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Dublin residents speak out at charter school public hearing

February 5, 2010

Over a three hour period on Feb 4 speaker after speaker after speaker – parents, students, residents and Dublin teachers – spoke out in support of Dublin High and against the  Tassajara Prep charter petition.  Only one speaker – a representative from the backers of Tassajara Prep – spoke in favor of the charter initiative.  The Tassajara Prep representatives left the public hearing early rather than listen to feedback from the community they claim to be supporting.  The Dublin Unified School District has conveniently made all of the speaker videos available for on demand replay via YouTube on the DUSD YouTube Channel.

Dublin parent support for the charter school initiative has been limited to non-existent – from the Tassajara Prep organized town hall meetings held last Fall, to the the public hearing last night, to the charter petition itself (submitted with no parent signatures) – the charter petition backers have been unable to garner broad support for the initiative.

This is in stark contrast to many charter petition public hearings where parents passionately rally behind the charter petition.  That this show of support hasn’t materialized in Dublin isn’t surprising because in most charter school petition battles it is parents driving the initiative.  In the case of Tassajara Prep, it is Livermore-based Tri-Valley Learning Corp. rather than local parents that is the driving force (as reported by local media).

The Dublin school board will announce its decision regarding the charter petition in about a month.  If denied, the charter backers can appeal to the County and ultimately the State boards of education.  OneDublin.org will keep the community fully informed on next steps in the process.

Those that were unable to attend provided written statements (included below – click read more) that mirrored many of the comments made at the public hearing. 

_____________________________________  

To Whom It May Concern:  

I would like to add my comments to the discussion regarding the Tassajara Prep charter school petititon.  I have followed the debate regarding the charter school over the last year. Frankly, I have yet to see which specific problem that exists in Dublin will be solved by the creation of the charter school. Rather, it is apparent that its creation will create new problems.

Over the last year, the proponents of the charter school have selected several different targets: lack of educational diversity, lagging test scores relative to neighboring districts, lack of staff accountability. As the debate has unfolded, it has become apparent that the Dublin school district has made progress or is clearly succeeding in each of these areas. It is my belief that the school board has been responsive to curriculum feedback from the community and has been actively addressing educational requirements. Dublin High School provides a diverse learning environment with opportunities for students of all levels of ability.  

In short, the charter school initiative has the appearance of a solution looking for a problem.  

The one issue that is not in dispute is in regards to location. Tassajara Prep has stated its intent to place facilities in East Dublin – although the intent has yet to turn into a credible plan. The Dublin school district has pursued a plan of expansion on the current central Dublin location. When the other issues are stripped away, the location of a charter high school remains as a concern that is not being addressed by the school district.  

As an East Dublin (Dublin Ranch) resident, although I find the “commute” to DHS annoying at times (usually 10 minutes or so), that in and of itself is not sufficient rationale to create an entirely new high school. It may be the case that future East Dublin development will eventually require the creation of an additional high school but I have more confidence in such a high school being created and managed as a community school through the school district and board rather than serving special interests as part of a charter school program.  

In regards to special interests, it was recently announced that the original Dublin Learning Corporation that was the original proponent of the charter school has been subsumed by the Livermore charter school initiative and has been rebranded as “Tri-Valley Learning Corporation” (TVLC). TVLC is attempting to create a series of charter high schools when it has not demonstrated a level of outstanding success in its current middle school. It is clear that the loyalties and priorities of the Dublin school district are squarely centered on the Dublin community. TVLC, which is lead by interests outside of Dublin, appears to have its hands full and its loyalties spread out.  

Finally, there is still a lack of clarity on the financial responsibilities of students attending the proposed charter high school. Proponents claim that full funding will come from state/district funds while experience has demonstrated that charter schools require “contributions” from students.  

In short, I do not believe that the Dublin school district has the number of flaws or gaps that would motivate the approval of a charter high school. I am hoping that charter school proponents will actively engage the school district on ways to address educational issues through the processes and structures in place.  

Sincerely,  

Scott Schoenthal  

_____________________________________  

Dear Dr. Hanke and other School Board Members:   

I am writing to you today to voice my objection to the new proposed charter high school, Tassajara Prep.   

I believe it would be fiscally irresponsible to allow this new charter school.   

I am listing passages of Dr. Hanke’s letter put on the Dublin Unified School District this morning.   

