Parents discuss Prosser Creek’s new charter
The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board of directors’ decision to renew Prosser Creek’s charter was resoundingly “bitter-sweet” for parents on both ends of the issue.
“I feel like we had a miracle,” said Prosser Creek parent Gail Wahl. “There’s a group of us that has been praying for us to be able to keep our school. Even though it was bitter sweet, and even though on paper we lose our site, we’ll still have our program.”
On April 10, all five school board members voted unanimously to renew Prosser Creek’s five-year charter. For many of the trustees, it was an emotional decision.
“We were happy to see their tears, because it meant they struggled through their decision,” Wahl said.
As a last-minute addendum to the charter, district administrators added specific terms to Prosser Creek’s charter, including a new location for Truckee charter school students for the 2003-2004 school year, separate charters for Prosser Creek’s out-of-district students, and a five-percent cap on enrollment.
The two parties were negotiating terms just minutes before the board’s decision.
“I was concerned with the financial piece,” said Tahoe Truckee High School parent Nancy Maass about the school’s alleged $3.5 million debt. “That is something that still concerns me. I think the agreement they came up with should solve many of the issues. It is kind of a wait-and-see mode.”
Maass was one of only a couple of parents without children in the charter school who showed up to the two board meetings preceding the renewal.
Peggy Lindsay, a parent of a fifth grader at Prosser Creek, said the move from the Union Mills Road campus will give the community a chance to embrace and understand the charter school’s students and programs.
“I like to compare the charter school and the traditional school district to a PPO and an HMO,” Lindsay said. “For most people, an HMO works, but some need the care of a PPO. It’s all based on different needs.”
Although Lindsay was pleased with the decision, she said spending the money to set up a different campus by fall “seems a bit extravagant.”
For Prosser Creek teachers and staff, who had a meeting the day before the renewal to discuss their future with the school, the decision to accept the school board’s terms secured their employment for another school year.
Steve Canavero, dean of students for Prosser Creek, spoke on the teachers’ behalf at a parent meeting the night before the decision was made.
“The key piece [for the teachers and staff] was that Prosser Creek is more than just the physical structure,” Canavero said. “We know we can sustain our culture in a new environment.”
He added that if the charter school was denied by TTUSD and appealed to the state, Prosser Creek “would lose a lot” of its staff, because of the uncertainty of being renewed at the state level.
The day after the trustees’ decision to renew the charter, Wahl said she could tell the teachers were pleased.
“It was really overwhelming – the sense of peace our teachers felt the next day,” she said. “They know we’re going to have a tough year, but we’ve had many tough years.”
For Wahl’s children who attend kindergarten and fifth grade at the school, moving to a different campus was a sacrifice Prosser Creek had to make.
“If it’s ‘keep their teachers and keep the program or keep the property,’ they’d rather have the teachers and the school,” she said. “I’m totally behind [the Prosser Creek Advisory Council] for making those compromises.”
After years of contentious and rocky relations between parents, teachers and administrators on both sides of the charter school fence – with representatives on either side saying communication is positive one month and negative the next – many are hopeful for renewed lines of communication between the district and Prosser Creek.
“I’m hoping the whole level of conversation can improve between the charter school parents and the school district parents,” Maass said. “It all kind of ties everyone in knots.”
The financial feasibility of Prosser Creek came into question last year after school accounting problems surfaced. An independent audit of the school revealed more than $3 million of debt. A number of issues brought forth by the audit have been challenged by school officials, who have commissioned their own internal audits.
In question were numbers drawn from average daily attendance (money the school gets from the state, based on student attendance), facilities and teacher credentials.
The school district has taken issue with debt generated by the school’s Union Mills Road site, as well the pending $1.2 million projected cost to pave the road and upgrade the water system.
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