...In Santa Cruz, Calif., the Pacific Collegiate School (PCS) is creating a nonprofit foundation that would “collect and spend funds on behalf of the 12-year-old charter school, which receives state and federal funding.”
County Schools Superintendent Michael Watkins is asking legal questions about how PCS’s private fundraising will relate to its use of public education funds. For example, PCS plans to use moneys in its reserves to purchase a new facility. If PCS shifts to a nonprofit form, would the school run afoul of restrictions on public school dollars or assets being transferred to a private entity? The president of the PCS board said that no public funds would be transferred to the private nonprofit entity.
However, that isn’t all that clear, as PCS apparently asks parents for an annual donation of $3,000 per child. It is hard to imagine traditional public schools asking parents to ante up for their kids. We would guess that PCS doesn’t make the $3,000 donation mandatory (or else it turns from public charter school into private school), but the social peer pressure on parents to fork over the money undoubtedly feels to some as a must-do for their kids...
[PCS Board President Sharmaine Cheleden] explained that PCS’s desire for its own school building is due to its “need…to be free of an acrimonious landlord relationship with a district intent to block its growth,” the Mercury News reported. Toward that end, despite being charged $340,000 a year in rent for the school it uses, PCS has gathered a reserve of $3.3 million, a substantial piece of which is dedicated to the purchase of the new school. Critics express concern that the reserve co-mingles public money and private contributions so that, in the end, using the reserve to pay for a new school would mean gifting public funds to a private (nonprofit) entity...
SANTA CRUZ -- Pacific Collegiate School, the charter school with a focus on advanced placement testing, is under legal pressure to give admission preference to students who live in the Santa Cruz City Schools district, a change that could increase the longtime tension between the charter school and the district…
The popular Westside charter school, which has 480 students in grades 7-12, selects students through a lottery system that is designed to admit children from across Santa Cruz County. Preference is given to children of PCS employees and board members and siblings of current students.
There is almost always a lengthy waiting list of students seeking admission as demand exceeds availability.
PCS has been criticized for not serving more Latino and special education students…
PCS trustee Ken Cole said this is not a change the school welcomes.
"We are not actively seeking this. It was thrust upon us," Cole said.
A public hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Aug. 19 before the County Office of Education board to weigh the new charter.
Here's a little backstory:
Pacific Collegiate has known about this provision in the Ed Code all along, but did not offer in district students priority admission. However, when the possibility of a Prop 39 facilities application came up a couple of years ago, they discussed complying with the law in order to boost their in-district enrollment and garner more space under Prop 39. They chose not to. Then in about March of 2009 they were sued by a parent after the school failed to offer preference to their child in the February 2009 lottery.
So here's the question: a charter can be revoked if they knowingly violated the law. Usually they get a chance to correct their policies, but if the issue has been brought to their attention and they *still* violate the law, should their renewal be granted?
This school does not serve the intent of the Charter Schools Act.
Pacific Collegiate Charter School in Santa Cruz, CA is highly ranked by Newsweek and USA Today for student performance. Critics charge that the school has never sought to address under-served and underachieving students. In a community with at 50% Hispanic population, PCS doesn't even register a single significant subgroup other than White (see Ed Data). It is widely held that the school skims top performing students from affluent families; performance results from the "who" not the "what". There is little innovation in the actual program other than it is AP intensive and requires parents to donate 40 hours/school year (and $3,000/student/year).
There is huge demand for lower grade openings; the annual lottery results in 400-500 applicants for as few as 50 open seats in the 7th-9th grades. However, attrition is rumored to be steep with openings going unfilled in the upper grades as students transfer (or are counseled) out in the 10th-12th grades.
They have faced legal action in the form of suits about the lottery and violations of the Brown Act. No disclosure has been made about the outcomes.
After terminating a well respected educational leader who sought to diversity the school, it took two years to find a replacement. The new school principal is from a segregationist private school in Alabama with no public school or California education experience.
The school will seek to renew its charter next Fall; they have yet to meet the diversity mandate of the previous renewal.
The school maintains a 60% cash reserve.
The school was founded by Reed Hastings.*
More info here: http://scschoolsalert.wordpress.com/