Dr. Hanke advised:  In his budget roll out, the Governor has proposed a budget that further reduces funding to public education.  While he has pledged to “fund” the statutory cost-of-living (COLA) the reality is the projected COLA is a -0.38%.  This means that we will receive less funding for our schools in 2010-2011.  In addition, the Governor proposes targeted reductions of $1.5 billion. The direct impact of the Governors proposal to our schools will be a reduction of up to $251 / ADA or $1.8 million for the 2010-2011 school year.  If the current trend continues, this will grow to an ongoing reduction of $ 6.6 million.  

We froze all spending for professional development; cut leadership staff; enhanced efficiency by closing a school; greatly reduced energy costs; issued furlough days to all staff; reduced a key program; and increased class size a bit.  In addition, our community stepped up to support us through uncommon means including passing a parcel tax, the Show Up for Education Campaign; and ongoing assistance from Dublin Partners In Education as well as the City of Dublin.  The result is that we have been better off than most districts, but are never-the-less facing a significant hurdle for 2010-2011.  

We already closed a school.  Why re-open a new one especially during these fiscally challanging times?    

Tassajara Prep, if approved and opened, will divert up to $5,660,366 per year in ADA funding from Dublin High (source: Tri-Valley Learning Corp Tassajara Prep Fiscal Plan, Jan. 7, 2010), and up to $19,004,754 cumulatively from 2012-2017.  

Budget challenges are facing schools across California – district-run and charter.  Charter schools are particularly vulnerable – 29% of charter high schools in California have failed, primarily due to financial challenges.  

Dublin High’s 2009 API of 842 is better than 90% of high schools in California (charter or district-run)  95% of 2009 Dublin High grads reported attending college. Dublin High’s Class of 2010 have achieved impressive early acceptance results.  Dublin High will be included in Newsweek’s 2010 List of America’s Top Public High Schools.     

Why open a new high school when we already have one this outstanding?  

Thank you.  

Kirsten Fisher
Mother of a 1st Grader at Dougherty  

_____________________________________  

Since I’m unable to attend the public hearing this evening, I’m writing to voice my concern about the proposed Tassajara Prep Charter School Petition.  I do not agree that a charter school is necessary in Dublin.  The fact that this Prep School would divert a very large amount of funding dollars from Dublin High School is absolutely unacceptable.  Our school district is already plagued with state budget cuts; we do not need any additional funding taken away.  Dublin High School’s API scores are very high.  A Charter School does not mean better education.  I oppose the proposed plan for the Tassajara Prep Charter School.  

Sincerely,  

Julie W.
Dublin Resident & Concerned Parent  

_____________________________________  

Dear Dr. Hanke,
 
We will be unable to attend tonight’s meeting regarding the opening of a Charter School in Dublin.  We are against a Charter School in Dublin.  Our two children will attend Dublin High in the next few years.  We feel that Dublin High has made great strides in the last decade to become a great high school.  We would not like to see a portion of our tight funds moved away to a 2nd High School location and diminish the resources needed to keep Dublin High on its successful path.
 
Thank you
 
Mark and Rose Satariano   

_____________________________________  

Feb. 1, 2010  

To the Board of Trustees:  

Charter Schools can play an important role in the landscape of California schools. At their best, they are a vital, viable and valuable alternative for families in districts where schools are struggling, even failing, to meet student needs.  

But that is not the case in Dublin, not by a long shot and that’s why the charter petition submitted by the Tri-Valley Learning Corporation is unnecesssary and inappropriate for our community.  

The proposed charter high school quite simply doesn’t not meet a need. Instead it poses a grave risk to the resources – and by extension, the students – of Dublin High School.  

Dublin High School is an exceptional public high school with state of the art facilities, both in place and on the way, rising test scores, pervasive student achievement and a diversity of offerings.  

It would be wrong to threaten the continued ascent of Dublin High at such a crucial point, particularly in a time of unprecedented budgetary crisis.  

I know many people in our community feel the same way.  

But this hearing isn’t about whether Dublin High is a good place for our kids. We know that it is.  

This is about whether a second charter high school would adversely affect our established school. We know that it will.  

We are not a large district. Changes big and small affect our students at every level.  

The risk to current Dublin students by experimenting with a charter high school that has provided only sketchy details of its mission and fills the desire of only a small population of our community is too big to take.  

I hope the Board will reject the charter petition and continue to work hard to support the great schools we already have in Dublin.  

