The Montessori Charter School of Davis

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montessoriby Jonathan Feagle

A local group of Montessori educators and parents in Davis will soon present a charter petition to the Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) to operate the Montessori Charter School of Davis (MCSD). If authorized, MCSD will be a TK-6th grade program enrolling 120 students in grades TK-2nd its first year. One grade level will be added each year through 6th grade, reaching a steady enrollment of about 260 students by its 5th year of operation. The proposed charter school will be an independent charter, governed and funded independently of the DJUSD.

The group has developed an authentic Montessori program that meets or exceeds all of California’s state standards, including the newly adopted Common Core State Standards. In addition to a full implementation of the Montessori model, the program has innovative components including a woodworking curriculum that begins in kindergarten, a fully articulated character studies curriculum for all grade levels, and a programming and robotics curriculum for upper elementary students using the Arduino platform. To learn more about MCSD’s educational program, please visit our Facebook page at facebook.com/mcsdavis.

In addition to a world class, 21st Century education, MCSD will be committed to achieving a genuinely integrated student population along both racial and socioeconomic lines. An integrated student population benefits the students both academically and developmentally. Charter schools must accept any student in California who wants to attend. (If more want to attend than the school has space for, a random public lottery is held.) This means that MCSD can focus its community outreach program without regard to traditional school district boundaries. However, as with most charter schools, MCSD will primarily serve its local community—in this case Davis and its children.

In addition to local parents, members of the group submitting the charter petition include Montessori teachers and administrators who have extensive experience teaching in and operating Montessori charter schools in California. Charter schools typically face an uphill battle with local school districts. We believe DJUSD is not the typical California school district and is more interested in the success and education of students than they are in maintaining a monopoly over the educational services in this community. Read a 2007 article in Education Next by Joe Williams titled, “Games Charter Opponents Play” for an interesting take on charter-district relations.

In fact, much of the demand for MCSD’s program has been generated by the highly successful Montessori program located on the district’s own Birch Lane campus. DJUSD should be congratulated for the quality of this program. Many will perhaps wonder if a Montessori charter school in Davis will compete with the Birch Lane Montessori program. If it is healthy competition, then absolutely we hope to compete. By creating a second public Montessori option in Davis, the demand for this model of education will only increase due to its increased stature in the community. And Davis will become a truly dynamic center of the broader Montessori educational community. Our children will benefit greatly as a result.

However, that said, some may still be reasonably hesitant about a new charter school. Myths and misconceptions about charter schools have left some doubt in the minds of others regarding the benefits of charter schools. Drawing from the work of a number of educators, we address four of those concerns here:

Myth #1: Charter schools take funding away from local districts, and thereby negatively affect the education of children in the local public schools.

When a family decides to enroll their child in a charter school, the local district will not receive state funding for that child. But the charter school does not “take away” anything. The state money follows the child and funds his or her education wherever the child’s family chooses to enroll their child.

Myth #2: Charter schools exacerbate public school segregation along racial and socioeconomic lines.

While it is often thought that charter schools primarily attract affluent students whose parents are more actively involved in securing educational alternatives for their children, the fact is that charter schools nationwide enroll a higher percentage of minority students than traditional public schools. Additionally, most charter schools are developed in order to serve racially and socioeconomically disadvantaged students who have been underserved by their local school districts (Lee & Lubienski, 2011).

Myth #3: Charter schools radicalize the education of our children.

Charter schools are required to teach the same academic content as traditional public schools and must participate in the same annual state testing programs as school districts. Perhaps the most important virtue of the American public school system is that it strives to provide a level field of opportunity for all children in this country. Public schools are also intended to promote citizenship and an appreciation for our fellow citizens from all walks of life. This is a tradition continued by charter schools because they are legally bound to promote national citizenship in equal measures.

Myth 4: Charter schools are only warranted in order to compensate for some deficiency in a school district.

Charter schools are warranted wherever the charter’s program will make a positive contribution. California law does not prohibit the submission of charter petitions to school districts that are “good enough.” Would we ever want to say that our schools are good enough?

Yes, Davis schools are good. However, what is the message we send when we say that our schools are good enough? You do not have to be bad in order to work on becoming better. Yes, Davis schools are good, but they can be better. With your support, the Montessori Charter School of Davis will be another positive educational improvement in a long line of what we hope will be many such improvements for years to come.

References

Lee, J., & Lubienski, C. (2011). Is racial segregation changing in charter schools? International Journal of Educational Reform, 20(3), 192-209.

 Williams, J. (2007). Games Charter Opponents Play. Education Next, 7(1), 12-18.

