stand with ross valley schools

RVSD Encourages RVC to 'temper its overreach"

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

Some salient points: 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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