Carol Cunningham, a spokesperson for the Menlo Mandarin Immersion Charter School, said the school's backers have not decided if they will appeal the denial of the petition. "We need to regroup and figure out our strategy — the next step, if there is any," Ms. Cunningham said after the meeting. The charter has 180 days from Nov. 12 to make an appeal, under state law.
A petition to start the Mandarin immersion charter school was presented to the district on Sept. 12. The district had only 60 days to consider the petition, a document 218 pages long with an additional 118 pages of appendices.
The charter school backers proposed to open their school in the fall of 2015 with two classes each of kindergarten and first grade and a total of 100 students. The backers also asked the district for 10,000 square feet of classrooms and other facilities, saying the school would serve at least 80 students from the district.
While a large number of district parents and teachers have opposed the school, the grounds on which the board could turn down the petition are limited by state law.
This meeting, like a previous public hearing on the petition, filled the Multi-Use Building at Encinal School. Caryn Wasserstein, a district parent, testified that "this is not a community that supports this charter."
"Please, we implore you, do not approve this petition," she said.
Board member Jeff Child said a number of issues were "particularly troubling to me about this application." He said the school's program was too ambitious, trying to incorporate many new educational methods into a school teaching much of its curriculum in Mandarin.
"I think they're trying to do too much at the risk of doing nothing well," he said, adding that the proposed program included "every buzz word" current in education.
Board member Terry Thygesen said the fact that the charter school could not show it would have a demographic mix of students that "roughly mirrors the demographics of the district" was the aspect of the program "that is the most troubling to me."
Ms. Thygesen said her no vote was made "very regretfully, because as most of you know, I am a huge supporter of world language."
Ms. Cunningham said the charter group "found that there were some inaccuracies, some misinterpretations," in the district's report, which pointed out flaws in the petition and said it was not "likely to succeed." Her group had limited time to review the report, she said. It was released on Sunday, Nov. 9, at 4 p.m.
Although the charter school was not approved by the district, it could still end up operating there. The denial can be appealed to the county school board, and if the county board turns it down, to the state board of education.
While the charter has 180 days to make an appeal, waiting that long could jeopardize a grant that was given to the school on Oct. 23. The $375,000 grant comes from the federal Public Charter Schools Grant Program, via the Charter Schools Division of the California Department of Education, and the charter must be approved by May 7, 2015, for the school to receive the grant.
The county and state boards are not required to judge the charter petition solely on the record of the local school board's previous consideration, according to the section of the state education code governing charter schools. However, the petition may not be changed, except to reflect the county or the state as the chartering agency.
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