- VUSD to review SVA & BOA charters tomorrow night

October 5, 2016
Charter Petition and Renewal Update
Plan to Attend Our Charter Hearings

Oct. 6 - VUSD Special Board Meeting for SVA/BOA Charters, 6:00PM 
-Meet outside 5000 W. Cypress at 5:45PM

Oct. 11 - VUSD Board Decision Hearing, 7:30PM
-Meet outside 500 W. Cypress at 7:15
Show up for us. 

It is with disappointment and concern that we reach out to you today to urge your attendance at the next two VUSD Board Meetings.  

Tomorrow night , October 6 at 6:00PM,  in a Special Meeting, the VUSD Board will review and discuss the district staff's recommendation to DENY the approval of the charter for Blue Oak Academy and to DENY the renewal of Sycamore Valley Academy's charter in its current form (suggesting "conditional approval" of SVA, with unacceptable conditions).

In prior News & Notes emails, we've shared with you the limited reasons for which a District may lawfully deny charter petitions.  While an impartial read of our documents would not lead to the conclusion that our charters are fairly described by these defined reasons, the District yesterday produced "factual findings" totaling 31 pages for SVA and 24 for BOA that describe them as worthy of denial.

These reports appear to be an attempt to overwhelm their Board with a high volume of findings, which are in some cases factually false, in other cases, instances of going  back on their word, contain conjecture/ hypotheticals not appropriate to apply to the review, are intentionally ignorant of what we mean, and reflect a lack of transparency in their process and an agenda to undermine. 

To give our community a sense of how these reports were written, we offer below just one example of each, pulled from their 55 pages, to illustrate our deep concern with the actions of VUSD this week.
What's wrong with VUSD's Findings?
Here are five quick examples:
1. Findings are factually false

Example: Text from VUSD's Factual Findings Report pasted below. 

Response: The  data we submitted with our charters shows we outperformed the District on CAASPP, and disaggregated student performance on assessments demonstrates that, uncommonly,  every single one of our student subgroups  is experiencing improved educational outcomes, and in particular, our English Learners' growth rate is slightly faster than the rate of their non-English Learner counterparts in ELA and Math achievement on nationally-normed tests (NWEA MAP). 
2. Contains instances of VUSD going back on their word or being knowingly unfair

Example: See text from VUSD's Factual Findings Report pasted below. 

Response: Although VUSD claims to be confused about which version they were to review, and identify a "waiver" was needed for them to accept the budget we submitted, here's a link to an email exchange between SVA Superintendent Ruth Dutton and VUSD Superintendent Todd Oto showing that VUSD agreed to accept a BOA budget revision by email with no mention of said waiver. 
3. Findings contain conjecture/hypotheticals that are not appropriate to apply to the review of petitions

Example: The reviewers question our signatures on the BOA petition and expresses concern that current SVA parents leaving for BOA would impact our bottom line. 

Response: While these SVA parent signatures may represent 34 students who are "meaningfully interested" in enrolling at BOA (potentially disenrolling at SVA to do so), SVA maintains a waitlist of over 140 students who would gladly take those available seats. This wait list data appears in the charter petitions and shows evidence of the demand of our educational option and of our ability maintain full enrollment as projected in our budget assumptions. 
4. Findings are intentionally ignorant of what we do here or what we mean by the language of the petition

Example: VUSD reviewers claim that SVA does not know how to meet the needs of a variety of learners. See their claim below:

Response:  D espite our demonstrated track record and the quantitative evidence to support it, the detail we provide in the charter documents, the 7 year relationship between our staff and theirs, and the 52 months of their membership on our Board they claim that they cannot be confident that our students can depend on us to support their growth.  
5. Findings reflect a lack of transparency in VUSD's process 

Example: Over the last year, including during the review period, SVA staff has reached out to VUSD multiple times to clarify how our charters will be reviewed, confirm that the process would be the same as we experienced in 2011, inquired about who would be preparing the report, and asked multiple times for meetings with VUSD staff to ensure no surprises. We did not receive a response. 

Response: In contrast, our experience with charter petitioning in 2011 included a total of seven meetings with VUSD staff to discuss the development of the charter and the District's expectations. Late in the review, when they had questions/concerns with our document, they gave us a list of these and some time to prepare a response to ensure they were judging our petition based upon correct interpretation of our intent. They considered our responses before preparing their staff recommendations to their Board. This was clearly a collaborative effort and their actions reflected that they understood Ed Code 47605 which directs districts to assume that the establishment of charter schools should be encouraged. Linked here is a table including their questions and our answers, which demonstrates their willingness to work with us in 2011. We wish the process in 2016 had been the same. 
Where do we go from here? 

We now face the possibility that we may be denied by VUSD in the coming week. We want our community to know that  we are not without recourse: in this scenario, our next step would be to immediately appeal their decision to the Tulare County Office of Education. We would hope for an impartial and fair application of the law to our petitions, and continue to feel confident our documents exceed the legal requirements for their approval. Even in the case that the TCOE Board denied these petitions, we would again have the right to appeal the decision to the CA State Board of Education.  There is an appeals process to ensure a fair outcome. Our leadership wants you to know these schools will exist.

In addition, facilities issues are entirely separate from chartering.  SVA's campus is not in jeopardy, even if we end up with a different authorizer down the road.  
Our charters are the sole agenda item Thursday evening and public comment may be limited to 20 minutes per charter and 3 minutes per individual who speaks on behalf of SVA/BOA.  The VUSD Board will not vote on the charters that night, but may engage our staff or community members if they have any questions regarding our petitions or this process. Please be there to demonstrate your support of these important charter schools in our community. 
Sycamore Valley Academy | 559.622.3236 | office@sycamorevalleyacademy.org
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