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Open Letter to Santa Clara County Board of Education

The questions should be part of a larger dialogue on the role and direction of the Santa Clara County Board of Education.

Dear Dr. De La Torre and Dear President Di Salvo:
I read the agenda for your upcoming 10/03/2012 meeting and had a few questions/complaints that I hope you could answer. I put a number of press representatives in copy because I feel some of the questions should be part of a larger dialogue on the role and direction of the Santa Clara County Board of Education; especially as the voters will get to choose two of its trustees in November (in particular in our community: Trustee Area 1 -Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View and Sunnyvale-).  I also put a number of superintendents (mostly from Area 1) in copy as they and their school boards might want to join that dialogue as well.
 
1. Discovery II public hearing
Maybe it’s just a clerical oversight but the charter petition is not available as part of the public meeting package nor can it be located anywhere on your web site. Notwithstanding the fact that your meeting coincides with the last night of the MLB season (go A's!) and the first presidential debate, it's unlikely you will receive a lot of public comments on an unpublished document and without even knowing which communities would be impacted. It’s unfortunate because, looking at the petition Discovery was planning to submit, you are depriving the public of the opportunity for a healthy conversation on the very role of the SCCOE. The recent wave of RocketShip countywide charter schools approval was rationalized as an important tool to reduce the achievement gap (the core goal of the SJ 2020 initiative).  It will be interesting to hear what countywide academic goal would be achieved by authorizing these three new Discovery II schools. At any rate, you might consider postponing that public hearing or at least publish the submitted petition and, if not done already. reach out to all the concerned districts (keeping in mind that Discovery II might be seeking Prop39 facilities). Based on the planned petition the districts would be:  San Jose Unified, Alum Rock, Beryessa, Franklin McKinley, Milpitas, Oak Grove, Morgan Hill and Gilroy.

2. Summit Public School Denali
This item is not on your agenda but our community knows that a petition was circulated in August for a countywide 6-12 charter school serving the northern part of the County along the “101 Corridor” -without much details as to how that geographic area might be defined-. Our Area 1 Trustee (Grace Mah) mentioned that potential school publicly during comments she made at the last Bullis Charter School Board meeting. Summit Public School itself proclaims that it will open in the Fall 2013 while dropping any reference to the “101 corridor”. Yet there is no mention of that charter school on your web site. Given that this countywide charter school would affect every single district in Trustee Area 1, given that the Trustee Area 1 elections are less than 40 days away, I respectfully request that your office and Trustee Mah make public any petition documents you might have received as well as the current status of that petition in order to fully inform the voters before they cast their ballots.

3. Conflict of Interest Board Policies
I’m surprised that your proposed conflict of interest bylaws are completely silent on charter schools. Maybe because most of the language was originally written before the SCCOE authorized its first charter? It’s clear from reading your agenda that the SCCOE has now a lot of interactions with charter school organizations; it would seem prudent to insure that these interactions are void of any conflict of interest.

Respectfully, Serge Bonte
Santa Clara County Public School Parent

PS: I’d like to submit two suggestions for your consideration:

1. set up a process by which you would publish any charter petition you receive within a matter of days. While the law calls for a public hearing within 60 days after you receive a petition, there is nothing preventing you from making the petitions public earlier.
2. make sure that any petitioner clearly states that their charter is pending approval during the authorization process. Summit Public School unqualified claim that Denali will open in the Fall 2013 presents the authorization as a fait accompli which seems cavalier towards your office and somewhat misleading for the prospective students.

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