County releases report on Mandarin immersion charter school proposal

County board will vote on charter Wednesday

The San Mateo County Office of Education has analyzed the petition to open a Mandarin immersion charter school in the Menlo Park City School District next fall, concluding there are many grounds that could be used to deny the petition.

The county's board of education meets on Wednesday, Feb. 4, starting at 7 p.m. in the district office board room at 101 Twin Dolphins Drive in Redwood City. The item is near the start of the agenda and has a public comment period.

Proponents of the Menlo Mandarin Immersion Charter school appealed to the county board after the Menlo Park district school board voted unanimously in November to deny their petition.

A summary of the county report concludes the petition to start the charter:

● Has enough signatures. The district said many of the petition signatures shouldn't be counted; but the county questioned only if the final petition had actually been attached to the signature sheets, as legally required.

● Describes how it will achieve a racial and ethnic balance reflecting the general population of the district. The county report pointed out that the law does not require the school "to actually achieve a racial or ethnic balance" but just to have a recruitment plan in place to attempt to do so.

● Lacks a "reasonably comprehensive description" of a number of legally required items, including the educational program, student progress measurements, governance structure, admission requirements, staff retirement system and procedures for closing the charter.

● Does not present a sound educational program in the areas of special education, English language development (for non-English speakers), and transitional kindergarten (which is not offered in the Menlo Park City School District).

● Has problems with financial planning and resources that would make it unlikely for the school to be successful. The county staff pointed out several shortcomings in the budget, including the amounts for salaries, facilities rental and startup costs.

● Violates state law by requiring new students in second grade and up to pass a Mandarin-proficiency test.

The report says the county board has four options:

● Grant the charter for up to three years.

● Ask charter backers to withdraw the petition and correct identified problems.

● Deny the petition, based on legal grounds.

● Take no action.

If the county board denies the charter or takes no action, a final appeal can be made to the state board of education. If either board approves the charter, the school may operate in the district, and the district must provide facilities if the school has more than 80 in-district students.

The petition says the school would open in the fall of 2015 with two classes each of kindergarten and first grade, a total of 100 students. One grade would be added each year.

The backers have asked the district for 10,000 square feet of classrooms and other facilities for 2015, saying the school would serve at least 80 district students. The district denied the facilities request, but charter backers say they qualify.

The charter must be approved by May 7 to preserve a $375,000 grant for startup costs from the federal Public Charter Schools Grant Program.

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46 people like this
Posted by Enough
a resident of Encinal School
on Jan 30, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Now let's add up all of the actual dollars that the MMIC group has cost our school district and our county and send them an invoice.

15 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Feb 3, 2015 at 2:33 pm

The Charter School founders don't seem to have a sense the community is not behind this school and it would be challenged to be successful. The district evaluated the program several times and denied it, the community has rallied aggressively against the program and now the County has found many of the same deficiencies. Despite all this they continue to push their selfish agenda at the expense of our district.

There are many options in the area for your child to learn mandarin that will not take away from the vast majority who are not interested in an immersion program.

10 people like this
Posted by Menlo parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 3, 2015 at 7:06 pm

The amount of time, energy, and money already spent on this already is a great indicator of how much the founders will demand of our district dollars if approved.

I believe there is still space for the Redwood City mandarin immersion program. Here is a thought-how about the founders send there kids there? If the rwc district is double our district and cannot fill the classes, then how on earth is adding another immersion program 15 minutes away and in a much smaller district a sound idea? I am so over the selfishness these founders are showing. They claimed they had no idea the community would be in such opposition or "uproar" but now they do indeed know and still are pushing their unwanted school onto the community. The naive innocent stance of pretending not to see the money and time that is NOT going toward the students at MPCSD is appalling and the mere fact they continue to push shows how little they care about the good of the community and that is truly disheartening. I hope that once this gets denied by the county (fingers crossed) the founders realize that they have wasted enough resources and pony up either for a private school or the rwc immersion program. Enough is enough!

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