Does Chico Unified "Work Well" with Charter Schools?

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September 1, 2011 This week, John Bohananon, the director of alternative education for Chico Unified School District, touted how charter-friendly the district is in a letter printed in the Chico Enterprise Record newspaper. The article cites the long term facility use agreement with Chico Country Day School, "salvaging" Blue Oak from non-renewal at the county, and a new building for Inspire School of Arts and Sciences as evidence of friendly relations with charter schools.

What Bohannon leaves out is that Chico Country Day School was preparing to sue the district over the poor condition of the district facility before they struck the long term agreement. Chico Country Day School is in the oldest facility in the district and the building needed basic health and safety updates. CCDS proactively sought a Prop. 1D facility rehab grant and the state requires a long term facilities use agreement prior to dispersing the award. Without the skillful political of the CCDS leadership, Chico Unified would never agree to a long term agreement.

And yes, the CUSD Board did salvage Blue Oak from non-renewal. But they gave them an unheard of 1-year charter term and an MOU that requires them to show academic growth on par with the district in all grades and all subjects. This provision is in conflict with the school's Waldorf-methods education program all together - one deemphasizing reading in the K-1st grades - and essentially setting the school up to fail and giving false hope to students and families.

Finally, Inspire College Prep is a district dependent charter school. Their new building must raise some eyebrows at Nord Country School. They have been asking the district for 2 portable classroom to accommodate growth at their site. Last year Chico Unified offered two portables that they were about to take to the dump - if Nord would pay to move them. Nord couldn't afford to transport the leftovers, and had to decline.

The timing Bohannon's letter was interesting. The Chico Unified Board of Education voted on two-weeks prior to revoke the Chico Green School charters. The school that had been authorized just 18 months earlier was closed for alleged violations of the Brown Act and failing to gain WASC candidacy (the school was in the midst of an appeal) - not fraud, academic performance, or student safety. Some question whether the revocation was warranted.

Who is Bohannon trying to convince?

-Laura Kerr
Northeastern California Regional Director