Charter parents speak out | SierraSun.com

Charter parents speak out

Katherine Morris

Gail Wahl no longer has to worry when she asks her son, Ryan, about his day on the way home from school.

“I don’t cringe as I wait for his response because I know he’s doing great at his new school,” says the mother of two Prosser Creek Charter School (PCCS) students.

This wasn’t always the case, though.

Before transferring to PCCS this year, Wahl said it was a struggle just to get Ryan to go to class.

“The classes at his elementary school were just too big and the work didn’t challenge him, so he really lost his desire to learn,” she said. “I don’t blame the teachers at his old school because they did all they could with him, particularly with the time limits and restrictions they have. It’s just that now, he’s thriving in the smaller environment with more attention. He’s a leader in the class rather than struggling.”

“Both my kids beg me to take them to school early and pick them up late now,” she added.

Wahl is just one of the many PCCS parents who’ve come forward in the last couple months to share their stories in hopes of keeping the charter school an option for the parents and students in the district.

PCCS has come under fire in recently months with news of a substantial revenue projection error and the commissioning of the special audit of the school’s finances by the Placer County Department of Education.

Last night, that audit was released to the public via a special meeting of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, which took place after The Sierra Sun’s deadline.

Many fear the contents of the report could impact the renewal of the charter between PCCS and its sponsoring agency – TTUSD – particularly since relations between the two parties have been strained for years.

While charter school parents do not deny that mistakes were made, they’re hoping the school district will use this opportunity to help PCCS find solutions, rather than use the report as ammunition to shut the school down.

“This financial error is all you hear about,” said Deb Baldwin, parent of two PCCS students. “Yes, an error was made in revenue projections, but it was caught by the person who made it and the school has been very honest about everything. It’s just frustrating to see so much focus on all of this rather than on how important the school is for this community. Let’s focus on solutions.”

“I think the district is seeing that as only an administrative, budget issue,” Wahl said. “What they need to remember is that this is a personal issue as well. It’s personal because there are people attached to those budgets and numbers.”

Parent Nancy Handel stressed that the school has already worked very hard to get itself back on track financially.

“We’ve all known about the budget error since last February and the administration has already done so much including fill a vacant board position with a Stanford graduate who has a degree in finance, and hire school finance experts to help us with our financial plan,” Handel said.

“This summer, the school held work shops for parents on school finance. The school has also fully cooperated with the audit team. There’s been some really positive things going on at the school, but all of that seems to have been obscured by the sensationalism around the release of this report.”

PCCS parent Rich Valentine said luckily, much of this sensationalism has yet to reach the students.

“The kids are not really getting into this,” Valentine said. “They’re busy being kids and that’s a good thing. They know their parents to be people who care and trust us to follow suit and do whatever we can to work for the best possible outcome. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”

Although most PCCS parents remain optimistic about the outcome of the FCMAT report’s release, all agreed that they would not put their children back into the traditional system should the charter school cease to exist.

Both Handel and Valentine said they would consider moving out of the area.

“But that’s not to say that we don’t think our schools are good,” Handel said. “It’s just that our kids have now had these opportunities for advanced classes and a small environment. For them to go back into the large, traditional system would be very hard on them.”

Baldwin said she would resort to home schooling, as she did before Prosser Creek Charter School.

“My child needs a lot of one-on-one time, the kind of personal attention they’re not going to get at another school in the district,” she said. “It’s not that I don’t like the traditional schools or think that they are bad places – that’s not it at all,” she added. “It’s just that my kids don’t fit into that type of system – that type of box. The school is not for everyone, but for the kids that are there – it’s the way that these kids feel school should be.”

At this point, Baldwin said she’s not too worried, though.

“There’s too many challenged kids in this district that want and need a fair shot – too many kids that deserve a choice,” Baldwin said. “I think the school board will see that.”