Drama continues to unfold at the Children's Community Charter School, where four of the five parent members of the school's governing board recently resigned. The resignations came after threats of legal action by the California Teacher's Association, a parent action committee and former mayor Ray Dalton, whose wife teaches at CCCS.
The controversy centers on the governing board's recent decision to propose independent staffing services in the charter renewal. The move was meant to secure teaching jobs at CCCS during district budget cuts, but most CCCS teachers threatened to leave, stating that they wished to remain employees of the school district.
In December, the governing board voted that school would remain dependent with the district in all areas except one-staffing. While independent status was being considered, several legal questions arose concerning the school's non-profit incorporation and the process in which the board made the decision to incorporate, and whether or not they had the authority to do so. In January, an attorney from the CTA, Beth Curtis, addressed the district board with concerns about the incorporation and the decision to privatize staffing.
Though CCCS had dissolved its non-profit corporate status, she said the PUSD board should have been consulted for approval. Also at the district board meeting, a CCCS parent announced the formation of a parent action committee. She said they circulated a petition requesting that the governing board reverse their decision about staffing.
More than 100 families signed the petition, she said, but the governing board still had not reversed their decision. A few days after the board meeting, Ray Dalton wrote a letter to the CCCS governing board, stating he believes a number of actions taken by the board were in direct conflict with CCCS bylaws and state laws. He said he had been provided with a number of documents substantiating this and that he planned to meet with Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey to discuss a formal Grand Jury investigation.
In the letter, he mentioned a parent recall effort underway, and asked that if any board members were recalled or resigned, that he be notified so that he could adjust his complaint prior to his meeting with Ramsey.
Shortly thereafter, four of the governing board members resigned, leaving Cindi Sypherd as the only parent board member. Sypherd was the only board member who abstained from voting in the staffing decision. Then, at last week's regular CCCS board meeting, the remaining members met and Paradise Unified School District Superintendent Roger Bylund attended.
He exercised the district's oversight power by telling parents, teachers and staff to stop political discussions on campus. He also announced that the election that was being held at the school to replace the four resigned board members would be informative only.
He reminded parents that PUSD has limited authority over the school and only has the authority to exercise its oversight when the school is no longer serving the interests of the students. He announced that he would speak with CCCS parents and teachers only in open session meetings.
He explained during a phone interview earlier this week that the only way the parents will get the whole story is when it is not interpreted - by hearing him speak in open session.
"It's rumors and third hand information that creates more problems than it solves," he said.
He asked them to save their comments and political conversations for open session meetings and to try to avoid bringing the dispute between adults onto the campus. He said the focus on campus should be on the students.
"There has been a lot of drama for a long time," he said.
As for getting a governing board up and running, Bylund said the school could not hold a formal election because there has to be a quorum to do so. The CCCS board has eight members - seven voting and one no voting. Four voting members resigned, leaving only three voting members, and four are needed for a quorum. Though the school had been holding an election and gathering parent votes, Bylund said the results will only be informational for the board. It was decided, using Robert's Rules of Order, that one parent member would have to appointed by the remaining board members. Earlier this week, the remaining members appointed Dana Billedeaux, who was reportedly successful in the informal election.
Now that they have a quorum, the board can decide how to go about replacing the other three, Bylund explained. It is uncertain at this point what will happen with the charter renewal and the former governing board's decision about staffing services. Principal Mike Ettner was given a two week leave of absence, reportedly to work on the charter from home. PUSD Board Trustee Tim Titus said the future of the school is in the hands of the new board, and they will have to decide the best interests of the school.
Now that there is new leadership, he said he thinks it will create some stability and they can focus on the mission of the school. They have the opportunity to draft the new charter and present it to PUSD to go through the renewal process. And whether or not they decide to overturn the staffing decision of the former board is their decision, Titus said.
"If the board votes to undo what the other board decided to do, that is their option as a board," he said. "They'll go through the legal process, hold public meetings on it, take care of it and vote on it. I don't have a position at this point about what they should or shouldn't do."
Titus said he believes things have calmed down significantly after the "storm that took place between different factions of the school."
It is unfortunate that the issue became personal, Titus said.
"What people need to do is take personal issues out of it," he said. "It's OK to have differing opinions, but it's not OK to have personal attacks unfortunately, it became an issue of personalities, and that had to stop." The parent members who resigned were serving and striving to do their best - they don't do this professionally, Titus said. He said it was unfortunate that an employee's husband took the actions that he did.
"You're not talking about an elected public official, these are parents who put their heart and soul into the school, trying to make a difference," he said, adding once again that the issue became much too personal.
He said it is especially unfortunate that this issue escalated to the point that it did, so much that it could have jeopardized the school, which would have been a loss to the community. The focus of the school should be back on governance, mission and quality of education, Titus said. He believes CCCS will continue to be a great school, whatever they decide to do in regards to the relationship between teachers and the district.
He said the PUSD board hasn't discussed the issue, as it would be premature to do so before they see the school's proposal for charter renewal. It is a thorough process and "it will be interesting," he said.
Titus also said this has been a learning experience for him, and he saw a lot of things he plans to discuss in the future at the proper place and time.