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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61 thoughts on “The Montessori Charter School of Davis”

    1. Jonathan Feagle

      Dear Mr. Toad,

      This is a great question. Securing facilities is one of the biggest challenges for charter schools in California. Proposition 39, passed by the voters on the November 2000 ballot, expresses the intent that all public school facilities be shared by all public school students, including charter school students. Prop 39 requires school districts to make available to charter schools facilities that are “reasonably equivalent” to other district facilities, provided that the charter school will have at least 80 students residing within the school district boundaries. The charter school must pay for the use of these facilities at a rate that is near to what the district pays overall for its own facilities. Prop 39 also allows charter schools and school districts to negotiate alternative arrangements.

      In the case of MCSD (Montessori Charter School of Davis), we are looking for a facility that will meet the needs of our educational model, including safe and easy access for students to move between classrooms and room for several gardens. Acquiring Prop 39 facilities is not always the best choice for charter schools and MCSD will probably look at all alternatives. Many charter schools have leased space from a church.

      As one example, and if some changes were made, one ideal location for MCSD would be the old Merryhill site on Lillard Dr. in South Davis. Although the building itself is not ideal, that can be fixed. We are also looking at West Davis. Because Birch Lane offers Montessori in the north east area of town, it would be best to locate in another area in order to increase the accessibility to a Montessori education.

      Here is some more information on Proposition 39 and charter schools on the California Department of Education’s website:
      http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cs/as/proposition39.asp

      Thank you,

      Jonathan

    2. Jonathan Feagle

      Dear Mr. Toad,

      Regarding your second question: “Are charter schools doing a better job than our public schools?” There is a big debate on exactly what it means to “do better than” in this context. Some studies find that charter schools tend to provide small and more intimate communities, some studies find that charter schools tend to further segregate minority students into charter schools, some studies find that charter schools achieve higher academic performance relative to traditional public schools, and an equal number of studies find that charter schools achieve lower academic performance relative to traditional public schools. As you correctly imply, it is mixed.

      I will make the point made in the article: the charter school reform model is an institutional innovation, not a pedagogical one. There is no logical reason why we should assume or expect charter schools to perform better or worse than other school models simple in virtue of the fact that they are charter schools. The only attribute all charter schools have in common is that they are charter schools. Beyond that, the models of instruction, curriculum, school culture, quality of leadership, etc., varies greatly.

      Charter school legislation allows innovative educators to develop cutting edge models and request permission from school districts to operate under their authorization and oversight. If a charter schools does not perform to expectations, then it is closed. If poorly operated charter schools are allowed to continue operating, then the authorizing district is not fulfilling its responsibilities of oversight.

      Thank you for this question,

      Jonathan

  1. wdf1

    How is the K-6 Montessori educational experience proposed by this charter different from what is offered at Birch Lane?

    Where will the campus be located?

    Will this school offer elementary music? Please explain…

    Additionally, most charter schools are developed in order to serve racially and socioeconomically disadvantaged students who have been underserved by their local school districts

    Can you expand on this point? The implied point that I take from this is that this proposed charter school will serve socio-economically disadvantaged students in Davis. A large segment of socio-economically disadvantaged students in Davis are English Language Learners, most from Spanish speaking families. How might this proposed charter school offer ELL services and serve the Spanish speaking community?

    1. Jonathan Feagle

      Dear WDF1,

      Thank you for the questions. They are certainly the right ones to ask. The facilities issue is briefly discussed above. Let me see if I can address your remaining questions.

      Regarding differences between MCSD’s (Montessori Charter School of Davis) Montessori program and Birch Lane’s Montessori program, there will be many. However, there will also be many similarities. Both programs will strive to implement the Montessori program in a public regulatory environment. I do sincerely believe that the school district is making every effort to best meet the needs of the students they serve. Their job is not an easy one. However, they operate within a different institutional framework and organizational culture than would MCSD. Perhaps the most significant difference at this level is that MCSD will be governed by a board of directors committed only to MCSD. The entire organization will be focused on learning and implementing the Montessori method. The school will also be legally bound to the terms of the charter document, which clearly outlines an authentic Montessori program.

      At a more specific level, MCSD will offer a woodworking curriculum that begins in kindergarten and a programming and robotics curriculum based on the Arduino platform for the upper elementary grade levels (4th-6th). MCSD also plans to send teachers to the San Francisco ORFF training (http://www.sforff.org/) to learn that particular method of teaching music. MCSD will firmly adhere to the traditional Montessori grade level configuration (1st-3rd and 4th-6th). Kindergarten and transitional kindergarten will be together.

      These differences are not ones of better and worse. They are differences for parents to choose between in order to best meet their family’s own educational needs. There will be some things that Birch Lane will do better and, likewise, there will be some things that MCSD does better.

      Regarding your question about serving disadvantaged student populations, the goal for MCSD is to create a truly integrated student body. So yes, the charter petition of MCSD does outline a program for English Language Learners and much of it is based on the Montessori curriculum. Essential instructional methods of the Montessori curriculum are also considered to be essential instructional methods of a strong English learner program. These methods include, but are certainly not limited to, levelled questioning, connecting to prior knowledge, identifying academic vocabulary, limited use of idiomatic speech, acting out meaning, heavy reliance on realia, multi-sensory learning experiences, student led tutoring, immediate feedback,…and the list goes on.

