Prosser Creek families grieve, look to future | SierraSun.com

Prosser Creek families grieve, look to future

Renee Shadforth

With the revocation of Prosser Creek’s charter, parents, students and employees of the school have to weigh their options for the coming school year, which starts in less than two weeks.

On Wednesday, however, most of them were still reeling from the reality that their charter was revoked the night before, when the countless hours spent in meetings, tears shed and energy spent toward keeping the school open culminated in more tears, anger and trepidation about the future.

At Wednesday night’s Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board meeting, one Prosser Creek mother said, “It is truly a death.”

“We need time to grieve,” she added.

The school board shut Prosser Creek down Tuesday night, citing, among other things, the school’s financial mismanagement as reason for closure. As a result, approximately 900 children – roughly 300 in the North Shore-Truckee area – will have to find another place to go to school, and 85 employees will have to find jobs.

“I think that the parents are incredibly disappointed, based on the fact that Prosser Creek is a highly successful educational environment,” said Chaco Mohler, a Prosser Creek parent, in a phone interview Wednesday.

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Many parents have said they believe the school district was unfair during negotiations with charter school representatives.

“There’s a general impression among parents that [the school district staff] were not negotiating in good faith,” Mohler said.

Although Mohler said he was concerned with the school board’s decision to remove an education option from the Tahoe-Truckee area, he hopes the decision was made with the children in mind.

“I think the school district will continue to remember it’s about the kids,” he said. “Hopefully that’s why they made this decision.”

Although saddened by the board’s ruling, many families affected by the revocation are looking to the future.

On Wednesday night Prosser Creek administrators held a parent meeting to offer information on alternatives to Prosser Creek.

“The faculty and staff of Prosser Creek Charter School consider it an honor and a privilege to have served the families of the Tahoe-Truckee community for the past five years,” said Johanna Zabierek and Steve Canavero, in a release after the meeting. “Although our charter has been revoked, we remain dedicated to the vision upon which our school was founded; to work in partnership with the parents and students to create an educational plan that serves each student’s unique interests, goals, and abilities.”

Many charter school employees were worked throughout the week, trying to get student records to families and tying up loose ends, without knowing if they would get paid for their time.

Anna Toso, Prosser Creek’s project coordinator, said she wants to ease the transition for the families.

“We really appreciate the families and their support,” she said. “A lot of families are really upset, but we’re all looking forward.”

Among students’ options are home schooling, independent study, other area charter school options, and returning to the mainstream school system. Some parents have expressed concerns with the school district’s plans to absorb former Prosser Creek students. At the revocation meeting Tuesday night, parents asked district representatives how they could afford the students and how schools on the Truckee side, almost at capacity, could handle the students.

One parent, who wouldn’t give his name, said he was told Truckee Elementary was too crowded for his children.

His children have been tentatively accepted to Glenshire Elementary for the 2003-2004 school year, according to a letter from the district. If overcrowding occurs prior to the first 10 days of class, the intra-district transfer might be revoked, according to the letter and district policy.

He added he wouldn’t send his children to the Rideout campus because he doesn’t want his children on a bus in the winter coming back to Truckee from the West Shore. At Wednesday’s school board meeting, district Superintendent Dennis Williams said the district might offer a Prosser Creek-like option on the Truckee side.

Prosser Creek’s lenders – who stepped up in the charter school’s last days by offering a debt restructure plan Prosser Creek representatives thought would work – will also be affected by the school board’s decision. Now the charter school may have to default on its loan.

Charles “Skip” Fish of Charles Fish Investments promised “an avalanche of litigation” against the district Tuesday night if the school board revoked the charter.

“I don’t know what to say except that it’s unfortunate, but you can’t turn back time,” he said. “We’ll just take the normal steps with lawyers, lawyers, lawyers.”

Jayna Gaskell, who lost her executive director position at Prosser Creek just days before the school’s revocation, was working with the school’s budget until the week before the school was shut down.

“I believe we had a workable solution,” she said. “I’m disappointed the board wasn’t able to see that.”

Statement issued by Johanna Zabierek and Steve Canavero, Prosser Creek Charter School principals:

The faculty and staff of Prosser Creek Charter School consider it an honor and a privilege to have served the families of the Tahoe-Truckee community for the past five years. Although our charter has been revoked, we remain dedicated to the vision upon which our school was founded; to work in partnership with the parents and students to create an educational plan that serves each student’s unique interests, goals and abilities. We are overwhelmed by the support that has been shown to us by our families, students, and many other members of this community. While we are deeply saddened by the revocation of our charter, we are actively exploring alternatives for our students and families who have been displaced by the elimination of Prosser Creek as an option. The principals, Johanna Zabierek and Steve Canavero, remain available to answer questions or concerns as we work through this difficult transition. You may contact them at the main campus in Truckee at 550-2305.