Thank you  

Michelle McDonald, Wells PFC Co-President  

_____________________________________  

Dear Dr. Hanke and members of the Board:  

I deeply regret my inability to attend this very important meeting on, what I hope will be, the denial of the Tassajara Prep Charter School petition.  I have followed this issue intently from the beginning, even to the extent of attending an informational night presented by the then “Dublin Learning Corporation” (now “Tri-Valley Learning Corporation”).  The individuals who propose this issue state that they are interested in expanding the choices for learning in Dublin.  Choice is a consequence of size.  In reading the petition, they propose an opening size of 216 students per class.  That means everyone has the same teacher for English, Math, History, etc.  That is not a choice.  What if the teaching method of that instructor doesn’t mesh with a particular student, he or she has no where else to go.  The proponents say they will present a “Diverse Pedagogy”, but diversity cannot be accomplished with one instructor per subject.  

Currently at Dublin High School, the students have a myriad of choices (both in choice of instructors and choice in rigor) and these choices are expanding each year as the city grows.  My daughter is currently in 5 periods of AP learning out of a 6 period day.  The Charter states that it will offer opportunities for AP learning.  I still have the question on how this would happen with the limited class size.  Are they going to have independent study AP? Will everyone be required to take the AP class offered for that year?  I have lots of questions with no answers.  

In attending the information night, I discovered that the Livermore Charter people do all the talking.  The Dublin residents on the Charter Board, who were at the meeting, have no children of school age and do not understand the workings of a school system.  At the informational night, I did ask the Dublin residents what they knew of education.  They only response given was by John Zukowski where he stated that he wrote the Around Dublin Blog.  I’m sorry, but the Around Dublin Blog has nothing to do with my child’s educational experience and neither should Livermore Charter.   

After the informational night had concluded, I stayed and talked with a parent of a 3rd grader at Dougherty who was all for the Tassajara Prep idea.  She didn’t want her child to attend school with students from “that side of town”.  I believe that it is this ignorance and elitism that is truly behind this Charter movement.  Please see through smoke screen of Tassajara Prep and see it for what it is –Segregation by location.  

                                                                        Sincerely,  

                                                                        Colleen M. Schoenthal  

_____________________________________  

Good evening,  

My name is Mary Morehead.  I am a resident of Dublin and I have two children attending Dublin schools—John Green and a freshman at Dublin High.  

When my eldest daughter was in elementary school, I didn’t know much about Dublin High.  Friends of mine would say that it was not a great school—personally, all I knew is that it was the large older buildings by the swimming pool but I believed them.  As the years progressed and my daughter was in middle school, I decided it was important to find out first hand about Dublin High—after all my friends had no direct experience with the school so I did my own research (just as I did many years prior when I needed to decide whether my daughter was going to attend a public school for 1st grade or continue in a private school setting.  

I talked to parents, I attended high school information evenings held at Fallon where I spoke to the counselors and listened to intelligent, dynamic young ladies (all college-bound) about their DHS experiences, and I spoke to the DHS principal at a Fallon PFC meeting.  I discovered that what I had heard in previous years were unfair misperceptions.  I knew then that Dublin High can offer and does offer a rigorous academic program (which my daughter is pursuing).  But DHS is more than just a school that offers a wide selection of academic courses and programs.  My daughter, like her friends, is knee-deep in extra curricular activities.  During the week of the drama performances, my daughter would come home 7 or 8pm, sometimes later due to rehearsals.  Despite having to start her homework at such a late hour, she was and is incredibly happy—that’s because of what DHS offers her.   

DHS  has the academics but there’s more—there’s a spirit that anyone who has walked on campus, attended a drama performance or sporting event, or went to Homecoming can feel and attest to.  

Tassajara Prep’s concern about the number of traffic lights between Dublin Ranch and Dublin High School, is irrelevant to me.  My daughter attends Dublin High School because first and foremost, for me, the academics are there and it offers all the extra curricular clubs and sports that continue to contribute to educating the whole child—academically, physically, socially, and emotionally.  

I ask the school board to vote against this charter school petition.  We have a fantastic high school—let’s not take away and diminish what the students so now enjoy.  

I believe in Dublin High School.  

_____________________________________

Dr. Hanke –We are writing to you, in lieu of attending tonight’s meeting, on the Charter School Initiative.  Unfortunately due to work and family obligations, we will not be able to attend the meeting in person.   

We would like to start off by saying that we are opposed to any new public high school within the Dublin community at this time.  It is our understanding that –  

  • DHS currently has an outstanding achievement record academically.  Its CA State scores are improving every year and currently there is a multitude of AP courses available to qualified students.
  • The decision for one high school within the city was made in part due to the financial obligations needed to maintain facilities – new and old.
  • With the passage of Measure C, the community supported the need to upgrade and rebuild DHS so that it could accommodate the growing community. 
  • With the passage of Measure M, the community supported the need to replace State funding reductions in order to maintain the programs currently being offered throughout the district, at all schools and all levels of education. 

