Summit Preparatory Charter High School, the high-performing four-year-old school that enrolls about 80 children from the Almanac's circulation area, recently submitted a petition to the Sequoia Union High School District for a five-year renewal of its charter.
The current charter is six months old. In May, the school district agreed to sponsor Summit, but for two years rather than the requested five. The district is doing "due diligence" in awaiting demographic and financial data from Summit's first sponsored year in the district.
Summit should resubmit it petition in August of 2007, said Sequoia district Superintendent Pat Gemma.
The state Department of Education recommends that charter schools facing the last year of a charter -- and a possible rejection of renewal petition -- have a renewal in hand before starting the school year in September. Summit would not meet this recommended condition if Sequoia's Board of Trustees puts off action until the fall of 2007.
The Sequoia district is particularly concerned about whether Summit's high test scores are a consequence of its attracting high performing students and not enrolling students with low and very low scores on standardized tests. Summit should share the responsibility of educating students of all skill levels, trustees say.
Public schools, including charter schools, are not allowed to pick and choose their students. If more eighth-graders apply for a charter school than there are seats available, California law requires the school to conduct a lottery.
Many charter schools have a tradition of reserving seats and bypassing the lottery for children of parents who perform volunteer services for the school to help get it off the ground.
Summit had such a legacy families program as part of its first charter in 2001 from the Summerville Union High School District in Tuolumne County.
In issuing its charter, the Sequoia district cancelled Summit's legacy program, citing a perceived unfairness, given that more than 100 of the 200 available seats for the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years had already been reserved for parents who reside in Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley and Menlo Park.
Summit Executive Director Diane Tavenner says that just 30 percent of eligible legacy children typically apply for admission.
Summit could not go back to Summerville for a renewal because, in the intervening years, the state Legislature changed the law to require charter schools to seek sponsorship from home school districts only.
Some parents from the legacy program are incensed at the cancellation of the program and aren't happy about receiving a two-year charter either. Summit's renewal petition includes the legacy family program.
Should the Sequoia district reinstate the legacy program?