Educational turf war down south

"Until the courts say we have to, we won’t leave.”

In the latest round of charter-school wrangles, the legality of Otay Ranch Academy for the Arts has been challenged by the Chula Vista Elementary School District.

On February 25, the San Diego Union -Tribune reported “C.V. In Dispute with Charter School.”

Otay Ranch Academy is located on the campus of Mater Dei Catholic High School in eastern Chula Vista. The school offers educational services to K–8 students.

The issue for Chula Vista Elementary is boundaries and a bleeding of state funding. The authorizing district for the Otay Ranch Academy is tiny Julian Union Elementary School District in the eastern part of the county. By setting up shop in Chula Vista, the charter deprives the district of students and students’ average daily attendance monies. The elementary district has sent the academy a cease-and-desist letter.

Julian Union Elementary does not provide the educational services to Otay Ranch Academy; rather, the services are provided by Harbor Springs Charter School, a 501(c)3. Harbor Springs is one of three charter organizations operating under the umbrella of Springs Charter Schools.

Glendora Tremper

Glendora Tremper

Complicating the issue, Chula Vista Elementary trustee Glendora Tremper works as a speech language pathologist for Springs Charter Schools. According to board-meeting minutes taken in 2015, Tremper stated “she works for a charter that she thought would stay north and totally separated but that she is now working in Chula Vista since her employer [Springs Charter Schools] opened a charter at the Mater Dei Catholic High School campus.”

According to California Ed Code Section 47605.1(c), it is legal for non-classroom based charter schools to provide classroom experiences at resource centers in contiguous counties, provided the facility is used exclusively to serve non-classroom-based-pupils. The academy’s website boasts a four-day-a-week schedule of classes with major subjects taught by direct instruction.

Kathleen Hermsmeyer

Kathleen Hermsmeyer

In a February 29 interview with Springs Charter superintendent Kathleen Hermsmeyer, she argued that non-classroom-based programs are authorized by the state and calculate their attendance on work product, like portfolios of student work, as opposed to seat-time minutes.

Hermsmeyer says the academy has 345 K-8 students and 12 teachers, and the academy provides special education services to students from many areas.

Some have suggested that oversight from far-flung authorizing agencies like Julian elementary is insufficient. Hermsmeyer counters, “Julian is an advocate for charters and they have a business manager that understands charter-school financing. We look for an authorizer that we can have a good relationship with. They visit our site and we make reports to their board and write monthly reports.”

Julian gets an oversight fee of 1 percent and the charter rents a space at their district office and pays for other services.

Hermsmeyer said she is aware of six or seven other charters that received a cease-and-desist notice. “We’re going to have to get clarification about what we are allowed to do because we have been allowed to do this for 20 years — we’ve been doing exactly the same thing — and now they’re saying no.”

“If we get too much heat we can shut down a center, but we’re not going to shut down Otay Academy. We have a lease and interested parents. Until the courts say we have to, we won’t leave.”

The academy pays $14,000 a month to lease classrooms at Mater Dei. Hermsmeyer says the academy gets the same proportionate amount of state funding per student as Chula Vista Elementary, “but there are many streams of money that we are not eligible for as a non-classroom-based charter.”

Hermsmeyer says, “You’ll notice that none of this is about educating students; it’s a turf war. I completely understand where they’re [the big districts] coming from, but I think the reaction should be: ‘Hey, parents, what can we do to provide a more flexible innovative program, more focused on art or dual immersion?’”

Francisco Tamayo

Francisco Tamayo

Chula Vista Elementary School District trustee Francisco Tamayo said in a February 29 interview that Otay Academy first came on the radar of several boardmembers when they advertised for a full-time aide. He said trustees were aware that National School District, among others, had successfully resolved lawsuits against charters that were operating illegally within their boundaries.

He went on to say, “In 2002, the governor signed AB 1994 into law, prohibiting with some exceptions, charter schools from locating outside the jurisdiction of its authorizing agency except in very limited circumstances. Chula Vista Elementary is one of the leaders in dual-immersion programs in the region, and last year we invested five million dollars in arts programs. Overall, we are asking the charter to comply with the law. The [Chula Vista Elementary School District] has a process to review charter-school petitions, and they should follow it if they want to operate in our district boundaries.”

Disclosure: The author’s daughter is on the bargaining team for the Chula Vista Educators.

(corrected 3/2, 1:50 p.m.)

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The children in that charter school have EVERY RIGHT to the same education and resources as any other child. All our children deserve the resources needed for a proper education.

If the public schools teachers don't agree with that, they are in the wrong line of work.

