Charter school board outlines new opportunity

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Charter school board outlines new opportunityRidgecrest Charter School officials outlined a potential resolution for keeping the facility going, despite the threat of closure pending a decision this month by the California State Board of Education.

The state board will convene March 13-14 to weigh dual recommendations by state committees and commissions to discontinue the charter in light of below-average test scores from RCS students.

The RCS submitted a routine package requesting renewal of its charter earlier this year. By law the school is required to first solicit the local district. Sierra Sands Unified School District denied the charter, citing the underperforming academic results.

Historically, SSUSD has declined the charter over the years for a variety of reasons. However, the state has up until now agreed to approve — with the current recommendation the first at that level during the school’s 18-year history.

Charter School Board President Eric Bruen said that although attempting to secure approval from the SBE is still the school’s first objective, officials have also developed a plan that might preserve operations in the event of a denial.

At press time, the board was scheduled to vote on whether to amend its articles of incorporation to create a second body that could, in theory, be granted assets of RCS in the event of a closure.

If the state follows through with denying the charter, Bruen said, the school has the option of petitioning the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, who could potentially approve the charter.

Principal Steve Martinez assured attendees that creating the second “school” is not for the purpose of operating a second site, but for preserving a pathway to continuing the program.

Officials also conceded that although they are doing their best to make employment offers — including signing bonuses — for teachers, there is no guarantee for positions next year.

“I just want to thank the school and our associates and our community for the support,” said Miriam Hogg, an RCS staffer. “Initially, the climate was very tense. But we have moved forward in the process. I believe we have seen a lot of support and collaboration.”

“Hats off to you for doing what you can to keep things operational,” said parent Ed Czajka. “But this appears to be a political song and dance you guys have to do.”

He asked if there were ramifications for the “shell game.”

Bruen said the school is still working to secure approval from the state.

“We have built a wonderful organization here for 18 years. Our first goal is for the SBE to give us the right to cure. We have cured before, we can cure again.”

He added that he believes preserving a school of choice is critical to serving community needs.

“I’m much more positive today than I was at the last meeting,” said Director Chip Holloway.

“I also want to say that moving forward, even with the local school district, the attempt to repair and work together has been evident. I am really looking forward to working with all the entities involved — and that includes the district.”

Story First Published: 2019-03-01