Schoolyard bully - Page 2

A charter high school uses legal threats to squeeze into Horace Mann Middle School without notifying parents or teachers

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In an April 1 memo, the district finalized the offer for Horace Mann and then took the offer back and offered the Burton site in an April 30 memo. Metro lawyer Paul Minney responded in a May 11 memo, demanding co-location at Horace Mann and threatening legal action. The district responded by reinstating its initial offer of Horace Mann in a May 28 memo.

"Districts have a legal obligation to provide all charter schools with appropriate space to run a quality educational program. Consideration has to be given to determine if a designated school site is able to share facilities without having a significant impact on either school's day to day operations," district spokesperson Gentle Blythe told the Guardian. "In the case of Mann and Metro, the decision to co-locate was a matter of pending litigation and the ideal process was usurped by legal constraints."

Board member Rachel Norton said that much of the miscommunication was the result of informal conversations between Envision Schools CEO Bob Lenz, Superintendent Garcia, and Horace Mann Principal Mark Sanchez about the impending move. In an e-mail dated March 11, Lenz contacted Garcia about their upcoming March 17 meeting and stated that Sanchez thought a partnership between Metro and Horace Mann would be "revolutionary." According to board policy, negotiations are made between Director of Charter Schools Mary Richards and the head of the affected charter school. Although these informal conversations aren't a violation of board policy, Norton said that these conversations created miscommunication.

Lenz wouldn't comment on Norton's remarks, but said, "It's most important to look at how the district and Envision Schools could be good partners together. Rather than look back, we look forward to participating in a transparent process with the district going forward with the Prop. 39 process."

According to Horace Mann teachers, Garcia and Sanchez claimed they were not aware that they had agreed to a final, binding offer, although correspondences suggested otherwise. E-mails dated March 30 included final offer copies of facilities for Metro to Garcia and Sanchez, who did not return our calls seeking comment by press time.

"I'm not quite sure who knew what, when," Norton said. "I think it's pretty clear that people were notified about the final offer that went out. Whether or not they saw that notification is another question. I'm certainly not accusing anyone of lying, but I think that there were just two levels of understanding because it wasn't a clear process."

"Its hard to believe that as previous president of the school board, Mark [Sanchez] did not know that this was a final offer," a Horace Mann teacher said. "This has put a huge strain on the relationship with the staff and the principal."

Despite tensions within Horace Mann staff, newly appointed Metro Principal Nick Kappelhof said he's looking forward to the next school year. "I view this as an opportunity to partner in ways that's not common in other co-locations," Kappelhof told us. "Our philosophies are aligned and we're excited to learn from them. I see it as a rich opportunity between staff and a great community."

Metro has a one-year lease with Horace Mann and will occupy eight classrooms in the sixth-grade annex building and five rooms in the main building. Although many parents have fears about these middle school and high school students interacting, staff members at Horace Mann and Metro plan on organizing different bell schedules and designating separate areas for the two groups.

Comments

Good coverage -- it's heartening to see the press asking real questions and not swooning over charter schools for a change. The Bay Guardian has a history of solid journalism in this area.

From the wording of the paragraph describing the Leadership Charter move into Denman Middle School and the City Arts & Tech move into the former Excelsior Middle School (a site shared with the high school June Jordan), some readers might infer that those were decisions made by the district and imposed on the charters. But that's not the case -- again, the charter schools hold the cards in these moves, thanks to Prop. 39.

Co-locations of charter schools with public schools (yes, some people call charter schools "public," but they're actually privately run with public dollars) are a divisive and harmful problem in many places. In the nation's largest school district, New York City, this is a huge issue, with the district under the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg pushing charters into existing public schools and then giving the charters openly favored treatment -- better and roomier facilities, far superior maintenance, smaller class sizes, generally more resources.

While you're at it, SFBG, two more charter stories to watch:

A Boston charter organization is behind a push to create a new K-8 charter school in the Mission. The SFUSD Board of Ed has turned the proposal down -- and our Board of Ed is not inherently anti-charter -- due to inadequacies in the financial and other aspects of the application. The would-be charter operator is reportedly appealing to the State Board of Ed, which can then push the charter into our district, though it would be under the auspices of the SBOE, not SFUSD. (Does it get any monitoring at all from the SBOE or just operate on its own, accountable to no one? That's a question that should be asked.) And by the way, the Boston organization, includes a board member, Steven F. Wilson, who was the founder and CEO of Boston-based Advantage Schools. Advantage was a for-profit charter operator that collapsed amid scandal after a Boston Globe investigation revealed its troubles in 2001 -- and it was the last known employer of SFUSD's notorious former Superintendent Bill Rojas.

