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After denial from Ocean View district, charter school seeks approval from county

After denial from Ocean View district, charter school seeks approval from county
Students show artwork that would be done as part of Sycamore Creek Community Charter School's program proposal. The school is seeking approval from the Orange County Board of Education to open in Huntington Beach. (Courtesy of Amy Green-Bosinoff)

Amid pushback from the Ocean View School District, a charter school is hoping the Orange County Board of Education will approve its proposal to establish an alternative school in Huntington Beach.

Sycamore Creek Community Charter School’s proposal, submitted to the Ocean View district in September, describes the free public charter school as applying arts-integrated curriculum inspired by Waldorf methodologies, in which students’ creativity is a central focus.

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The school anticipates opening in September this year and serving transitional kindergarten through eighth grade, with overall enrollment capped at 240 students.

The school would be open to students in Huntington Beach-based Ocean View and neighboring districts.

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Ocean View adopted a resolution in November denying the plan.

The Orange County board is scheduled to decide the charter’s fate Feb. 13.

Sycamore officials have not yet secured a school site.

This is the second time Sycamore unsuccessfully petitioned Ocean View. The district denied the first petition in 2016 because district officials deemed the program inadequate.

Charter schools can be a contentious topic. Some critics argue they drain resources from struggling districts. Advocates contend they promote choices for parents interested in providing their children with an alternative curriculum.

Ocean View’s resolution in November took issue with a variety of aspects of the program, including its curriculum and administration.

For example, according to the resolution, some state standards would be addressed at different grade levels than what’s in Common Core State Standards, which could result in learning gaps for students who transfer to another school.

The proposal, the resolution said, also lacks a comprehensive description of qualifications of all school employees and an indication that classroom teachers could provide activities such as woodworking, string instruments and world languages.

The district determined that “the charter school presents an unsound educational program” and that “the petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program.”

Sycamore submitted a rebuttal to the Orange County board, saying the district “mischaracterizes,” uses “an overly literal reading” of the petition and includes “incorrect assumptions.”

“Many of the ‘highly specialized activities’ identified in the charter petition are specific to Waldorf teacher training, which includes training in music, drama, painting, handwork, games and storytelling,” according to the rebuttal. “SCCCS has budgeted for additional specialized non-core, non-college-prep instruction in the event all activities cannot be effectively delivered by the classroom teachers.”

Sycamore also said the school would meet all statewide standards and provide the district and parents with a road map outlining when specific standards are met by grade level.

The district said that although the school “may also employ noncertificated instructional staff with specialized skills, the charter has only budgeted $15,120 for each of these ‘elective’ positions [and] there is no indication these individuals would be hired in Year 1.”

“It is therefore unrealistic that students enrolled at SCCCS for (at least) Year 1 will receive ‘pervasive arts integration’ throughout their curriculum as promised in the petition,” according to the resolution.

Gina Clayton-Tarvin, vice president of the Ocean View board, alleged in an interview that the charter school misled members of Huntington Beach’s Oak View community by offering them free books if they signed a petition supporting the school.

But Amy Green-Bosinoff, president of Sycamore, denied that, adding that the school had people on hand who spoke Spanish to interpret — Oak View is predominantly Latino — and “spread awareness of school choice.” The free books, Green-Bosinoff said, were offered by a parent union separate from the charter that often donates books.

Opponents and advocates of the charter voiced their opinions during Ocean View’s public hearing in November.

Marlena Chiarella said the district is “on the right track again.”

“We took our daughter out of Harbor View three years ago into Lake View because it was reopening as a [science, technology, engineering, arts and math] school and it’s a great opportunity for our daughter,” she said.

But fellow Ocean View parent Clarissa Mahaffey said she supported Sycamore’s program because it promotes teaching from the “head, heart and hands,” unlike traditional education.

“It’d be wonderful if we have the option, and right now we do not,” she said.

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