San Luis Coastal circumventing state guidelines in effort to close Teach

February 18, 2013

desksBy JOSH FRIEDMAN

The San Luis Coastal Unified School District is circumventing California Department of Education guidelines on closing a school in its apparent effort to shut down Teach Elementary.

The district is considering closing Teach, an accelerated learning school for 4th through 6th grades that shares a campus with Bishop’s Peak Elementary. Both overcrowding and philosophical reasons factor into the proposal of closing Teach.

In exploring the option of shutting Teach down, San Luis Coastal is bypassing a set of best practices for closing a school created by the state department of education.

Although not law, the best practices guide consists of a five-step process for closing a school. A major element within the first step of fact gathering is forming a district advisory committee of seven to 11 community members to provide input to the district on the closure process. The advisory committee would hold open meetings subject to the Brown Act.

California Department of Education Closing a School Best Practices Guide states, “It is legislative intent, but not a mandate for a district to have and use a District Advisory Committee.”

Additionally, Education Code Section 17387 states, “It is the intent of the legislature to have the community involved before decisions are made about school closure.”

But, Assistant Superintendent Rick Robinett says the best practices guidelines do not apply to the circumstances surrounding the possible closure of Teach.

“The guide is written primarily for the consideration of school closures as a way of dealing with issues of declining enrollment and/or budget,” Robinett wrote in an email to CalCoastNews. “Conversely, the decisions about capacity issues (over-enrollment), the housing of two schools on one campus and philosophical differences about a school specifically for 4th through 6th grade accelerated learners are the lenses through which the Board of Education is viewing the decision.”

San Luis Obispo attorney Saro Rizzo said the district is disregarding the spirit of the law by not adhering to the best practices.

“It is the intent of the legislature to say that this is something that should not be done behind closed doors without public participation,” Rizzo said.

Following community protest and media questions, Superintendent Eric Prater issued a recommendation Friday that the board establish a task force at its upcoming meeting Tuesday. Prater says the task force would create “great conversation” on the style of learning offered at Teach and other methods of fostering high-proficiency learners . The proposed task force would consist of district staff, parents, education experts and members of the community.

But, as proposed, the task force would not function as the school-closure committee, discussed in the best practices guidelines.

Robinett says it is “a premature conclusion” to suggest that the district is proposing closing Teach.

Yet, in the superintendent’s recommendations for the board, Prater also suggests putting a one-year moratorium on 4th grade enrollment at Teach beginning this fall.

While Prater says the moratorium would serve to provide classrooms for neighborhood students on the Bishop’s Peak campus, critics says it is an attempt to incrementally shut down the school. Many parents believe the moratorium could last an additional two years, shutting down Teach altogether.

“It’s a way to kill the school under the guise of let’s be reasonable,” Teach parent Vanessa Rizzo said.

Rizzo helped circulate an online petition started by Teach parent Helen Sipsas, calling for the board to postpone action on Teach until the public participates in a more meaningful way. As of Monday, the petition received 697 digital signatures on the website change.org.

“In essence, I feel [Prater] has manipulated our message,” Rizzo said. “As parents we signed a petition saying that Teach be left alone for a year until we figure out the right thing to do.”

 


38 Comments

  1. APasoResident says:

    As a parent of an accelerated learner, I wish there were more options for my child(ren) in Paso. Every child learns differently and just because they are the same age/ grade doesn’t mean they learn the same. I think it is unfair that so much time and effort goes into the slower children “because they need it” while the higher learners are held back in what they are allowed to learn because they are waiting for the rest of the class to catch up- don’t they ‘need’ their education too? I can’t afford private school but really hate how public school is failing my child because of the inability to keep him stimulated and learning. Grouping kids witth same learning style seems to be more cost efficient to me also- less need for pricey equipment/ supplies at all the schools for one or two children, instead have those children needing special equipment at one school so equipment/ supplies can be shared. We are holding our children back by cramming 35 into a classroom and expecting them all to be the same. To close a school that is performing well in order to save a failing school doesn’t seem logical.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  2. cmbrian says:

