Ross Valley Charter

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'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.

 

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.

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.

 

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

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?
 

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