And that's all this hoopla is about anyway. The teachers union bosses don't get kickbacks from the charter and Catholic schools so they are always trying to strong arm them.

The protection racket run by the teachers unions and their puppets on the school board is down right criminal.

I'm guessing it will be a cold day in hell when the County Board of Education, which is supposedly overseeing all of this, will actually wake up and function.

If it is not happening already, this is what should happen: every new school being considered should be cleared through the County Board of Education, and it should not be a simple rubber-stamp process. But this would mean that someone at the County Board of Education would actually need to have a backbone and really assess something, which would be quite a stretch. (They seem far more comfortable with directing legal work to their favorite law firms). A stringent review process for all new schools, public and charter, might just control some of these schools, such as the Van Zant group. (Van Zant is the superintendent who just plead guilty to felony charges because he and his wife benefitted from the charter schools he was setting up).

But what am I thinking? How can we trust the County Board of Education to actually make substantive decisions. In a perfect world, maybe.

So here is my take, for what it is worth: maybe there is a place for all these "boutique" schools that are popping up. But maybe they are popping up because the admin people make great salaries, and the admin people get to run their own shows, as long as they can convince parents to send their students to these schools.

And, as education is cumulative, immediate results one way or the other are not that easily measured (despite all the high-stakes testing claims), so that some schools can claim they are doing a great job--until it can be proven otherwise.

Educational quality can be difficult to measure; I hope all parents out there are really looking at where their children go to school, and will make the extra effort to see that schools are there for the children and not for the egos and paychecks of top administrators.

The most important thing we can give our children is a good education.

eastlaker, I just had a day to catch up on the news. County Boards can be authorizing agencies...

Anyway, this L.A. Times article is pertinent: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-lausd-king-collaborating-charters-20160301-story.html

At least she is trying to get a reasonable conversation going...but we need to really know what is going all with all the charter schools. Florida was particularly bad, I seem to recall--with charter schools going bankrupt, funds missing and schools shutting down just before the school year was supposed to start.

Hopefully the Chula Vista elementary school board succeeds in putting an end to this double dipping into the taxpayers' pockets. We already pay for classroom space. Why should we pay $14,000 more per month to rent?  We already pay for the administration of our schools.  Why should we pay for additional levels of highly paid administrators?  We already pay for the governance of our districts. Why are we allowing a school district 60 miles away to skim 1% from ADA monies to pay for their "authorization"?  Our tax dollars should be spent in the classroom where the education of our kids takes place and not wasted on costly duplication of services.

SJTorres, you are wrong about teachers, and wrong about teacher's unions, and wrong about school boards. Do you realize how hard public school teaching is? The union is often the only hope a teacher has to stand strong in the face of false accusations coming from failing/bullying, discipline problem students and the lousy parents who raised them. Absolutely every student is entitled to a proper education. When loudmouth students yell at and threaten the teacher NOBODY LEARNS. Teachers need support from administrators in disciplining this bad behavior. What really happens? The student and parent make a complaint against the teacher and the teacher is INVESTIGATED. These investigations take MONTHS. Students are called out of their classes and asked ABOUT THE TEACHER. ( loss of learning time) Nobody disciplines the student. Nobody has the guts to stand up to this type of parent. The whole system is a failure when the problem student gets treated like royalty and the teacher who dared to discipline the student, write the referral, etc. GETS TREATED LIKE A CRIMINAL. The union is the only support teacher's have! Your comments are usually anti- teacher. No thumbs up for you. Did you notice? I would hate to teach your kid, but I would still do my very best.

MyFavoriteTeacher what you say is not necessarily true. My daughter was one of those 'failing discipline problem students'. My wife and I are one of those '"lousy parents who raised them".

Our daughter had serious problems in middle and high school and the administration at the 3 schools she was run from had no problem supporting the teachers in each instance. Her teachers were honest, respectful and respected teachers. My wife and I understood why she was kicked out of the schools.

Us "lousy parents" ultimately found the right fit for her learning style, and our "failing discipline problem student" flourished in school and graduated a semester early from high school.

You paint a broad brush about these kids and their parents. I hope you are not a teacher because with your attitude you are likely part of the reason kids are problematic in your class and why your administration does not support you.

Question regarding the " the charter deprives the district of students and students’ average daily attendance monies."

What are the attendance statistics for the schools in the area? My coworker moved into the area a couple years ago, moving into a house blocks away from a school she chose due to its API scores. Unfortunately, the school was full, requiring the district to assign and bus her student to another school more than 3 miles away.

