Renewal: School district signs Prosser Creek Charter School for 5 years
More than the usual amount of tears was shed after all five school board members unanimously affirmed their support for Prosser Creek’s five-year charter renewal on April 10.
“Despite the positions I’ve taken in the past, I’m absolutely delighted about [the renewal],” said Patricia Gibbons-Johnson, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board president. “I’m sorry we had to go through all this to get where we are.”
In a meeting on April 8, district administrators drafted specific terms to be added as an addendum 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.
In closed session, attorneys on both sides were drafting changes in the minutes before the final vote.
“My plan is that if you renew the charter, it will be a road … filled with communication,” said Jayna Gaskell, executive director of Prosser Creek. “I hope that the choice we offer in the community will be valued.”
After a round of public comment and thank yous, interim superintendent Bob Nehls read his recommendation to the board prior to their vote, saying complex issues with charter law created difficulties, and the district’s concerns with Prosser Creek were not programmatic, but financial.
“I recommend that with this charter, along with the essential points, that the board approve the charter renewal,” he said.
Before the vote, each board member gave an emotion-filled speech about their decision.
“I’ve been on both sides of this, personally, for a long time. It’s been hard to reconcile,” trustee Mel Cone said.
Honesty, he added, was going to be the most important part of the relationship between the district and Prosser Creek he said.
Trustee Cindy Gustafson, who was on the sub-committee for the charter’s renewal along with Gibbons-Johnson, said she appreciated Prosser Creek’s willingness to accept change.
“We’ve struggled with what is right,” she said.
Gibbons-Johnson gave praise to Nehls, who “started with an optimistic attitude and kept with it,” she said.
She also applauded Trustee Karen Van Epps, one of the board members who approved Prosser Creek’s original charter five years ago.
“She’s been a strong supporter of Prosser Creek, even during the tense periods,” Gibbons-Johnson said.
After the board voted and the meeting was adjourned, parents and administrators from the charter school and the district stood to shake hands and embrace.
Over the next couple weeks, district administrators and Prosser Creek representatives determine where the Truckee site students will be housed in the coming school year. Students will be housed at Sierra Mountain Middle School for the remainder of the charter, as the facilities become available with the construction of the new middle school.
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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