School board hears charter
by Bret Bradigan
The public was heard at a special meeting Tuesday evening on
the issue of chartering the Homeschool Resource Center, and now
the Ojai Unified School District board of trustees must decide
They can either approve or deny the petition at the May 21 board
Superintendent Dr. Van Riley said the proposal must be considered
as it stands. "If there are any modifications, they must
start all over again."
The Home Resource Center program - which gives home schooling
children a chance to learn and do projects and field trips with
their peers - has been in place at San Antonio School for two
Home school parents put forth the proposal April 2, having based
it on the Santa Barbara Charter School. They are seeking both
the autonomy and the budget to hire a part-time teacher and administrative
assistant, bring in outside instructors, rent a facility, and
set curriculum and standards.
Estimating an enrollment of
up to 27 students the first year, the charter school proponents
expect total income of $101,640 and expenses of $93,673. Staff
would include a part-time teacher with part-time benefits, and
an administrative assistant.
For its revenue, the charter school would receive the Average
Daily Attendance money from the state, about $5,000 per student,
plus $120 per student per year from the state lottery fund, as
well as the potential for grant money.
Robin Godfrey, mother of four, three of whom are in the HRC,
said the goal was "start it at the size it is now, and have
the potential to grow." There are about 20 children in the
program now, with plans to grow to about 40 children.
Martha Fellows, another homeschooling parent, described the HRC
"as essentially a co-op ... If there's any one thing, in
the need for this charter that different, it is the autonomy."
She said it would allow the parents to hire the teacher or teachers,
to have control over the budget and the hiring of instructors.
While she praised the district's cooperation with the HRC, she
said, "It's just not a good fit for us. We feel we're better
off on our own."
Board member Bob Unruhe said this "shows to me a lot of
thought and caring for the children to put this proposal together.
I always thought every child was homeschooled."
Questions from the board centered on budget, facilities, administration
and liability issues.
Unruhe asked "What role does the district have in providing
Fellows said, "None. If you do, we have to pay rent."
Kathi Smith, board president, asked why the budget proposal didn't
include grant funds as income. "One of the benefits of having
a charter school is the dollars that we as a district can't tap
Fellows said the budget was deliberately conservative, and only
showed what money the charter school proponents could count on.
In response to a question by board member Rikki Horne about assessment,
John Shifflette, a teacher at OUSD, who currently teaches at
the HRC, and has been put forward as the charter school teacher,
said that homeschooled students in the program would be assessed
on their progress and proficiency through observation and interviews.
"We intend to expand what we're already doing," he
said. "It's a fabulous chance for parents to work with children."
Shifflette said homeschooling would "more accurately be
called community-based education." Students could be taken
to the library or museum, or on field trips, or they could learn
from local experts. "We plan on using all the talents of
the people in our community," he said.
Riley warned about the expense of handling children with special
needs. "We intend to accommodate them any way we can,"
Fellows said, through cooperative arrangements with the district.
To do otherwise, she said, "would be illegal and immoral."
Assistant Superintendent Jim Berube cautioned that legal expenses
could quickly put the charter school out of business. "When
you're dealing with people's kids, something could happen,"
Options for a facility include remaining at San Antonio School,
or relocating to the Oak View Community Center or renting commercial
space in Mira Monte. Should their application be approved, the
HRC parents hope to have the charter school up and running by
In other OUSD news, Dr. Riley informed the board that the district
could not switch its health benefits provider from the Coastal
School Employees Benefit Organization to the Self-Insured Schools
of California for next school year because the notification deadline
The board also approved a policy on Standardized Testing and
Reporting Program after removing some language about community
emphasis. "All of our policies emphasize the community,"
Unruhe said, "There is a considerable overemphasis on testing
throughout California and the country."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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