News

Mandarin charter proposal scrutinized by community, district

Community members who want to know how a proposed Mandarin immersion charter school could affect the Menlo Park City School District asked lots of questions but learned there are still a lot of unknowns involved in the answers at a meeting on Thursday (Oct. 9) at Oak Knoll School in Menlo Park.

A group of about 50 people met at Oak Knoll School in Menlo Park to hear district Superintendent Maurice Ghysels, district board President Joan Lambert, and board member Maria Hilton talk about what they know, and don't know, about the proposal.

A public hearing on the proposal will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14, at Encinal Elementary School's Multi-Use Room, 195 Encinal Ave. in Atherton.

The board also plans a study session on the charter school at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27, at the district office's TERC Building, 181 Encinal Ave. in Atherton, before it votes on the proposal at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, also in the district office's TERC building.

Exactly how the charter school would affect the district's finances, if approved, is one question the district officials said they just can't answer yet.

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"No one really knows right now," said Ms. Lambert.

What they do know is that the district now spends an average of approximately $11,000 per district student each year out of its general fund budget, Superintendent Ghysels said. The district would be responsible for directly paying much less for each charter school student, he said, an amount they estimate at between $6,500 and $7,000 per student.

However, he said, the district could end up paying for students who come from other districts. That's because the charter school law says that charter students can come from anywhere in the state if all slots aren't taken by in-district students. Then it gets more complicated. If the students' home districts use the same funding model as Menlo Park's, known as basic aid or community funding, the home district is not required to repay the Menlo Park district for the cost of educating their students. Nearby basic aid districts, which get the majority of their funds from local property taxes, include the Las Lomitas, Palo Alto, Woodside and Portola Valley school districts.

The Menlo Park district would be repaid for part of the costs of students from less affluent districts that use the revenue limit funding model and get most of their funding from the state. The state would repay the district 70 percent of the costs for those students.

In addition, the district may also have to provide facilities for the school if it has 80 or more students who reside in the district, and pay other overhead and administrative costs. The charter petition says there will be 100 students the first year, in two classes each of kindergarten and first grade.

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Because the number of students from outside the district who would go to the charter school is at this point unknown, no one knows the final cost to the district.

Board President Lambert said "what I have been told by experts" is that "districts generally do not come out ahead," when they fund a charter school.

The question of providing facilities for the school also has many unknowns, district officials said. While those petitioning for the charter have said they plan to have a least 80 district residents the first year, meeting the threshold for requiring the district to provide classroom and other facilities, it is not clear if that many students would actually show up for classes if the charter is approved.

To help clarify that decision, the district is contacting everyone who signed the petition and making sure they are "meaningfully interested" in enrolling a kindergarten or first-grade student in the charter school next fall if it is approved, Ms. Lambert said.

"What they're asking for is to start with 100 kids," Ms. Lambert said, or four classroom, increasing by two classrooms every year, and ultimately using 18 classrooms for 450 students in a kindergarten to eighth-grade school, she said.

Superintendent Ghysels said the district does not have a particular site in mind for the school. "All the campuses are up for the (possibility) of putting facilities on," he said. "It's not just classrooms. It's also access to comparable facilities," such as libraries or play areas, he said.

To further complicate things, while questions of finance and facilities may be foremost in the minds of many district residents, the board is not supposed to consider them when making its decision.

"We are not allowed to consider the financial impact or the facilities impact," Ms. Lambert said.

What the board is allowed to do, according to district officials and the state education code, is make sure the charter proposal has addressed 16 areas that charter law requires. The areas are:

1. A description of the educational program of the school.

2. The measurable pupil outcomes identified for use by the school.

3. The method by which pupil progress in meeting those pupil outcomes is to be measured.

4. The school's governance structure, including parental involvement.

5. The qualifications to be met by individuals employed by the school.

6. Procedures to ensure health and safety of pupils and staff.

7. The means by which the school will achieve racial and ethnic balance among its pupils, reflective of the general population residing in the district.

8. Admission requirements, if applicable.

9. The manner in which annual financial audits will be conducted, and the manner in which audit exceptions and deficiencies will be resolved.

10. The procedures by which pupils may be suspended or expelled.

11. Provisions for employee coverage under the State Teachers Retirement System, the Public Employees Retirement System, or federal Social Security.

12. The public school alternatives for pupils residing within the district who choose not to attend charter schools.

13. A description of the rights of any employee of the school district upon leaving the employment of the school district to work in a charter school, and of any rights of return to the school district after employment at a charter school.

14. A dispute resolution process.

15. A declaration whether or not the charter school will be the exclusive public school employer of the charter school employees.

16. The procedures to be used if the charter school closes.

In addition, the education code says, the board may deny the charter for four other reasons:

● If the board determines the charter school presents an unsound educational program for the pupils to be enrolled in the charter school.

● If the board determines the petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition.

● If the petition does not contain the required number of signatures.

