. An estimated 1800+ students will attend RVSD schools. The vast majority of students will not be at RVC.
             
            We want the children who don’t attend the charter, for any reason, to know their education matters to our community. We want our students to be confident that they will get a superb education. We want them to know that they, too, are important. The Families & Friends of Ross Valley Schools embrace passionately the principle that all children deserve quality, free, public education.
             
            In closing, we found this Information Night to be just that: informative. A good start to a necessary dialogue. We thank the charter members who engaged with us in a positive and productive conversation. We all have more to learn, and we look forward to more opportunities to learn together.
             
            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 have room for improvement here. Let’s start now.
             
            We invite anyone who wants to learn more about the Families & Friends of Ross Valley Schools to check out our new Facebook page and website: www.standwithrossvalleyschools.org. All members of the community are welcome.
             
            The Families & Friends of Ross Valley Schools look forward to seeing you at upcoming opportunities to get informed:

The RVSD Special Board Meeting on Tuesday, January 17, at 6pm, at Wade Thomas
The RVC Regular Board Meeting on Wednesday, January 18, 7pm at Drake High School
Future kindergarten orientation events at Hidden Valley, Manor, Wade Thomas and Ross Valley Charter

            These meetings are open to all.

     
    The Families & Friends of Ross Valley Schools