Also, remember Edison Charter Academy, the "it's a miracle!" news story of 2001, run by the for-profit Edison Schools Inc. entrepreneurial enterprise? Edison Charter Academy, at 22nd and Dolores, is also chartered by the SBOE (it is now a rent-paying tenant in an SFUSD-owned site). Anyway, Edison Charter Academy apparently staged a revolution and declared its independence from the remaining feeble shreds of the once-hailed for-profit Edison Schools Inc. So it's now independently run. The many forces, local and national, that once touted Edison Inc. and for-profit charter operators as the miracle future of education are now pretending they never heard of it. (Former Edison booster and Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders is currently too busy vigorously espousing discrimination against gays.)

Posted by CarolineSF on Aug. 05, 2010 @ 1:20 pm

Here's an eye-catching example of the co-location furor in New York City, from the NY Times.

It took almost six months for David M. Steiner, the state education
commissioner, to decide that New York City had broken the law when it decided to
take space from a program for autistic children on the Lower East Side and give
it to an expanding charter school.
It took less than two days for Joel I. Klein, the city schools chancellor, to
say he would disregard the decision, at least temporarily.

On Wednesday, the chancellor announced he would use his little-known emergency
powers, based in a clause in the State Education Law, to follow through with the
city’s original plans.

The emergency clause, designated section 2590-h (2-a) (f), provides that the
chancellor may unilaterally transform how a school is used, avoiding the normal
process of public hearings and notification, when doing so is “immediately
necessary for the preservation of student health, safety or general welfare.”

It was Mr. Klein’s first use of his emergency powers, which were embedded in
the law passed last summer extending mayoral control of the city’s schools.
His exact reasoning as to why they were warranted in this case �" whether for
health, safety or welfare �" is due to be posted on the city’s Web site in
the coming days, a city spokesman said.

...In February, the city approved the plans of the Girls Preparatory Charter
School, an all-girls elementary school founded by a group of wealthy investors,
located in Public School 188 on the Lower East Side, to add middle-school
grades.

To make room, the city decided to reduce the grades served in a program for
autistic children, saying it would send students who would have gone there to
other locations.

(The website won't let me post the link; it's easy to find the whole article.)

Posted by CarolineSF on Aug. 06, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

Dear Ms. Baguio,

To start with, thank you for showing multiple perspectives on this article. While the title is clearly biased and does not align with the process you describe in the article, I still think it is well-informed overall. I do, however, want to highlight a key missing ingredient: what's best for the students? Your article covers a lot about teachers and principals and Districts, but little to nothing about students, which should be the main point. This neglect is sympomatic of what is wrong in the dialogue around education today.

In my opinion, as a Metro teacher, the move is not the best option for our students but certainly better. Our students will now have the opportunity to see sunlight during the day. They will be closer to their homes. They will be able to take advantage of the opportunities of an amazing neighborhood, just to name a few. Horace Mann students will get to interact with strong, positive role models in the form of Metro students. They will get to be around the amazing art and performances of Metro students. And, hopefully, down the line they will be able to collaborate with Metro students on projects and formalized programs.

Thank you for your time and in the future I strongly encourage you to consider what's best for the students when you cover education.

Posted by ZebZ on Aug. 07, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

Once again the issue is avoided. The arrogant assumption Horace Mann Students will fare better because of the superiority of the "Metro Education"
The isuue is and will always be the process. Had it been collaborative, with input and decesion making with all, including the school board perhaps there would not be this sense of "take over".

Envision, with their dominate culture attitude imposed their idea of what's best for those poor Horace Mann students and teachers. Envision will enlighten them to the truth.

One only need look at the disaster of their other schools.

Posted by Guest tia on Aug. 09, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

Yes!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

Brittany, Metro High School has advocated for a Mission neighborhood location for over 4 years without any real consideration by some for the benefits this could have on the families in the area. Over half of Metro's families live in the MIssion, but it has been offered locations without regard for the needs of the community. The educational program offers real opportunities to its students. 100% of Metro graduates go onto college and over 85% are eligible to attend 4 year universities. Statistics on the number of historically disadvantaged graduates of color attending college or being eligible to four year universities is low for SF families and others across CA. The issue around community involvement and communication is complex. In terms of doing more balanced journalism, did you bother to interview any Board members who are supportive of the move? Both Board members you interviewed for the story are known for their opposition or skepticism to charters in general. Did you talk to any Metro parents, students, or teachers? What about organizations that support families in the Mission? With further study, I think you'd agree that the "Schoolyard Bully" title of this piece is quite hyperbolic and distorts the history surrounding Metro's move.

Posted by Going for Donuts on Aug. 12, 2010 @ 6:08 am

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