The state's charter school association has conferred its annual leadership award to Diane Tavenner, the co-founder of two charter schools in the Sequoia Union High School District, including Everest Public High School that opened in Redwood City in August despite a year of effort by the district board and administration to prevent it.
Ms. Tavenner received the Hart Award for Charter Leader of the Year, named in honor of Gary K. Hart, a former state secretary of education and retired state senator who authored legislation establishing charter schools in California.
"Diane Tavenner is one of the most respected charter school leaders in the state," Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association, said in an interview. "What she's done with Summit Prep is nothing short of remarkable."
In U.S. News & World Report's 2009 ranking of 1,189 high schools out of nearly 19,000 analyzed, Summit Preparatory Charter High School, now in its seventh year, received an honorable mention.
Summit Prep, which was the only San Mateo County high school in U.S. News' 2009 list, is typically over-subscribed and has a long waiting list to get in, as did Everest in its first year.
"It's an honor to be recognized by my peers as a leader in the charter school movement," Ms. Tavenner said in a statement.
The Sequoia district opposed Everest, in part, on grounds that it would skim district operating funds amid multi-year economizing, and that it would skim motivated students, leaving traditional schools with the tough cases.
Everest, its advocates said, would echo Summit Prep's ethnic and academic diversity, its frugal budget and its status as a public school entitled to public funds and the respect owed a peer in the public education community.
Sequoia fought Everest's charter at every step, from a board denial in September 2008 to a denial from the county board in December 2008 to its unanimous approval in the spring by two governing panels in Sacramento.
Everest's subsequent request for facilities initiated another battle, now in court after Everest claimed as illegal the district's offer of a modular campus in residential East Palo Alto well south of Redwood City, which is central to the district and where Everest requested facilities.
Ms. Tavenner had, at times, to be combative. Asked what qualities one needs to found a charter school in California, Mr. Wallace cited academic leadership, entrepreneurial ability, and the advocacy and political skills to detect the "land mines set to trip up a new charter school."
"Diane is exactly the kind of leader who is successful in all three," he said.