Charter school to make final appeal

Dozens of people filled the Watsonville City Council Chambers in May when the Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees denied Navigator Schools' charter for a new school in Watsonville. (File photo by Todd Guild/Register-Pajaronian)

Watsonville Prep hoping to open school in South County

SACRAMENTO — A charter school organization that has been rejected twice by Santa Cruz County education officials in its efforts to establish a school in Watsonville will make a final attempt Wednesday when it appeals to the California Department of Education in Sacramento.

Hollister-based Navigator Schools, which already runs Hollister Prep and Gilroy Prep in those cities, has been trying to open the school in Watsonville since early 2018, when it sought the Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees' approval of its charter.

The board denied the 749-page petition in May.

The charter organization then appealed to, and was rejected by, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education Board of Trustees in September.

A contingent of teachers is planning to travel by bus to Sacramento to ask the trustees to reject the charter.

Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers and the local chapter of California School Employees Association both oppose the school.

“We will not tolerate undemocratic institutions taking from our students and taxpayers for profit,” said PVFT grievance officer Sarah Henne. 

California law allows charter school organizations to appeal to a school district's governing agency if denied.

Navigator’s offer of a new educational option has drawn dozens of parents to charter petition meetings to ask the trustees to approve it.

But a larger number of teachers, school board members and community members attend to present the opposite message. 

PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez has said that Navigator's charter does not sufficiently address the high amounts of English learner students who live in the Pajaro Valley.

 Several PVUSD teachers have also said that adding a school would draw money away from the district.

Also a concern for district officials is where the organization intends to build the school.

 The district is already beset by limited space, with many teachers relegated to pushing their supplies on carts because they lack classrooms.

Under Proposition 39, school districts in California must provide a facility for charter schools located within their boundaries.

Navigator CEO Kevin Sved has stated that Navigator is not willing to give up its Prop. 39 rights, but that the company is mindful of the concerns and is seeking its own facility.

But these concerns may not be enough to convince the CDE trustees to deny the petition. 

State education code offers narrow criteria by which to reject a charter school. State law does not allow boards to deny petitions based solely on financial concerns, for example.

Navigator Director of Community Outreach Kirsten Carr said that more than 200 “meaningfully interested families” have submitted applications to attend the school.

“Navigator Schools’ commitment to becoming a part of the Pajaro Valley public education community is as strong today as it was when we first submitted our charter to the Pajaro Valley Unified School District last winter,” Carr said. 

Carr added that Navigator has received staff recommendations from the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, the staff of the California Department of Education, and the Advisory Commission on Charter Schools.

“Their support confirms our assertion we can provide a top quality public school choice in Watsonville,” she said.

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The California State Board of Education is scheduled to meet Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. at 1430 N St., Room 1101 in Sacramento. For information, and to live-stream the meeting, visit bit.ly/2Qudd2v.


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