Confusion over Green Valley Charter School’s ability to reapply for a charter under the Los Banos Unified School District after an initial rejection continued as legal counsel for both sides presented competing explanations Thursday.
The Waldorf Education-inspired school’s initial charter renewal was rejected by the Los Banos school board Feb. 9 on a 4-3 vote. Trustees Dennis Areias, Marg Benton, Gary Munoz and Anthony Parreira voted for the denial, while trustees Megan Goin-Soares, Ray Martinez and Marlene Smith voted against it.
The reasons for the denial included poor test scores and the lack of an adequate educational plan with specifics on how to turn around academic performance.
The opinion of the California Charter School Association, an advocacy organization for charter schools in the state, was also a factor. In January, the CCSA recommended non-renewal of the charter, citing low test results and comparative data to other schools in the area.
However, Green Valley parents and school officials have said the school offers a better alternative for children with special needs and those who struggle in a district school environment. Many say state test results don’t tell the whole story.
Last week, Principal Andrew Meza submitted a new petition with a revamped plan that he said addressed most of the issues. However, it failed to make the agenda for Thursday’s school board meeting in part because the school district’s legal counsel advised that the board had already voted on the issue.
On Thursday, Green Valley supporters made another plea to the school board to rehear the charter renewal with the updated petition and plan.
“We looked at and listened very carefully to the remarks,” Green Valley Principal Andrew Meza said. “I would hope that you would take the time to look at our responses to that. Not only did we address the eight concerns or eight points that were brought up, but we looked very hard and brought forth what we believe is an extensive intervention plan.”
However, for Parreira, as board president the issue wasn’t about the merits of the new plan as much as the legal authority of the board to rehear the renewal after the board had already taken action.
“The action was a vote on the renewal of the charter,” Parreira said. “We can’t take action on the (new) petition.”
Theodore Lieu, the attorney representing the district, backed Parreira’s claim and told the school board that the education code provides recourse for a charter school if its petition is denied.
“It’s important (to note) that if there is a denial at the local level, legislators have clearly contemplated that,” Lieu said.
However, Goin-Soares questioned Lieu’s assertion by pointing out that the education code doesn’t state that the charter school can’t reapply for its charter before going to the county.
Janelle A. Ruley, an attorney representing Green Valley’s position Thursday, told the school board that several schools she has represented have reapplied for charters several times to a single district before being accepted.
“This is exactly what Green Valley has done here,” Ruley said. “Quite simply, the district doesn’t have the discretion to not hear this.”
The conflicting messages frustrated Smith.
“We don’t have any satisfaction for the parents of Green Valley Charter,” Smith said. “We’re hearing one issue from their attorney, and we’re hearing something from our attorney. How can we confirm to this group that this cannot be done?”
Several parents and family members, such as resident Carlos Flores, again lobbied the school board to change its stance and “give parents the choice” of the charter school.
“One of the reasons we moved to the Valley was ... to put my kid in the Waldorf Education system,” Flores said.
While the renewal wasn’t on the agenda, Martinez attempted to bring a motion to put it on the board’s agenda for the next meeting on April 13. However, Lieu advised the school board that only Parreira as board president or Acting Superintendent Dean Bubar can bring an agenda item back for reconsideration.
Parreira said he will discuss adding the renewal on the agenda with Bubar and legal counsel.
After the meeting, Meza and Ruley told the Enterprise that Green Valley has already started the process of applying for a charter with the Merced County Office of Education.
“But we still want to (reapply through) the district,” Meza said, noting that the Green Valley community wants to stay local.
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562