Board Votes to Deny Charter Petition; CHARTER APPEALS TO COUNTY
Proposed Ipso Charter School Will Not Pursue Appeal, Will Partner with MCOE
On March 14, 2017 San Rafael City Schools received an update from the co-founders of the proposed charter school, Ipso School, announcing that they will be collaborating with Marin County Office of Education (MCOE) to redesign Marin's Community School using key elements of their Ipso model. As such, they shared they will not pursue the appeal to the State Board of Education to open the Ipso School in San Rafael in 2018.
SRCS is supportive of the Ipso co-founders' new path to help our greater educational community, and admires Ipso's ongoing commitment to provide opportunities to Marin students so they are successful in both college and career. Marin's Community School is instrumental in meeting the needs of the most high-risk youth in Marin County, and SRCS looks forward to the program's future as the Ipso co-founders collaborate with MCOE's leadership to build upon the Community School's strengths.
SRCS is grateful for the engagement of and input from the greater SRCS community throughout this process. We are pleased that the outcome is what we believe is in the best interest of all students in Marin County and allows high-quality, innovative programs to continue to thrive and grow in San Rafael City Schools and at Marin's Community School.
Petition Received by SRCS Board:
At its Aug. 8 meeting, the Board formally received a petition from Ipso School proposing to open an independent charter school in the San Rafael High School District. Their petition calls for opening a charter high school in San Rafael to ninth grade students in the fall of 2017, and adding a grade level until they reach full 9-12 grade enrollment of approximately 528 students. Ipso School's co-founders, Erin Ashley and Katy Foster, most recently were educators in the Tamalpais Union High School District.
Click here to access the Ipso School petition; links to the contents of the petition are available under item 6.
Additionally, overview information on the review process was shared with the Board at the Aug. 8 meeting. As part of the process, a public hearing would be held to assess support and within 60 days, the Board must act on the petition. Click here to view the presentation.
SRCS Public Hearing:
At its meeting on Aug. 22, the Board held the public hearing on the charter petition. The Ipso School co-founders gave a presentation at the beginning of the hearing and then the Board opened up the hearing for public comments. Over 40 people provided comments. Click here for meeting minutes from the public hearing.
SRCS Board Action:
The Board took action on the petition at its meeting on Sept. 26. In preparation for the meeting, the District convened a staff team to review the petition and to critically evaluate whether the program proposed by the petitioners met legal requirements and offered a sustainable program to local students. After thorough evaluation, District staff determined that the petition did not meet legal requirements in key areas, and should be denied. Legal findings to support the recommendation of petition denial were prepared in a Staff Report. Click here to download the Staff Report.
Members of the District's leadership team presented the Staff Report at the Sept. 26 meeting. They shared that denial of the petition was recommended based on the following conclusions:
- The petition fails to provide a reasonably comprehensive description of seven of the 15 required elements of a charter petition
- The petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program presented
Click here to view the presentation in English or click here to view in Spanish.
Following the presentation, there were questions from the Board; public comment from more than 30 parents, teachers, staff, alumni and community members; Board comments; and the Board's unanimous vote to deny the charter petition and adopt the findings of the Staff Report.
The Board's action to deny the petition on Sept. 26 formally closed the District's review process. Click here for meeting minutes.
California's Education Code allows a petitioner to seek approval of a charter petition from a county board of education if the petition has been denied by a local school district governing board. Ipso School appealed the District's denial and submitted their petition to the Marin County Office of Education.
Marin County Office of Education Board Reviews and Denies Petition:
Following the SRCS Board's action to deny the petition, the Ipso School co-founders submitted their petition to the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE) on Sept. 27. California's Education Code allows a petitioner to seek approval of a charter petition from a county board of education if the petition has been denied by a local school district governing board.
As part of the review process, the MCOE Board of Education held a public hearing on the petition on Oct. 25 to assess support among teachers, employees, parents and the community. The Ipso School co-founders gave a presentation at the beginning of the hearing, followed by a presentation from SRCS Superintendent Michael Watenpaugh and Board President Rachel Kertz. Click here to download SRCS' presentation.
Following the presentations, the MCOE Board opened up the hearing for public comments. Approximately 50 people, including parents, alumni, a student, partners, teachers and staff provided comments, with about 35 of them asking the MCOE Board to deny the petition.
