School district yanks Prosser Creek charter
August 20, 2003
Before the final vote was cast, Prosser Creek Charter School parents, students and teachers got out of their seats because the decision was clear: The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board had chosen revocation.
Outraged, crying and some looking at the panel of district representatives in disbelief, many Prosser Creek families had choice words for the board and district staff – some words were said quietly and many words – unfit for print -were shouted at the school board.
“This is about more than money. You’re ruining lives!” one mother shouted at the school board.
After nearly five hours of deliberation – interrupted when the meeting was moved from the district office to the high school theater after a firefighter said the board room had exceeded capacity – the board voted four to one to revoke Prosser Creek’s charter Tuesday night.
Board members voting “aye” on revocation cited the school’s financial troubles as grounds for revocation.
“I don’t have confidence in the fiscal management of this school,” said Trustee Cindy Gustafson. “But I have complete confidence in the program.”
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Trustee Karen Van Epps voted against Superintendent Dennis Williams’ recommendation to revoke the charter. Van Epps was concerned, among other things, with the impact the transition of charter school students into mainstream schools would have on the district budget.
“I don’t have enough information here regarding the financial consequences,” she said, suggesting the decision be put off for two days.
Williams’ recommendation to revoke – based on findings of the school’s fiscal mismanagement, neglect to address its $3.4 million debt problem in a timely manner, failure to agree on a memorandum of understanding and last-minute crisis-mode planning – was met by groans from the audience.
Chris Handel, Prosser Creek Advisory Council member, presented the board with the school’s budget plan for coming years and responded to the superintendent’s recommendation.
“I understand that Prosser Creek has a history of errors … but my position here tonight is that those things aren’t the subject at hand,” he said. “There are things in [the superintendent’s recommendation] that are half-truths and falsities.”
Handel added later that the negotiation of the MOU was a “bizarrely unorchestrated process.”
Prosser Creek Advisory Council member Celest Fournier read a letter from assemblymen Tim Leslie and Rick Keene and Sen. Rico Oller that admonished the school district’s actions toward revocation.
Some of Prosser Creek’s financial stakeholders spoke on the school’s behalf, promising a to restructure Prosser Creek’s debt and help balance the school’s budget with grants and interest reductions.
They also promised that lawsuits would follow if the school board chose revocation.
“There will be an avalanche of litigation,” said Charles “Skip” Fish of Charles Fish Investments, the charter school’s largest creditor. “People who are losing money are going to sue…”
A representative for Wedbush Morgan Securities threatened he would “pledge of the company’s resources against the district” if the board chose revocation.
“It could be political careers. It could be bad feelings in the community,” he said. “(Not revoking) would avoid a myriad of problems that get larger and larger and larger.”
Tahoe Truckee Unified School District has set a meeting for parents who want their children to return to the mainstream school system. On Tuesday, Aug. 26, district staff will hold a parent meeting at Rideout at 6 p.m.