The meeting this afternoon was very interesting. It was packed, with standing room only. It was short, to the point, and left a lot of questions, but they said that the next meeting MONDAY evening, April 18th at 7pm (Clayton Library, not CVHS), will have more time for Q&A and will also offer some guests - "charter school experts."
The committee at the school spearheading the idea is working with a paid consultant to work through the details of writing up a charter. The presentation was led by Pat Middendorf (Athletic Director and Academic Literacy/Special Ed) and Neil McChesney (English, Leadership and Public Speaking).
Here are some key points related to the "possibilities" of a Clayton Valley Charter High School, please feel free to add if I missed anything you felt was important:
- Started discussions in September in the "Staff Senate" meeting which is a body of staff members elected by fellow staff and includes some of the most involved staff of the school i.e. the teachers who run leadership, music, etc. - "the heart of the school."
- They need 50% + 1 of all teachers to vote for the charter, the charter is then written, and then they have a year to implement and plan. This means the earliest this "new" charter high school could be implemented would be the fall of 2012.
- A charter would have its own governing board and instead of "superintendent" type titles, one may see titles such as CEO, CFO, COO, etc. The leadership of the school is ON campus. The school could run independent of the layers of the school district. The school would make its own decisions.
- The school would run its own budget and initial estimates are that funding would go up. Not only would the funding come straight to the school at the high school rate (vs. a blended elementary/high rate), but the school would be eligible for specialty charter grants and other state and federal funding - funds that would go direct to the school, not the school district as it looks today. The discussion of the budget crisis and the possibility in the future of a state takeover was briefly touched upon.
- Right now the MDUSD is responsible for the budgets and financials for 56 schools. A Clayton Valley Charter High School would be soley responsible for only their own budget. This charter would offer "fiscal independence" and could result in a "ton of money" from grants and other charter funding.
- There is a BIG difference between a new, start up charter and a conversion charter.
- Clayton Valley Charter High School would have the same attendance areas, it would still be a public school and must adhere to same accreditation standards and testing requirements.
- An analogy was brought forth of renting a home vs. buying... Clayton Valley Charter would be a owner. The district would have to give up the site to the charter per law. The charter would have a lot more autonomy and freedom, but also more responsibility.
- Employees at the site would have 3 choices; stay with MDEA, create their own bargaining unit, or create a specific contract for the charter within MDEA.
- Increased API by stopping the brain drain (top kids moving to other or private schools), bringing the top performing kids/families BACK to Clayton Valley.
- Instituting a Freshmen Summer Transition Program. Could run 1-4 weeks during the summer and could be enrichment, evaluation, remediation or all of the above. Pathways for individual students could be carved in order to best serve the individual needs of each student. Discussion of a very successful charter conversion program was brought up here and sounded very exciting actually. Check out Granada Hills Charter High School as a very successful nationwide model for charter conversions.
- Emphasis on the goal to "look at every student individually."
- Bring back summer school.
- Work collaboratively with local higher education; colleges, CSU, etc. to bring college level coursework and curriculum on campus.
- The discussion of dress code and possible UNIFORMS brought the crowd to a loud cheer. It seemed most were in agreement that the sagging pants, alcohol/drug/sex messages on shirts and exposed midriffs (among other things) are a distraction and division within a high school campus and as it stands now there is no support for staff to enforce the supposed dress code. The school, as a charter, could institute its own dress code and/or uniforms.
- The school could create its own calendar. As an example, starting earlier in August so the first semester is finished at winter break. This too brought many nodding heads and sounds of agreement amongst the audience. Though a comment reminded that with kids in other district schools, we'd need to be mindful of the coordination of calendars. It was acknowledged that much still needs to be discussed.
- Could hire own custodial service to give the school the attention it deserves