Also as part of their process, an appointed three-member Ad Hoc Committee of the MCOE Board of Education reviewed the petition and met separately with representatives from SRCS and Ipso School.
The MCOE Board took action on the petition at its meeting on Nov. 8. In preparation for the meeting, MCOE's Ad Hoc Committee reviewed the petition and prepared a recommendation. Click here to download the report. In summary, the committee recommended a denial of the petition based on the following conclusions:
The petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition.
- The Petition did not demonstrate sufficient evidence to support the likelihood of financial solvency.
- The Petition did not demonstrate a level of day-to-day administrative operations and staff level experience necessary for the successful operation of a charter school.
At the meeting, after remarks from the District and Ipso School representatives and public comment, the MCOE Board asked questions, make comments and unanimously voted to deny the charter petition and adopt the findings of the Ad Hoc Committee's recommendation.
Education Code allows a petitioner to request the State Board of Education approve a charter petition if the petition has been previously denied by a local school district governing board and a county board of education.
Proposed Charter School Postpones Appeal; Extends Timeline
In the fall of 2016, both the San Rafael City Schools Board of Education and the Marin County Board of Education unanimously voted to deny the Ipso School petition for a charter high school in San Rafael. Education Code allows a petitioner to request the State Board of Education approve a charter petition if the petition has been previously denied at the local and county levels.
In December, Ipso School announced their Board of Trustees has decided to postpone appealing to the State and to extend its timeline for opening the school until the fall of 2018.
Our respective teams plan to meet at some point in the future so that SRCS better understand the Ipso School co-founders' intentions and determine potential next steps.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is a charter school?
A charter school is a public school that provides instruction in any combination of grades K-12. Parents, teachers, or community members may initiate a charter petition, which is typically presented to and approved by a local school district governing board. Specific goals and operating procedures for a charter school are detailed in a charter petition, and, if the petition is granted, in an agreement between the charter authorizing entity and the charter developer. A charter school is exempted from many of the statutes and regulations that apply to school districts. Students enroll in charter schools on a voluntary basis, subject to space availability and, if demand exceeds the number of spaces available, through a lottery process.
2. Are charter schools part of the public school system?
Yes. Charter schools are under the jurisdiction of the Public School System and are publicly funded, as specified in California Education Code (EC) Section 47615. However, charter schools are commonly operated as or by non-profit corporations. Ipso Schools is a California nonprofit corporation, formed in November 2015.
3. Who is eligible to submit a charter petition?
Anyone may develop, circulate, and submit a petition to establish a charter school. EC Section 47605(a) requires charter developers to collect signatures to indicate support for the petition. For a new charter school that is not a conversion of an existing public school, charter developers must obtain the signatures of either 50 percent of the teachers that the school estimates will be employed at the school in its first year of operation or 50 percent of the parents of pupils that the school estimates will enroll in the school in its first year of operation. The petition must contain a prominent statement that a signature means that the person signing is meaningfully interested in teaching in, or in having his or her child(ren) attend the school.
4. Who submitted a charter petition in San Rafael?
On August 8, 2017, the San Rafael City Schools Board of Education formally received a petition from Ipso Schools proposing to open an independent charter school in the San Rafael High School District. Their petition calls for opening a charter high school in San Rafael to ninth grade students in the fall of 2017, and adding a grade level each year until they reach full 9-12 grade enrollment of approximately 528 students. Ipso Schools' co-founders, Erin Ashley and Katy Foster, most recently were educators in the Tamalpais Union High School District. Click here to access their petition, which is available in section IX.5 of the agenda.
5. On what grounds can a local governing board deny approval of a charter petition?
EC Section 47605(b) specifies that a local educational agency shall not deny the approval of a charter petition unless it makes written factual findings, specific to the particular petition, that:
- The charter school presents an unsound educational program.
- The petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition.
- The petition does not contain the required number of signatures.
- The petition does not contain an affirmation of each of the conditions described in EC Section 47605(d).
- The petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of all of the 15 required elements of the petition.
- The petition does not contain a declaration of whether or not the charter school shall be deemed the exclusive public employer of the employees of the charter school for purposes of the Educational Employment Relations Act.
