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Ojai Valley News Editorial: Summit Charter School to benefit Ojai Unified School District

The Ojai Unified School District Board of Education has an interesting juxtaposition on its agenda for Friday, Dec. 13, at 5:30 p.m. at Matilija Auditorium, 703 El Paseo Road, Ojai.
Agenda Item No. 6 is the school board’s resolution to deny the Summit Charter School petition for a free, public school that provides classroom-based instruction, preferably at Summit School, which has served the Upper Ojai community for 107 years. The same school board closed the school in June 2018 just six months after the Thomas Fire, as community members dealt with displacement and loss.
The school board writes that the Summit School Charter petition
( www.summitcharterschoolojai.org ) is to be denied because the district administration lawyers allege it “presents an unsound educational program” and the petitioners are “unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition.”
That appraisal might carry more weight if the following agenda item — No. 7 — was not to address how to boost low achievement, and if two of Ojai Unified School District schools were not listed in February by the California Department of Education as being among the 781 lowest-performing schools in the entire state (prior to the new superintendent’s arrival). Visit: https://edsource.org/2019/california-quietly-publishes-list-of-781-lowest-performing-schools/608301 .
One has only to read OUSD’s review of the petition to recognize a brute-force legal attempt to justify the school board’s predetermined conclusion to try to thwart a charter school by any means.
Many of the school board’s questions would have been answered in the capacity meeting that is part of the charter application process in which district staff ask questions of the petitioners. OUSD chose not to hold that meeting.
Also, the irony should not be lost on anyone that Summit School — which the school board voted to close and “surplus” because of a dip in attendance (following the fire) — currently has some 120 students attending a private vendor program on the Summit campus; has more than 100 students whose parents have signed OUSD forms stating they are “meaningfully interested” in enrolling their children in Summit Charter School; and has students attending the new OUSD Independent School on the Summit School campus. The general public does not know about the Ojai Independent School being sited at Summit or about OUSD’s partnership with a private vendor at the school because it has not been discussed at a public meeting.
That is 220-plus students right now all vying to attend the school the OUSD board voted to “surplus.”
A concern to many is that OUSD cited in Item 8.E.2 of its updated Oct. 16 bylaws a state code that allows vaccine exemptions for students enrolled in independent study who do not receive classroom-based instruction — and references that the immunization law “does not apply to a pupil in a home-based private school.” https://core-docs.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/asset/uploaded_file/492454/10-16-19_Agenda.docx.pdf . (The policy is on the sixth page from the end of the agenda, No. 3 on allowed "exemptions" from state vaccination laws.)
Fortunately, whether or not a Summit Charter School is successful on appeal to the county and/or state boards of education, the fact that parents of more than 100 students have signed OUSD “intent-to-enroll” forms that they want their children to attend Summit Charter School demonstrates, once and for all, that Summit School is key to the district’s goals of increasing enrollment and revenue, either as a charter school or as an OUSD school.
School board members have two good choices at this juncture:
Approve the Summit Charter School petition and reap the benefits of an excellent public school that will continue, as it always has, to attract more students to OUSD as they promote to Matilija Middle School and Nordhoff High School.
Or — and this would take good-faith negotiating — do what their stalwart constituents asked them to do in the first place and what the OUSD Board is more than capable of with a new, remarkable, visionary and innovative superintendent, Tiffany Morse, Ph.D.:
Pledge to work with those who have long been their supporters and partners to create an innovative, vibrant and classroom-based, full-time (magnet) public school at Summit with a community that believes in public education and has already proved beyond any doubt why it matters and all that is possible.
To view the Dec. 13 school board meeting, recorded by the OUSD, visit:
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