School district creates plan for charter school students, conflict resolution at a ‘standstill’
Twenty days and counting until the first day of school, and Prosser Creek Charter School students still aren’t sure where they’ll be on Sept. 2.
If the school’s charter is revoked, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District administrators have established a contingency plan for Prosser Creek students.
“If the board did revoke the charter, it’s likely that some students would need to enter our programs,” district Superintendent Dennis Williams said Monday afternoon. “We started to develop a plan as to how we could accommodate that.”
Messages left by the Sierra Sun for Prosser Creek Executive Director Jayna Gaskell were not returned.
The district’s contingency plan came to light in Williams’ written declaration to Placer County Superior Court on Aug. 6. The statement responded to Prosser Creek’s request for a temporary restraining order and injunction to stop the district revoking the school’s charter on Aug. 7.
Last month the district sent Prosser Creek a “notice to cure or face revocation,” which accuses the school of poor financial management and refusing to sign a memorandum of understanding. The district gave the charter school until the Aug. 7 date to cure the alleged violations.
The court granted the charter school’s requests, thus delaying the school board’s decision 20 days.
Charter school representatives also hoped the injunction would begin the conflict resolution process outlined in their charter.
“We’re sort of at a standstill,” Williams said, adding that the conflict resolution process has not begun because the school must first prove its financial solvency.
Today school district representatives returned to Placer County Superior Court to try to get the restraining order lifted or reduced, Williams said.
Williams stressed it was premature to discuss the details of the district’s plan because Prosser Creek still has the opportunity to cure, with a memorandum of understanding, a balanced budget and proof of restructured debt – estimated at more than $3.5 million.
In the district’s plan, Prosser Creek’s independent study students will enroll in Cold Stream Alternative School or Sierra High School.
“Conversations have already begun between the administrators of PCCS and TTUSD to assure an easy transition for the students as well as a continuation of their planned individual curriculum,” Williams wrote in his deposition.
However, Prosser Creek Advisory Council representative Celest Fournier said no such discussions have taken place between school and district administrators.
Under the district’s plan, the charter school’s site-based students will be moved to Rideout Elementary School – recently vacated by mainstream district students – in a program that “closely aligns with that currently established at the Truckee PCCS site,” Williams wrote in his deposition.
The district would pre-employ Prosser Creek’s teachers and principal as substitutes for the district, according to the deposition. The plan would also allow the district to post open positions at Rideout and give Prosser Creek staff the opportunity to be hired for the positions, Williams continued.
District administrators also planned to provide transportation to Rideout, a lunch program, a secretary, a custodian, and support services, until a more permanent solution is found.
In the event that Prosser Creek’s charter was revoked on Aug. 7, Williams wrote, district administrators would have held a meeting for all interested parents and students at Rideout on Aug. 14.
One Prosser Creek parent said she expected a plan of this sort from the school district.
“I know [district administrators] are expecting us to enroll our 300 kids in their schools,” said Prosser Creek parent Gail Wahl, whose children will be in first and sixth grades this year. “Fortunately, there are other options out there.”
She won’t put her son in the mainstream middle school in Truckee because he would “get devoured” and persecuted by the other students for being from the charter school.
Wahl said she had never wanted to homeschool her children, but if Prosser Creek were to be shut down by the school district, she would consider it as an option.
“We’ve never been homeschool advocates – we feel we should be out and connected to the community,” she said. “But if push comes to shove, that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Prosser Creek’s dispute resolution process as outlined in its charter:
— Frame the issue in written format. In the event the district believes the dispute relates to an issue that could lead to revocation of the charter, this shall be noted in the statement.
— Prosser Creek and district administrators meet informally and confer in a timely fashion to resolve the dispute.
— If the informal meeting fails to resolve the dispute, both parties identify two board members and meet with the heads of the district and Prosser Creek and attempt to resolve the dispute.
— If this fails to resolve the dispute, both parties will choose a third, neutral party to arbitrate discussions. The format of the session will be developed by Prosser Creek and the district and will include informal rules of evidence and procedure. The findings and recommendations of the arbitrator shall be non-binding, unless the governing bodies agree to bind themselves.
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