Comstock's magazine 0419 - April 2019 - Page 55

Loopholes & Violations Much of the concern over the loophole that allows a site-based charter school to locate outside of the geographic area of its authorizing district relates to oversight: How can a district provide adequate oversight if the school isn’t located in its own backyard? This arrangement, though, doesn’t necessarily mean insuf- ficient oversight. Take John Adams Academy in Roseville, which was founded in 2011 when the Loomis Union School District was led by former Superintendent Paul Johnson. (John Adams has since opened a Lincoln school authorized by Western Placer Unified School District and its El Dorado Hills branch by El Dora- do County Office of Education.) In February, the Loomis school board issued a notice of vio- lation to JAA-Roseville for failing to meet student outcomes in English language arts and math, as determined by California As- sessment of Student Performance and Progress test scores, and for allegedly misallocating $613,897 with no evidence to support these funds “were actually spent on the intended student pop- ulations, and not on other unrelated projects,” according to the report. The school has until Aug. 7 to remedy or refute the find- ings, or risk having its charter revoked. Loomis Superintendent Gordon Medd says his district uses an annual checklist from the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team to ensure oversight. He says it was through the FCMAT process that the notice of violation to JAA-Roseville was issued. John Adams Academy’s Director of Outreach Norman Gon- zales said in a statement, “While we disagree with these allega- [officials with the district] just don’t want to see another charter school come in, and will stop a grassroots movement to create change and help students in their community,” Austin says. Sun says her school has a solid partnership with its au- thorizer, the Natomas Unified School District. “We stayed away from a lot of the contention you hear about, and I think it’s because when we started, this school district wasn’t even a unified school district — it was a small elementary district,” she says. “Our charter school grew up with the school dis- trict.” Sun, who also serves on the State Board of Education, supports allowing for alternative authorizers. Petersen, of Gateway Community Charters, suggests large nonprofits, universities and city councils as authoriz- ers. “The reason that’s of interest is they aren’t involved in the local politics, per se,” she says. “One of the oversimplifi- cations that I sometimes use is it’s as if the district is Burger King and I’m McDonald’s, and I have to go ask Burger King to exist. It sets up a very interesting power differential that tions, we are already working collaboratively with the district and remain confident the notice will be fully resolved.” In terms of its spending, JAA-Roseville provided the district with “clarifying in- formation demonstrating how the school tracks expenditures of these funds in accordance with the law,” and implemented the district’s recommendations regarding how to calculate and track grant fund expenditures. The student-outcome piece is more complicated. Accord- ing to Gonzales, the Roseville campus experienced significant enrollment growth during the years in question (for example, a 40 percent increase in 2015-16). “Many of the newly enrolled students had not thrived in their previous school settings, and were taking the CAASPP exam for the first time,” Gonzales says. “These students’ initial CAASPP scores were not as high as their classmates who had the benefit of attending JAA-Rose- ville for a number of years.” He says internal assessments show students’ scores and proficiency levels improve the longer they attend JAA. It terms of JAA-Roseville being authorized in Loomis but located in Roseville, Gonzales points to an initial parent infor- mation night held at the Blue Goose Event Center in Loomis — which over 1,000 people attended, he says. The founders Dean and Linda Forman submitted a charter for a K-12 model to the Loomis district. But after receiving some 500 intent-to-enroll forms, they realized there weren’t any facilities that could ac- commodate their program, so they found a location in Roseville instead, he says. ~ Sena Christian makes no sense.” Then, she says, the dilemma becomes: Who actually wants this responsibility? San Juan Unified School District Superintendent Kent Kern, along with other officials from traditional public schools, already questions the ability of the State to ade- quately vet charter petitions — let alone the other entities that might take over authorization from the districts. There are doubts either entity, hypothetical or not, has the relevant expertise in regulations, instruction, finance and operations to provide oversight. “I believe this could cause bigger prob- lems,” Kern says, “as I am not sure these organizations have the people or appropriate process in place to complete a thor- ough review of charter applications.” Kern references a charter application from Paramount Collegiate Academy that San Juan Unified denied in 2014. The operator appealed to the Sacramento County Office of Education, which also denied the application, but the State Board of Education ultimately approved it, and the school opened for the 2015-16 school year. In February 2018, parents April 2019 | comstocksmag.com 55