● If the petition is found to not meet additional criteria including admission policies and a requirement to be non-sectarian.

A copy of the entire petition and signatures is on the district's website.

The district has also posted a frequently asked questions document.

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Mandarin charter proposal scrutinized by community, district

by Barbara Wood / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Oct 9, 2014, 9:44 pm
Updated: Sat, Oct 11, 2014, 9:14 am

Community members who want to know how a proposed Mandarin immersion charter school could affect the Menlo Park City School District asked lots of questions but learned there are still a lot of unknowns involved in the answers at a meeting on Thursday (Oct. 9) at Oak Knoll School in Menlo Park.

A group of about 50 people met at Oak Knoll School in Menlo Park to hear district Superintendent Maurice Ghysels, district board President Joan Lambert, and board member Maria Hilton talk about what they know, and don't know, about the proposal.

A public hearing on the proposal will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14, at Encinal Elementary School's Multi-Use Room, 195 Encinal Ave. in Atherton.

The board also plans a study session on the charter school at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27, at the district office's TERC Building, 181 Encinal Ave. in Atherton, before it votes on the proposal at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, also in the district office's TERC building.

Exactly how the charter school would affect the district's finances, if approved, is one question the district officials said they just can't answer yet.

"No one really knows right now," said Ms. Lambert.

What they do know is that the district now spends an average of approximately $11,000 per district student each year out of its general fund budget, Superintendent Ghysels said. The district would be responsible for directly paying much less for each charter school student, he said, an amount they estimate at between $6,500 and $7,000 per student.

However, he said, the district could end up paying for students who come from other districts. That's because the charter school law says that charter students can come from anywhere in the state if all slots aren't taken by in-district students. Then it gets more complicated. If the students' home districts use the same funding model as Menlo Park's, known as basic aid or community funding, the home district is not required to repay the Menlo Park district for the cost of educating their students. Nearby basic aid districts, which get the majority of their funds from local property taxes, include the Las Lomitas, Palo Alto, Woodside and Portola Valley school districts.

The Menlo Park district would be repaid for part of the costs of students from less affluent districts that use the revenue limit funding model and get most of their funding from the state. The state would repay the district 70 percent of the costs for those students.

In addition, the district may also have to provide facilities for the school if it has 80 or more students who reside in the district, and pay other overhead and administrative costs. The charter petition says there will be 100 students the first year, in two classes each of kindergarten and first grade.

Because the number of students from outside the district who would go to the charter school is at this point unknown, no one knows the final cost to the district.

Board President Lambert said "what I have been told by experts" is that "districts generally do not come out ahead," when they fund a charter school.

The question of providing facilities for the school also has many unknowns, district officials said. While those petitioning for the charter have said they plan to have a least 80 district residents the first year, meeting the threshold for requiring the district to provide classroom and other facilities, it is not clear if that many students would actually show up for classes if the charter is approved.

To help clarify that decision, the district is contacting everyone who signed the petition and making sure they are "meaningfully interested" in enrolling a kindergarten or first-grade student in the charter school next fall if it is approved, Ms. Lambert said.

"What they're asking for is to start with 100 kids," Ms. Lambert said, or four classroom, increasing by two classrooms every year, and ultimately using 18 classrooms for 450 students in a kindergarten to eighth-grade school, she said.

Superintendent Ghysels said the district does not have a particular site in mind for the school. "All the campuses are up for the (possibility) of putting facilities on," he said. "It's not just classrooms. It's also access to comparable facilities," such as libraries or play areas, he said.

To further complicate things, while questions of finance and facilities may be foremost in the minds of many district residents, the board is not supposed to consider them when making its decision.

"We are not allowed to consider the financial impact or the facilities impact," Ms. Lambert said.

What the board is allowed to do, according to district officials and the state education code, is make sure the charter proposal has addressed 16 areas that charter law requires. The areas are:

1. A description of the educational program of the school.

2. The measurable pupil outcomes identified for use by the school.

3. The method by which pupil progress in meeting those pupil outcomes is to be measured.

4. The school's governance structure, including parental involvement.

5. The qualifications to be met by individuals employed by the school.

6. Procedures to ensure health and safety of pupils and staff.

7. The means by which the school will achieve racial and ethnic balance among its pupils, reflective of the general population residing in the district.

8. Admission requirements, if applicable.

9. The manner in which annual financial audits will be conducted, and the manner in which audit exceptions and deficiencies will be resolved.

10. The procedures by which pupils may be suspended or expelled.

11. Provisions for employee coverage under the State Teachers Retirement System, the Public Employees Retirement System, or federal Social Security.

12. The public school alternatives for pupils residing within the district who choose not to attend charter schools.

13. A description of the rights of any employee of the school district upon leaving the employment of the school district to work in a charter school, and of any rights of return to the school district after employment at a charter school.

14. A dispute resolution process.

15. A declaration whether or not the charter school will be the exclusive public school employer of the charter school employees.

