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Tassajara Prep Charter Petition – Findings of Fact and District Recommendation

March 7, 2010

The Dublin Unified School District (DUSD), in preparation for the March 9 school board meeting, has made available its detailed analysis (findings of fact) and recommendation regarding the Tri-Valley Learning Corp. Tassajara Prep charter high school petition.  DUSD reviewed the charter petition based on a specific set of criteria laid out by California’s Education Code.

Based on its findings of fact the Dublin Unified School District has made a recommendation regarding the Tri-Valley Learning Corp (as reported by local media). Tassajara Prep charter high school petition that will be considered and voted on by the Board of Trustees at the March 9, 2010 board meeting.  Highlights of the findings of fact and DUSD’s recommendation are summarized below.  A detailed presentation from DUSD is available hereUpdate: at the March 9 Dublin Unified School District Board Meeting the Tassajara Prep charter petition was denied.  Livermore-based Tri-Valley Learning Corp. now has the option to appeal the ruling to the Alameda County Office of Education.

At the February 25, 2010 Tri-Valley Learning Corp. Board Meeting (attended by a OneDublin.org representative), Tim Hall, in his report to the TVLC board regarding Tassajara Prep, stated that he expected DUSD to approve the charter petition.

DUSD Findings of Fact Highlights:

  • At the Feb. 4, 2010 public hearing on the Tassajara Prep charter petition, required by Education Code Section 47605(b), “no public support was expressed for the TVLC Charter Petition”
  • DUSD determined in its review that the Tassajara Prep charter petition presents an “unsound educational program”; some of the reasons for this assessment include:
    • The charter petition does not include “lesson design for pupils identified as low achieving”
    • “Particularly concerning is [the educational program’s] lack of thoughtful planning for students who will need immediate, in depth support during the school day. This includes, but is not limited to, English learners and special education students.”
    • The lack of detail on how Tassajara Prep would provide the “college-prep environment” that is core to its charter.  “The petition contains essentially one paragraph descriptions of each of the subjects the school’s first incoming 9th grade students “may” be expected to take. There are no specific content standards or outcomes described.”
    • The lack of detail or plans on how community-based and service-based learning partnership would be delivered
    • The lack of detail or plans on how a “wide selection of extra-curricular opportunities” would be provided
    • The lack of detail or plans on how Tassajara Prep intends to compete in NCS (North Coast Section) in the following sports: “soccer, lacrosse, basketball, cross-country, track & field, badminton, tennis, golf, volleyball, softball, baseball, swimming and diving”
    • No state standards were “addressed in any of the identified areas (i.e., English, History, Math, Science, Art, Foreign Language, Technology), with the possible exception of Foreign Language.”
    • The section addressing Physical Education (PE) “is missing the new state requirements for the Physical Fitness testing and the eight areas of focus for curriculum to meet state standards”
    • Concerns regarding testing and assessment
  • DUSD determined in its review that the Tassajara Prep petitioners are “demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition”; some of the reasons for this assessment include:
    • A budget which is “unworkable and/or inaccurate” because, in part, “enrollment projections do not appear realistic”; at 216 students, first year enrollment reflects “50% of the District’s 8th grade students entering 9th grade, which is unreasonable” and that “if the projected enrollment fails to materialize the budget becomes completely unworkable”
    • The petition “lacks an articulated contingency if under-enrollment occurs, which is particularly significant given the questionable financials/cash-flow projections and the questionable spikes in projected enrollment from year-to-year.”
      • “TVLC has also failed to address the issue of cash flow as it relates to its deficit spending as well as the deferrals of apportionments from the state and if enrollment does not materialize at the dramatic increases projected.”
    • The fiscal plan grossly understates expenditures:
      • “for example, funds allocated for textbook acquisition will not even fund the basic texts for the projected student enrollment.  The same is true for consumable supplies.”
      • ancillary programs mentioned in the petition are “not supported in the budget” and “there are no funds allocated for stipends for extra-curricular activities, clubs or sports outlined in the petition.” 
      • “the petition states it will have the latest state of the art technology, but there is an inadequate funding plan for acquiring such hardware and software.”
      • “High school teacher salaries are grossly understated.    Salaries noted in the petition barely meet the beginning teacher salary for elementary school teachers.    Additionally, the salaries noted indicate annual increases of 4.5%, when the state’s situation for cost of living is dire and they are not funding it.”
    • “At the required public hearing, there was no support for the petition demonstrated by the District’s teachers and other employees, and by parents. Such lack of demonstrated support indicates the petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement their program.”
  • DUSD determined in its review that the Tassajara Prep petition “does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of certain aspects of its program and operations”; some of the reasons for this assessment include:
    • Significant gaps regarding special education including: “no information was provided indicating the Petitioner has consulted with the County Office or SELPA staff regarding specific responsibilities for the provision of instruction to special needs students” and “no specific information was provided regarding the Charter School’s fiscal allocation plan for special education”
    • Tri-Valley Learning Corp.’s “conflict of interest code is inadequate” and its corporate bylaws are “inconsistent with the Brown Act (Government Code section 54954(b))”
    • “Dublin parent and community involvement is unclear. The Petition does not comprehensively describe the roles parents and community members will play in the actual governance structure of the school. The Petition appears to limit their role to only an advisory capacity.”
    • “The description of employee qualifications is not reasonably comprehensive. The Petition does not identify a minimum number of teaching positions which will be fully credentialed.”
    • “The description of the site and/or facility to be used by the Charter School is not reasonably comprehensive. The Petition fails to identify and provide specific information regarding the facility to be utilized by the Charter School as required by Education Code sections 47605(a)(1) and (g).”
    • “the budget does not appear to adequately provide for “general liability insurance,” and “Directors and Officers insurance,” as represented in the Petition”

Based on the complete findings of fact (the items above are a subset), the “District Superintendent and staff recommends that the Board of Trustees adopt the Proposed Resolution and Findings of Fact denying the Tri-Valley Learning Corporation Charter Petition to establish the Tassajara Preparatory High School.”

As noted above, the Board of Trustees will consider and vote on this issue at the March 9, 2010 school board meeting.