Sierra Foothill Charter School Press Release
The Offices of the Mariposa County Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting room was filled to capacity for the second time in two weeks after the Board called a Special Meeting to discuss the
At that meeting
At the Wednesday, December 7 meeting, nearly all speakers praised the quality of the SFCS petition and spoke highly of the proposed curriculum. Only a handful, including Georgia Gallagher, President of the Mariposa County Teachers Association, John Stewart, President of the Classified union, and Lisa Edelheit, a parent with a child at El Portal Elementary and a Regional Organizer for the California Teachers Association voiced concerns, and these were not over the petition itself. Gallagher said, "The issue is not whether the charter is well done, but more about the timing." Gallagher pleaded with the charter group to consider putting off the formation of SFCS for one year when maybe MCUSD would be in a better financial position.
Jill Harry, Board Chair of SFCS, answered with something one of the teacher’s union representatives had said to her the day before – to a child, a year is a really long time—particularly where schooling is concerned. Harry further explained that SFCS has not been the cause the district’s financial problems. “Our local school was closed. We are trying to solve that problem.” She reiterated that SFCS wanted to work with the district to make this a solution that would be beneficial for everyone in the long run.
Harry also pointed out that not all 87 projected students would be coming from MCUSD schools. While Harry said 12 at the meeting, it was later determined that at least 19 are Mariposa County residents who are schooled outside the district, bringing the number down to 68 MCUSD students who would attend the charter, or 65 ADA (the amount the determines state funding). While
Others commented that they don’t have a year for this to be put off.
SFCS Chief Information Officer David Ardell explained that he and his wife are both UC Merced professors who live in
Local resident Michael Knutson spoke of how he and his wife had moved from
Hornitos resident Heather Bernikoff expressed concerns whether or not the District had a fund development plan , “The only solutions I have seen presented are cuts, cuts and more cuts. Where are the ideas for revenue generation such as writing for grants or asking the community to support education through some measure? This fiscal crisis has been with us for years; have you begun to lay the ground work to engage the larger Mariposa community in understanding why education is an essential investment?”
In answer to a question from an MCUSD Board Member regarding specifics on how SFCS would provide educational opportunities for all MCUSD students, UC Professor Monica Medina said, as just one example, a science grant had been made available to her last year designed to help train teachers and give them teaching materials to take back to their classrooms." At the time I lacked the connections to make this grant work locally, but now we will have a vehicle to disseminate information and invite local K-12 teachers to worthy trainings. This would benefit children in all Mariposa schools."
SFCS Chief Financial Officer John Elliott pointed out, "You can't overlook the value that partnering with UC Merced will bring. The University has given this charter its support because the UC Deans are already finding that without a strong, viable school in the immediate area, they have a difficult time attracting new teachers and staff to the area. If we don't act soon, the UC will find another charter--probably a
Community member Barry Brouillette spoke of the Superintendent as steering a sinking ship. “Every year you are asked to further dismantle the educational system,” said Brouillette, speaking to the Trustees about the effects of cuts from
The Board of Trustees did not ask any questions about the charter petition itself at this meeting—there were no questions about the curriculum or the budget. Conversation revolved around the school district’s financial state and the timing. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to announce his revised budget, which will affect MCUSD’s budget, December 15, the same day the Trustees are to vote on the charter. The district’s budget is not one of the five reasons the Trustees can legally use to deny the charter.
Harry said the timing was unfortunate, but driven by
A few Trustees asked the charter group to consider withdrawing and postponing a year. In response, Harry said, "That would be a board decision and I can’t speak for the charter’s board. We will discuss it. One thing we will have to look at is the hundreds and hundreds of hours we've already put into this effort--time taken away from our families and children. Do we really want to repeat this somewhere down the line when we have no guarantee the district will be in better shape financially a year from now?"
At one point, the meeting started to veer into issues regarding trust on both sides. Mariposa County Sheriff Doug Binnewies stepped in with comments to try to get everyone re-focused on the issue at hand. He cautioned against expecting better numbers from
The meeting adjourned with Trustees asking Superintendent Aaron Rosander to quickly meet with Jill Harry to see if items could be resolved, and to bring the results back to the board.
MCUSD Trustees are scheduled to vote on the