16. The procedures to be used if the charter school closes.

In addition, the education code says, the board may deny the charter for four other reasons:

● If the board determines the charter school presents an unsound educational program for the pupils to be enrolled in the charter school.

● If the board determines the petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition.

● If the petition does not contain the required number of signatures.

● If the petition is found to not meet additional criteria including admission policies and a requirement to be non-sectarian.

A copy of the entire petition and signatures is on the district's website.

The district has also posted a frequently asked questions document.

Comments

Doug Dietz
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 10, 2014 at 7:45 am
Doug Dietz, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 10, 2014 at 7:45 am

I encourage parents, teachers, and MP taxpayers to sign the petition against the charter at: Web Link
This charter petition is a disturbing tax grab with potential to negatively impact MP neighborhood schools. Both the Cupertino and PA Mandarin immersion programs serve approximately 2% of their respective student populations. This charter seeks to serve a ridiculously high 17% of the MPCSD student population. Analysis of PA Mandarin immersion application data indicates that enrollment will reach 80% from in-district at best, more likely less than that. It will, without a doubt, draw a large number of overflow students from outlying districts at the expense of MP taxpayers. The associated loss in funding will come at the cost of MPCSD students and have a negative impact on overall quality of education in Menlo Park. Please attend the public hearing on October 14th referenced in this article and let your voice be heard.


Aaron
Registered user
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 10, 2014 at 11:56 am
Aaron, Menlo Park: Downtown
Registered user
on Oct 10, 2014 at 11:56 am

The legal code states: "In reviewing petitions for the establishment of charter schools pursuant to this section, the chartering authority shall be guided by the intent of the Legislature that charter schools are and should become an integral part of the California educational system and that establishment of charter schools should be encouraged."

However, the "Intent of the Legislature" also states:

Education Code - EDC
TITLE 2. ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION [33000 - 64100]
( Title 2 enacted by Stats. 1976, Ch. 1010. )
DIVISION 4. INSTRUCTION AND SERVICES [46000 - 64100]
( Division 4 enacted by Stats. 1976, Ch. 1010. )
PART 26.8. CHARTER SCHOOLS [47600 - 47664]
( Part 26.8 added by Stats. 1992, Ch. 781, Sec. 1. )

CHAPTER 1. General Provisions [47600 - 47604.5]
( Chapter 1 added by Stats. 1992, Ch. 781, Sec. 1. )

47600.


This part shall be known, and may be cited, as the “Charter Schools Act of 1992.”

(Added by Stats. 1992, Ch. 781, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 1993.)

47601.


It is the intent of the Legislature, in enacting this part, to provide opportunities for teachers, parents, pupils, and community members to establish and maintain schools that operate independently from the existing school district structure, as a method to accomplish all of the following:

(a) Improve pupil learning.

(b) Increase learning opportunities for all pupils, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for pupils who are identified as academically low achieving.

(c) Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods.

(d) Create new professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the schoolsite.

(e) Provide parents and pupils with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system.

(f) Hold the schools established under this part accountable for meeting measurable pupil outcomes, and provide the schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems.

(g) Provide vigorous competition within the public school system to stimulate continual improvements in all public schools.

(Amended by Stats. 1998, Ch. 34, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 1999.)

This proposal for a charter school fails aims (b), (f), and (g), listed above. The school board surely must be allowed to take this into account in their evaluation of this charter school proposal.


concerned resident
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 10, 2014 at 1:41 pm
concerned resident, Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 10, 2014 at 1:41 pm

There is strong opposition to this charter school, however for it to succeed it will require legal counsel to craft arguments that will win the day under the guidelines the mpcsd needs to follow. That and/or a challenge to the charter law as it applies to basic aid districts.


Educator
Registered user
Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Oct 10, 2014 at 9:43 pm
Educator, Woodside: Woodside Heights
Registered user
on Oct 10, 2014 at 9:43 pm

I am generally a fan of Charter Schools, as they offer, in many cases but not all, a superior level of teaching and learning as compared to average and low performing schools. Creating a charter school in one of the highest performing school districts in the State appears to be pretty foolish, in my opinion. It is both a waste of time and money. Having the school district offer Mandarin should be more than sufficient, while maintaing the extraordinarily high quality of education within the whole district.

Aaron's post above states very clearly:

>> 'Increase learning opportunities for all pupils, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for pupils who are identified as academically low achieving.'

Note the reference to 'low achieving'. Charter schools were created specifically to provide higher quality education to low or average performing schools and districts. Menlo Park Schools are definitely NOT underperforming. Move on and let the district continue doing the good work they are famous for.


Barbara Wood
Woodside: other
on Oct 11, 2014 at 9:37 am
Barbara Wood, Woodside: other
on Oct 11, 2014 at 9:37 am

The school district has posted a extensive document with Freqently Asked Questions about the charter school proposal and process at: Web Link


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