The district board must realize that it is in a very unique situation where the community has supported its efforts to not only maintain our educational programs, but also provide new technology and improve existing facilities.  This is occurring when the State is continually reducing the funds available to districts.  It does not seem justifiable to say to this community we need to support another school when the capacity of the current DHS is still not met.  Nor is DHS under-performing academically compared to other high schools within the State of CA and nationally.  

As parents and a PFC board member, approval of this petition would indicate to us that the board is not being financially responsible to the community.  You have an obligation to spend the money contributed not only wisely, but in such a manner that benefits the entire population of DUSD.  How is approving this petition for a Charter high school going to benefit the children who are not selected to attend?  What is the Charter high school going to provide the students of this district that the current high school does not?   

The Tri-Valley Learning Corporation has presented a petition that is primarily the same worded document as the one they had approved for Livermore.  There is no consideration for the differing population, educational diversity and community of Dublin.  There are several other districts within the State whereby the high schools are overcrowded, underfunded and performing below expectations in which a Charter high school would be welcomed.  However, Tri-Valley Learning Corporation has targeted a community that is funding its district to the best of its ability to keep it out of the red.  Thereby, we believe the corporation seeks only a profit and has little concern for the well being of the education of the children within this community.  

We appreciate your time and hope you will consider our opposition in your decision on this matter.  Sincerely,  

Cindy & Mark Hoffman
Proud Parents of two DUSD students & PFC Treasurer, Frederiksen Elementary School  

_____________________________________

I have been a teacher at Dublin High for the last 8 years.  I am very proud of the work we do here preparing students for post-secondary opportunities.  I do not live in Dublin, but I feel so good about the rigorous, well-rounded education that happens here that I plan on bringing my own children into this district and eventually to Dublin High.  I am not alone.  Many other teachers at DHS and in the district have made this endorsement.  This is a sign of confidence that helps demonstrate the quality of this school.  This is not just someplace the staff pours itself into everyday because we are passionate about it, it is also the place we choose to bring our very own children.

Anne Bowling
Social Science Department
Dublin High School

_____________________________________My name is James Morehead, founder of OneDublin.org.   

My children attend John Green Elementary and Dublin High School.  I am a supporter of Dublin High.  

Being a supporter of Dublin High doesn’t mean I fear change or am arbitrarily opposed to charter schools.  The opposite is true – I don’t fear change but oppose reckless change where risk is not balanced by benefit.  I don’t oppose charter schools in general – there are situations when charter schools solve real problems.  I oppose the specifics of this charter school proposal.  Most importantly I believe Dublin High is a very good school that, if we unite as one Dublin, can be even better.  

I have formed that opinion based on first-hand experience at Dublin High, research of charter school initiatives across California and a detailed analysis of the Tassajara Prep charter petition.  

Ironically, what started as a Dublin debate is no longer about Dublin education, but is rather about the expansionist goals of Livermore-based Tri-Valley Learning Corp.  No one involved in the charter proposal has children currently attending a Dublin public school.    No one involved in the charter proposal has first-hand experience with Dublin High School.  The charter petition for Tassajara Prep is nearly identical to the Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory High School petition.  Most troubling is that the charter petition was submitted without parent signatures.  

At the Day on the Glen event last Fall I asked charter school representatives the number one driver for creating a new school.  The answer given was location – specifically an east-side location.  I thought the most important driver for a school was education – not in this case.  Let’s face reality – we don’t live in a sprawling metropolis – we live in a small city called Dublin.  Some days my daughter takes the bus, other days I drop my daughter off at Dublin High enroute to work.  On all days the location of the school has been a non-issue, even though I realize this is perceived to be a problem by some.  

The secondary reason given for the charter initiative was college prep.  95% of Dublin High grads in 2009 reported attending college.  Dublin High’s API of 842 ranks ahead of 90% of high schools in California – district or charter-run.  Newsweek’s 2010 list of America’s Top Public High Schools will include Dublin High (only 6% of schools nationwide make the list).  Dublin High’s $120M renewal project is well underway.  Dublin High offers diversity of choice for its students made possible through scale – more students means more funding means more choice – simple math.  Our neighboring school districts in San Ramon, Danville and Pleasanton know this – the average high school enrollment in these cities is over 2,000 students.  

Bottom line – a charter school makes sense when solving a real problem.  In the specific case we are debating tonight, the charter high school proposed would create – not solve – a problem, leaving Dublin with two undersized and underfunded high schools resulting in less choice for students.  

As a parent and member of the community I respectfully request that you reject the Tri-Valley Learning Corp. charter petition.