Busy Times in San Diego Unified

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February 9, 2012 Last week was a busy charter board meeting for SDUSD. We had four public hearings for four renewing charters and one for a new charter school. Comments from Board members were all quite positive on the renewals; Richard Barrera thanked Dr. Wendy Ranck-Buhr at SD Cooperative for her leadership both at her charter and in the charter community. President Evans said he was "excited" by the work at Einstein with their world language program and their focus on critical thinking. Kevin Beiser complimented Arroyo Paseo on their academic growth and encouraged them to hang in there and keep up the good work.

There was also a public hearing for Village Academy of Cognitive Development, which proposes to open an elementary charter program in Southeast. The only board question there was on facilities. They will be the first charter to officially go through the new capacity interview process now being implemented by SDUSD.

Tubman was on the agenda as well, to let the district know that they had met all conditions placed on them last year after some very vocal staff and parent complaints. In an interesting turn of events, Union President Bill Freeman got up with a handful of Tubman teachers and took some credit for solving the issues there, saying they were pleased with the outcomes. SDEA is certainly making their presence known in the charter community on many different levels.

The last charter issue was approval of the policy piece regarding capacity interviews as part of the approval process for new charters, and the charter intervention panel that may be called upon if issues arise at a charter school. The panel would be called if there were significant complaints that needed to be addressed. The panel would hear all sides and try to offer solutions and support to the charter school. Some discussion and questions from Beiser came up around academic performance of charters and how district holds charters accountable annually and not just at renewal. He was also concerned with struggling charters getting support they need to improve. The policy piece was approved so now that board member concerns have been addressed, the committee can continue their work on the policy as a whole.

We hope to have renewal decisions at the April meeting but all is looking good so far. The district also has a total of four new petitions to look at and decide on and with the raised scrutiny and capacity interviews, it will be interesting to see how the new charters fare. If all four petitions are approved, SDUSD will have close to 50 charters next year.