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Proposed charter school is a bad fit for Newport-Mesa

Proposed charter school is a bad fit for Newport-Mesa
Teacher Emily Di Bartolomeo greets fourth- and fifth-graders at Hope View Elementary School in Huntington Beach in 2015. Hope View is part of the Ocean View School District, which denied a proposal from a charter school last year. (Fie Photo)

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District is committed to excellence in our schools. We are clearly cognizant of current California legislation that supports the establishment of charter schools.

As a board, we are aligned in our commitment that all schools in our district must be outstanding schools. We are open to the idea of adding a charter school in our district, but only an excellent charter.

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Charter schools work best when they serve a need that is not being met in a school district or where local schools are failing. This is not the case in Newport-Mesa.

Even in areas with high concentrations of English-language learners, our schools have targeted programs in place to meet the needs of these students; and we are experiencing gains in academic achievement.

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In September 2018, the International School for Science and Culture (ISAAC) petitioned to be an approved charter in our district. This charter did not come from within the Newport-Mesa community, but instead was initiated by an outside group. This outside group had already presented the same charter (with a different name) that had been denied three times in another district.

In October, a public hearing was held in our board room that demonstrated virtually no local interest in or support for ISAAC. After much evaluation and review, our board determined that this charter is not consistent with sound educational practices, based on factual findings.

Among others, these findings include that the charter makes faulty assumptions, presents an unsound educational program for pupils to be enrolled, is highly unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth, and presents unrealistic and unsustainable budgetary projections.

In December, ISAAC appealed the NMUSD denial to the Orange County Board of Education (OCBE). On Feb. 13, the OCBE agreed to an extension for ISAAC to address the county’s perceived weaknesses, which are numerous.

Unfortunately, it became clear to those of us in attendance at this meeting that the Orange County school board is unwilling to look closely at the quality of ISAAC. Two of the board members present at the February meeting wanted to approve the charter that day as presented, even with the flaws pointed out by their own county staff.

These pro-charter board members are openly vocal about approving any charter school that comes their way. One of the most unfortunate situations of the day was that the OCBE was unwilling to allow comments from any Newport-Mesa concerned citizens.

Approval of an unsuccessful charter will put our district and our students at risk, as well as our taxpayers who fund our local schools. If this charter is approved on March 6, the OCBE will indemnify the county so as not to be financially liable. It is NMUSD that will be left to foot the bill.

We should all be alarmed at this academically and financially flawed charter being approved. A failed charter would most likely put future charter applications at risk. The Orange County Board of Education should be encouraged to make the right decision for our community, and not be driven by politically and ideologically motivated reasons.

We are elected guardians of taxpayer dollars and take that responsibility seriously. We hope the OCBE will take its responsibility seriously when they make a decision impacting our local community and our local taxpayer dollars.

Ashley Anderson, Michelle Barto, Dana Black, Martha Fluor, Charlene Metoyer, Vicki Snell and Karen Yelsey are members of the Newport-Mesa school board.

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