Ridgecrest Charter in jeopardy

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Ridgecrest Charter in jeopardyCharter School Board President Eric Bruin (center left) and Principal Steve Martinez (right) address a crowd of parents following the state recommendation to deny the school’s charter — Photo by Laura Austin

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Leaders of the Ridgecrest Charter School have been soliciting letters of support and advocates to attend the State Board of Education meeting on Feb. 5, when the body will vote on the Advisory Commission on Charter Schools’ recommendation to discontinue the local school’s charter.

RCS opened in 2000 to offer parents a public school alternative to the Sierra Sands Unified School District. Every five years the school’s charter is up for reevaluation. Sierra Sands has declined to carry the charter after each review, citing unmet requirements that vary upon each evaluation.

Last fall SSUSD Board of Education unanimously voted to decline the charter. But this year the commission recommended the same course of action at the state level.

The commission report (https://www.cde.ca.gov/be/cc/cs/accsnotice020519.asp) says that RCS does not meet requirements for “Sound Educational Practice” and “Measurable Pupil Outcomes.”

Under the comment section of “Evaluation Criteria,” the report states that “RCS does not perform, overall, at least equal to its comparable district schools, where the majority of RCS pupils would otherwise attend.”

The recommendation also states that the petition “does not present a reasonably comprehensive description of measurable pupil outcomes” and prompts the State Board of Education, as a condition for approval, to require RCS to revise the petition to reflect the necessary language.

“The RCS petition does not present a reasonably comprehensive description of employee qualifications,” adds the report, saying that amending this portion of the petition should also be required before authorization.

RCS Board President Eric Bruin, along with Principal Steve Martinez, held a series of outreach meetings this week to inform the school families of the process.

“The closure of Ridgecrest Charter would have a huge impact on our community,” said a spokesperson in an email to the News Review. “Not only would nearly 500 students be displaced, but 60 staff members as well — some of whom have been with RCS for close to 15 years.”

An outline circulating on social media acknowledged the low test scores, but added, “We all know that a school’s worth, and a child’s education, is not measured on test scores alone.”

Advocates are attempting to bring up 1,000 letters of support when a contingent of school leadership attends the board meeting next week in Sacramento.

“We are not sure what decisions will be made or what the outcome will be during the next few weeks,” said SSUSD Superintendent Ernie Bell.

“We will be ready to support any decision made by the State Board of Education in order to provide outstanding services to the students and families of our community.”

The News Review will report on the outcome of that meeting in next week’s edition.

Story First Published: 2019-02-01