Not knocking any of the schools or either district, but it seems that there may be an overabundance of students in the area. Any money the district would get by having the student in their school would be offset by costs of transporting them to other schools.

dbdriver, Interesting thought. My guess is transportation, which both districts are already capable of providing, would not eat up the whole ADA.

That being said, many of the schools on the east side have been impacted for too long. Both districts need to get new schools built, the housing development has outpaced classroom space--again. Some people have discussed getting some magnet schools going on the west side...

One other point about this discussion that's interesting is the last charter that occupied Mater Dei was Leonardo da Vinci Charter....which was absorbed into CVESD.

MyFavoriteTeacher/Bvavsv - as human beings we come into discussions like this based on OUR personal experiences. The need for Unions is well documented as we witnessed that need during 'the gandara' and 'Brand 2'. I shudder to think what would have happened to my family members if they would not have had that protection once the District learned of my familial ties to them. Having said that, not all 'children with issues' come from loud mouth parents who fail to identify the problems of their child. I raised a family members child for 17 years - that child ran away from home, broke into a teachers car and stoled her purse - once he retrieved her money from the wallet he ceremoniously proceeded to throw the purse up on top of one of the schools buildings. To make a long story short the police found him and when I asked how he had survived he shared what he had done. That Monday he and I sat in the AP's office where he was forced, by me, to tell of the theft. No doubt by the end of the day the story had circulated throughout the teacher network and I am most certain there are some who 'may' have presumed 'can you imagine the home life he must have to do such a thing'. My point we as parents do the best we can IN MOST CASES -AND- teachers do the best they can IN MOST CASES. THE KEY - both entities must work together for the benefit of the child.

MyFav - Regarding your comment on School Boards - this community has not yet healed from the many dysfunctional years of the past. And while yes, we have a new Board here in SUHSD territory controversies are beginning to service and the lack of campaign promises being honored is troubling. We are being asked to weigh in on a PLA and 1.5 BILLION WITH a B BOND - while being told to be patient on issues of Best Practices being implemented. SDCity Schools, at every Board meeting being heralded as the be all to end all by Trustee Hall - yet we have just witnessed as the Board Pres was forced to step down for actions akin to Jesus Gandara's wedding shower AND yesterday Voice of San Diego published story sharing the fact that ALL OF THE BOND MONIES CITY SCHOOLS HAS HAD AT ITS DISPOSAL AMOUNTED TO LITTLE IN THE FORM OF BETTER SCHOOLS (sound familiar).


Maybe, just Maybe some of those folks sending their students to Charters are doing so because of all of the controversy surrounding special interests, lack of fiscal responsibility or data indicative that our students are regressing vs progressing.

* 7 of the 9 children I have raised are products of CV Elementary and SUHSD - two are educators in the SUHSD - the others like these 2 received a stellar educational by both Districts one being Special Ed. To ALL OF THOSE ADMINISTRATORS, TEACHER AND COACHES I SAY THANK YOU!!!

I am the mother of a 6th grader at Otay Academy of the Arts. My son is smart and talented Before enrolling him at Otay Academy he told me that he hated school. He felt like a Robot. Previous years he was enrolled in Olympic View Elementary. I was so excited to find this alternative school. Every day he comes out of school and says "I loved school today". He is a totally different child. Learning through projects, music, dance he is happy. I am happy as I watch him grow into an assertive young adult. He is impassioned with his computer class. He loves his dance class. If this school were to close it would break his heart. I will never return him to the current Chula Vista Elementary system where he is made to feel like a robot. He would be home schooled. The district would not get money for him anyway. Our children deserve this amazing alternative if we choose it.

I have a daughter with special needs who goes to Otay Academy for the Arts. Before going there she was in a separate special class and didn't like going to school. Now she is doing amazing and has grown so much and is catching up to her peers and in a regular class with her peers. I still can't believe how far she has come since starting this year at Otay and she likes going to school. The way the kids can do their projects, not just writing essays but they can choose to make a poster, make cards, do a video... It makes it more interesting for the kids to learn and like the previous parent said, not like a robot but making the kids individuals and I love seeing how these kids are capable of so much more. It really makes the kids want to learn. My daughter has learned more at this school in less than a year then she did at her previous schools in the past. I'm scared for high school next because she doesn't want to go back to a special class as she calls it and be segregated. My son on the other hand is going to a regular public elementary school and hasn't learned as much as I believe he would have if I had enrolled him at Otay Academy for the Arts. He doesn't like going to school, has a lot of homework and is only in second grade. There are over 1000 kids at his elementary school so he gets lost in the mix. Needless to say I'm trying to get him into Otay Academy for the Arts as I want him to succeed in life and not just trudge along. I find the teachers and staff at Otay love their job and really care about the kids. The kids all seem happy to be there. I think the regular public schools are getting overcrowded so I'm surprised the district is having issues with the charter schools being there but it comes down to the almighty dollar not about the kids or learning. If they close down all the charter schools where are all these kids going to go as the public schools are already overcrowded? Bus them, as another poster said to another school or district?