6. Who may approve a charter school petition?
Under EC Section 47605(b) the local school district governing board may approve charter schools, with a few exceptions, to operate within its boundaries. In the case of the Ipso Schools, it is the SRCS Board of Education that has been requested to approve the petition.
EC sections 47605(j) and 47605.6 allow a petitioner to seek approval of a charter petition from a county board of education if the petition has been denied by a local school district governing board within the county, or in circumstances where a charter petitioner seeks to open a “countywide benefit charter.” In the case of the Ipso Schools, it is the Marin County Office of Education that may approve the petition if the SRCS Board of Education denies it.
EC Section 47605.8 allows a petitioner to request the State Board of Education approve a charter petition if the petition has been previously denied by a local school district governing board and a county board of education.
The entity that approves a charter petition is required to oversee the charter school.
7. What is the timeline for approval of a charter petition?
EC Section 47605(b) specifies that a local governing board must hold a public hearing for a proposed charter within 30 days of receipt of the completed petition, and, within 60 days from receipt of the petition, either grantor deny the charter. Some entities grant charters conditional on the petitioner meeting certain requirements after approval, but that form of approval is not outlined in the law.
The timeline for the Ipso Schools petition is as follows:
- August 8, 2016 Board Meeting: The Board formally received the Ipso Schools petition
- August 22, 2016 Board Meeting: The Board held a public hearing on the petition
- September 26, 2016 Board Meeting: The Board is scheduled to take action to grant or deny the petition.
Please note that neither action nor discussion of the petition is scheduled to be on the agenda at the September 12, 2016 meeting, but public comment is welcome. All Board meetings are open to the public.
8. What are the required elements of a charter petition?
Each charter petition must contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of each of 15 required elements. The 15 elements, as specified in EC Section 47605(b)(5)(A-P), are:
- A description of the educational program of the school. If the proposed charter school will serve high school pupils, a description of how the charter school will inform parents about the transferability of courses to other public high schools and the eligibility of courses to meet college entrance requirements must be included in the charter petition.
- The measurable pupil outcomes identified for use by the school.
- The method by which pupil progress in meeting those pupil outcomes is to be measured.
- The schools governance structure, including parental involvement.
- The qualifications to be met by individuals employed by the school.
- Procedures to ensure health and safety of pupils and staff.
- The means by which the school will achieve racial and ethnic balance among its pupils, reflective of the general population residing in the district.
- Admission requirements, if applicable.
- The manner in which annual financial audits will be conducted, and the manner in which audit exceptions and deficiencies will be resolved.
- The procedures by which pupils may be suspended or expelled.
- Provisions for employee coverage under the State Teachers Retirement System, the Public Employees Retirement System, or federal social security.
- The public school alternatives for pupils residing within the district who choose not to attend charter schools.
- A description of the rights of any employee of the school district upon leaving the employment of the school district to work in a charter school, and of any rights of return to the school district after employment at a charter school.
- A dispute resolution process.
- The procedures to be used if the charter school closes.
9. Are you able to determine the funds that would transfer?
The funding assumptions are complex, and there are many variables such as which district a student comes from, but we estimate we would transfer approximately $8,900 per student from the high school district to the charter. If the charter reaches its full predicted capacity of 528 students, this means the San Rafael High School District would transfer about $4.7 million to the charter school.
The District does not object to the fact that funding follows San Rafael students if they leave District schools to attend a charter school; however, our District must also transfer a portion of its funds to a charter school for students that are not residents of our District. Funding the education of out-of-district students creates a financial impact that is not offset by having fewer students attending District schools.
10. What are the next steps for SRCS?
The District is currently reviewing and analyzing the petition, its proposed operation and whether it meets the statutory criteria. The District's review, along with information shared at the public hearing and all public comment on the matter, will help the District develop a recommendation to the Board. This recommendation is scheduled to be shared at the September 26, 2016 Board meeting. The final Board action on the charter petition is also scheduled for the Sept. 26 meeting. All Board meetings are open to the public.
11. Can the community provide input?
Yes, community input matters and is welcomed. All Board of Education meetings are open to the public. Click here for upcoming meeting dates.
The California Department of Education, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cs/re/csqatoc.asp
Dannis Woliver Kelley, Attorneys at Law, presentation to the SRCS Board of Education, 8/8/16