    Another lesson in mediocrity. Imagine having a school that praises and allows bright students to soar?? Craziness…we must put all of our resources into bringing up the bottom. Its all about the test scores and as long as we have subgroups that are below proficiency, time, talents and treasures must go to them. Sadly we are closing a great school producing great kids to free up more resources for the bottom half. Give me my voucher and let me pick the private school.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  3. Jorge Estrada says:

    Good choice, another public school. There is a reason why fish swim in schools.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. SLOEducator says:

    racket wrote: “I must be missing something obvious.
    Since Teach does not accept slow learners, it does not have so use its scant resources for remedial classes, ergo it can use the funds for rocketry classes, etc.
    That does nothing to educate the slow learners in SLCUSD. In fact, since participants in Teach are not funding ANY remedial schooling, that burden falls on the rest of the district.”

    I urge you to look carefully at the district’s budget reports. Teach does not receive a single dime meant for other programs (special education, ELL, etc) UNLESS a student at Teach qualifies for the funding. The district does not get a finite amount of money to spend on special programming and distribute it evenly amongst the schools–the funding is distributed by need and the number of students at each school who qualify for the extra funding. In fact the Rick Robinett has stated numerous times that it costs nothing extra to pay for Teach, these students have to be schooled somewhere–whether it’s at Teach or any other school in the district.

    If you look at the budget you’d find that Pacheco has been receiving $150,000.00 year for many years now to supplement their program, although the district is now dropping that to $100,00. for next year. Teach is not causing any other school to shoulder an unfair financial burden nor is Teach robbing every school of the top performers. There are still a plenty of incredibly talented children at all our schools, Teach just happens to be a good choice for some.

    I hope this clarifies some of your questions.

    I apologize for failing to post this in “reply” to your post. I could log in but not some kind of computer blip would log me out when I hit reply.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  5. r0y says:

    The “dirty little secret” about Teach, or any other “good school” is the PARENT INVOLVEMENT. Teach (like Los Ranchos, another great SLCUSD elementary school) has an extremely HIGH level of parent involvement. Not just volunteers, which there are many, but parents who naturally take an interest in and become quite involved with their child(ren)’s education.

    It is the parents who do not have time or inkling to participate in their kid’s schooling that wind up being the “left overs” in the “less than stellar” schools.

    Teachers also play a very big part, but many (especially the older ones) in SLCUSD are great teachers. Unfortunately, many have and are retiring (or being forced into early retirement) and they are being replaced with VERY YOUNG, fresh out of indoctrination school teachers. It is like night and day sometimes.

    My kids both went to Teach (one is currently there) and it is a great school because of the involvement of parents; however, parent involvement can become a CRUTCH, as newer teachers do not communicate well when parents do not constantly check in. We’re told to follow the progress via website portals and get in touch with the teachers when performance starts slipping. It used to be a phone call or even an e-mail, “hey, Mr. so-and-so, little Jenny is starting to slip in her schoolwork…” Now, and I think it’s because of heavy parent involvement, they just assume all parents are actively checking the status daily.

    Overall, it is a great school, but I think the larger question that the board is DODGING is why are the other schools NOT as good as Teach? Are the teachers worse in other schools? I know they are not (at least in my experiences when my kids went to Los Ranchos). I really think it’s parental involvement, which often is not as easy when a family is not upper-middle class / one parent income.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

    • tomsquawk says:

      i totally agree with your comments. it is parental involvement that makes the difference. it’s not parking the kids in front of the tv or video games to do the ” baby sitting”.

      it starts with infants and the work continues through adolescence. you have a child, you owe society to produce a fully functioning adult.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  6. Pelican1 says:

    The changes in learning over the years, particularly with regard to public education are at best alarming.
    Schools like Teach were the norm, rather than the exception.
    Sadly, our standards have diminished and so has our ability to adequately educate our children.
    If Teach is to be closed, then provide accelerated programs at all the schools.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

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