      Regarding advanced learners, the Montessori model enables teachers to support students at their own appropriate academic growth levels. MCSD will be a program in which all students can truly flourish.

      MCSD also has an outreach program in the works. If anyone has recommendations or comments to share about creating an effective community outreach program, please contact me (davismontessori@gmail.com).

      While the above is far from a complete description of MCSD’s English learner program, it should be clear that the English learner program for MCSD is firmly based on the Montessori method. For more information about MCSD’s English learner program, please see our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/mcsdavis or email me at davismontessori@gmail.com.

      Thank you,

      Jonathan

    1. Jonathan Feagle

      Yes 🙂

      I am not sure about the parallel drawn between MCSD and WalMart, though. But there is a sense in which a charter school is asking its competitor for permission to open its doors. Like anything else, there are pros and cons to this. One very positive dimension to this kind of arrangement is that a charter school must do things very well in order to survive. Charter schools can be closed by their authorizers, so charters are extra motivated to keep up the good work. This is true during the charter school’s petitioning phase. A lot of work has gone into MCSD’s charter petition in order to meet the high level of standard set by the school district. This will only make it a stronger program.

      The downside to this arrangement is that it places a large amount of pressure and responsibility on a school district’s leadership and their board. This can sometimes cause problems that are not helpful for anyone.

  2. Ryan Kelly

    You forget that the Montessori program at Birch Lane was started by the school district in response to a couple that wanted to start a Montessori Charter school in Davis. At that time there were no available school sites and they had approached the Methodist Church on Anderson Road to place portable classrooms for the school.

    With Woodland in the planning stages to build an elementary school in the Springlake development, expect a loss of 300+ students that attend school in Davis from that neighborhood. Now this Charter…

    Are we going to have to close another elementary school in response to declining enrollment?

    Since Davis is accepting any and all intra-district transfer students, my question is why?

        1. wdf1

          R.K.: Since Davis is accepting any and all inter-district transfer students, my question is why?

          Because they adopted a policy that requires them to. As I understand it, DJUSD teachers who live out of district cannot enroll their own kids into DJUSD unless the district has a policy that allows “residency” to be defined also as one’s place of work. If the district allows a policy so that DJUSD teachers residing outside of Davis can attend, then it has to allow it for anyone else working within the district. It runs on a space-available basis.

          Personally, I think the district is better off when district staff can enroll their kids in the Davis schools. I think it engenders more loyalty and commitment. Given that teachers may not make an ideal salary, it is a smaller benefit that the district can more easily offer.

          It is also a way to manage enrollments more efficiently. Everything I see says that the district does not lose money on this policy.

          Other districts have a similar policy.

          With Woodland in the planning stages to build an elementary school in the Springlake development, expect a loss of 300+ students that attend school in Davis from that neighborhood.

          How do you get 300+ students from the Spring Lake neighborhood? When I checked, I thought it was ~100. I think there might be about 300 from all of Woodland.

          1. Ryan Kelly

            This number came from a news report in the Democrat regarding the building of Springlake Elementary School.

          2. wdf1

            My number comes from the Davis Demographics report to the school board from a year ago, pg. 24. Hope this link works: link

  3. SouthofDavis

    Ryan wrote:

    > Since Davis is accepting any and all intra-district transfer students, my question is why?

    As long as Davis residents keep voting for parcel taxes to educate kids from outside the district the district will keep staffing up to educate them (and by adding new teachers make their jobs safer as long as the current system of firing the last teachers hired stands):

    http://studentsmatter.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/SM_Opening-Remarks-Presentation_01.26.14.pdf

    1. Hemant Bhargava

      Perhaps this new initiative is motivated not by the absence of a program (in name) or by numbers. perhaps this new group of parents is motivated to act on their frustrations at a school system that is holding back their children from learning to their potential. We have been seeing these tendencies repeatedly – in the discussion around AIM/GATE, and in the discussions around advanced courses at the high school level. In each case the school system is raising some bogeyman about “over-pressured kids” to try to dumb down the level of education. Might be well and fine inside our little bubble, but it prevents kids from learning what they want to learn, and going where they want to go.

      1. Ryan Kelly

        This is just absolute hogwash. Every parent believes that their children are special and gifted. The Davis school system has bent over backwards to provide programs so “children can learn to their potential” and meet the expectations of helicopter parents. With 1/3 of children in segregated GATE programs, a whole school in Spanish Immersion, 26 AP Courses at the High School, a Montessori program, a country K-3 school, Independent Study, DaVinci High Charter school. The Davis Community has repeatedly voted for parcel taxes to the point that a 1/3 to 1/2 of our property taxes go to the schools so that these expectations can be met, I find your allegations of neglect REALLY offensive.