We are doing something good!!!!

My daughter has been in Chula Vista and San Diego school district , but UNTIL NOW, in ORAA, she is super happy.

We have a bulling free school!!!

The teachers bomb!!! They always been there , either for students and parents!

I love this institution, all the personnel is involve and open heart, they are the best!

Thank You ORAA for been in Chula Vista, we are blessed to been in this school!!!

Curious. 3 brand new posters sign up today and post within an hour, cheerleading this charter school.

And we will continue cheering! We are an awesome community and well word got around about this article. So now we are here...😊

I am a parent with two students at ORAA. I am not clear on the issues at hand but from what I gather it all comes down to the district not receiving monies for our students. Well, let me just say that it was our choice to move our kids to ORAA from a very coveted Chula Vista elementary. We were looking for a program and a school that would make us parents an integral part of our childrens education. We looked for a curriculum that would allow our children to be eager about learning and keep them interrsted in the subjects learned... and we found it at ORAA. I think that it is amazing that we have the right to choose our kids educational path. I sencerely hope that if the issue at hand is just merely student fees that we can come to an agreement instead of affecting so many families that have chosen to attend ORAA.

Dbdriver.... There will be many to respond to this article and yes we do cheer for our amazing little school. Please come visit and see for yourself why we defend this gem. And while you are there ask to see our curriculums and how they are being implemented.

No doubt the parents who have commented are very pleased with this charter school. It sounds like a very good school with super teachers and  great classes. I don't believe that is being questioned by anyone. The issue raised  is the legality of a classroom-based charter school  existing beyond its authorizing school board's boundaries. In this case, the Julian school board is authorizing a charter school in Chula Vista. While the Springs charter schools' superintendent claims ORAA to be a non-classroom based school, from the parents' testimony, that doesn't seem to be the case. For those parents who are so dissatisfied with the public schools in Chula Vista, there are probably some fine private school alternatives, should their Academy be closed.

Obviously the Charter School issue needs to be sorted out.

Have we heard anything from the County Board of Education regarding this? Any public statement? Any publicity release? No?

Guidelines need to be established, if they have not been already. If guidelines regarding charter schools have been established, they need to be made public. Loopholes that allow problems to occur need to be dealt with.

Boundaries exist for a reason, and when individuals and groups choose to ignore boundaries, more problems will take place. It is true--the shoe might be on the other foot for Chula Vista Elementary School District, as they have created charter schools that impinge on Sweetwater's 7 - 12 grade territory. So--does all of this need to go to court, or can it be handled by our County Board of Education actually doing something to earn their pay? Or---is this task far beyond their paygrade and ability?

It is great that the parents of students at this charter school are pleased with their children's new-found enthusiasm for learning. I would be interested in learning the specifics thereof.

Laws, policies, and guidelines exist to protect the interest of the people in a democratic society. So who exactly is AB 1994 trying to protect and why is CVESD enforcing this now?

It is also worth noting that AB 1994 was instituted back in 2002. It is perhaps time to re-evaluate the utility of this law given that there is now a whole new generation of students that are encouraged to think outside the box. Charter schools provide the necessary environment for this new generation of students to be innovative in their own terms and not be restricted by bureaucracy. There is so much potential for this new generation and it is our responsibility - as parents, educators and administrators - to ensure we provide them the necessary options to reach their potential without restrictions and boundaries.

My daughter has been attending Kindergarten at Otay Ranch Academy for the Arts (ORAA). We truly enjoy the weekly projects that we can work together as a family. Most importantly, I relish seeing my daughter's imagination take flight with each project that she completes and the support she gets from her teacher and ORAA staff. Thank you ORAA for being here and being a disruptive innovator in the education system!

Sincerely, Marie P.

I believe we should approach this from the top down. It's obvious our children are enjoying great success at this school in many ways! We should start there and find a way to adapt, compromise and find whatever else we need to do to accommodate the children and allow them to continue to grow and flourish. Let's work together!

Agreed smittymk. Charter schools are definitely in demand within the CVESD as evidenced by enrollment. SDCOE needs to step up in regards to policies that protect school districts.

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