The Green Valley Charter School’s last ditch efforts at surviving for next school year now depend on legal wrangling with the Los Banos Unified School District, or the California Board of Education.
Green Valley Principal Andrew Meza and Board Chair Don Goin signed a letter by the charter school claiming that rules in the state education code automatically renewed the school’s education code.
At the same time, the school plans to continue its renewal efforts with the California Board of Education, following earlier denials from the LBUSD and Merced County Board of Education. However, state officials say that process may stretch to September.
If Green Valley’s automatic renewal claims don’t hold up, and the state denies the charter school’s petition, it will likely close down, Meza told the Enterprise in an interview Wednesday.
In the letter sent to the LBUSD Board of Trustees, Green Valley officials claim that state code 5 CCR 11966.4 states a charter school up for renewal may be automatically approved after 60 days from when a petition was filed, if the school district doesn’t issue a denial.
The letter states that Green Valley submitted a second charter renewal petition to the school district on Feb. 24, after its first petition was denied by the LBUSD Board of Trustees.
However, the school district never held a public hearing on the second petition, and “took no action to adopt written factual findings to deny” the charter.
That, in Green Valley administrators’ eyes, meant the charter automatically renewed Tuesday, at the 60-day mark.
Green Valley, a 5-year-old Waldorf education-inspired school, has operated under a charter with the LBUSD. However, that charter will run out June 30. The K-7 school, which currently enrolls about 200 students, is one of only two charter schools operating in Merced County.
School officials petitioned the Los Banos school district to renew its charter. But critical comments by the California Charter Schools Association, an organization that advocates for charter schools, recommended the school district deny the charter due to low test scores and comparable results.
The school district denied the initial petition for renewal in February. That’s when Green Valley officials revised and launched another one.
LBUSD Board President Anthony Parreira and Superintendent Dean Bubar couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
However, in prior interviews with the Enterprise, Parreira said the school board already denied Green Valley’s first petition. So the school district’s legal experts advised the board that it couldn’t vote on the second petition.
LBUSD attorney Scott Holbrook also couldn’t be reached Wednesday for comment on Green Valley’s automatic renewal claims.
After the LBUSD’s initial denial, Green Valley appealed to the Merced County Board of Education, the next step in the charter process. But last week, the county board also denied the appeal in light of a staff report that questioned the school’s facilities and education plans.
Meza said Green Valley administrators are in the process of gathering materials and modifying the renewal petition for the state board, the next step in the appeal process.
Carolyn Pfister, an administrator for the state board, on Tuesday told the Enterprise that Green Valley had some time to file an appeal with the state board. But any decisions may be made in July or September, which presents a planning problem for Green Valley parents.
Meza said school officials are hoping for the best, but also planning for the worst case scenario by talking with parents about their children’s unique needs, and options in case the school closes for good.
Pfister said that since January 2011, the state board of education has received 34 charter school petitions. Of those, 23 petitions were for new schools. Five of those 23 were denied and 17 were approved, with one petition resulting in no action.
Seven petitions were renewal appeals by existing schools, Pfister said. Three were denied and two were approved. Two appeals weren’t heard, which could mean they were pulled by the school among other reasons.
The remaining four appeals were pulled by the petitioners.
Following “an exhaustive and thorough” review, Pfister said the appeal would head to an advisory commission on charter schools with a public hearing. The commission would give a recommendation to the state board, which would hold another public hearing before making a decision.
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562