        1. SouthofDavis

          Ryan wrote:

          > This is just absolute hogwash. Every parent believes that their
          > children are special and gifted.

          Have you talked to EVERY parent in town? In the past year I have had two parents tell me that their kids are having a hard time in school since most of the kids are smarter than them.

          > The Davis school system has bent over backwards to provide
          > programs so “children can learn to their potential”

          True, but some parents still want more (it is not “hogwash” that MANY parents feel that the schools are “holding back their children from learning to their potential”)

          Some of these parents are way off base, while others are truly brilliant with even smarter kids who are being actually “held back”…

      2. Mr. Toad

        Over pressured kids is no bogeyman its a dangerous reality. I once had a student commit suicide. A really great, talented, high achieving student. I remember him racing other students to see who could finish a little quiz the fastest. Whatever policies the school board decides and whether we agree with them or not let us please remember that the health and safety of the children is the most important thing of all and not denigrate decisions made with that interest at heart.

  4. growth issue

    Why are some on here afraid to have more options for the parents to choose where their children can attend school? Nobody would be REQUIRED to enter any charter program, it would be totally by choice. If you don’t want your children to attend a Charter Montessori Program, nobody is making you. Why would anyone want to deprive others of more choices?

    1. SouthofDavis

      growth issue wrote:

      > Why are some on here afraid to have more options for the parents
      > to choose where their children can attend school?

      Most Democrats think they should decide where your kids go to school and are not “pro-choice” on schools just like most Republicans think they should decide if you have a kid and are not “pro-choice” on pregnancy.

  5. Michelle Millet

    How is the K-6 Montessori educational experience proposed by this charter different from what is offered at Birch Lane?

    I can’t speak for Jonathan but as a parent of kids in the Montessori Program at Birch Lane I can confirm that the program as run faces limitations that a charter program could address.

    A big factor is class configuration. Montessori is designed to be multi-age. A true Montessori program would have classes comprised of 1-3 graders and 4-6 graders. This does not happen at Birch Lane, even though our Master Plan states that class configurations be designed this way. When I questioned this I was told it was an administrative decision based on the numbers.

    Also there are finical issues, while the program has been allowed to expand, because of the districts finical problems, they have been unable to cover the expenses for Montessori curriculum needed in newly created classes. Montessori parents stepped in and fundraised for supplies, but this created tension between the Montessori and neighborhood programs at Birch Lane.

    Also there is more demand for more spaces in the program then there are spots available, and we have been told , by the school principal, the program will not be allowed to get any bigger at Birch Lane.

    While I have talked to Jonathan a little about his idea for a charter school, and attended one board meeting last spring, I’m not familiar enough with the charter proposal to know if it could address these issue.

    1. wdf1

      M.M.: A big factor is class configuration. Montessori is designed to be multi-age. A true Montessori program would have classes comprised of 1-3 graders and 4-6 graders. This does not happen at Birch Lane, even though our Master Plan states that class configurations be designed this way. When I questioned this I was told it was an administrative decision based on the numbers.

      That sounds like an issue that could be solved if enough parents insisted on it and the Montessori teachers backed it up. If the Master Plan is something that has been before the board, then it is a question that deserves to be answered by the board and administration.

      Also there is more demand for more spaces in the program then there are spots available, and we have been told , by the school principal, the program will not be allowed to get any bigger at Birch Lane.

      The district could follow the Spanish Immersion model, if enough demand were demonstrated. At first there were Spanish Immersion strands at different elementary sites that then eventually consolidated at Chavez Elementary. Additional interest in the program led to opening additional strands at Montgomery Elementary.

  6. Michelle Millet

    That sounds like an issue that could be solved if enough parents insisted on it and the Montessori teachers backed it up. If the Master Plan is something that has been before the board, then it is a question that deserves to be answered by the board and administration.

    I’m in absolute 100% percent agreement with you. When I raised this issue with the school principal, I was told that numbers did not allow for these types of configuration, and that it wasn’t up for discussion. The email I sent to the district office in regards to this issue was never responded to. I never went to the school board with it directly.

    1. Michelle Millet

      FYI here is an excerpt of the letter I sent to a district employee last spring. I never got a response (I’m not going to mention names, they are busy, and my point is not to blame anyone, just share my effort and concern.).

      One major concerns is class configuration. Here is an excerpt from the Master Plan regarding this topic:

      Recognizing the importance of the three year span and the traditional Montessori age groupings based on the planes of development, DJUSD will seek to achieve stable class configurations consistent with Montessori philosophies (grades pre-K, 1-3, 4-6). Each class will include a well-balenced division of ages to ensure social and academic development. All classroom configurations will be dependent upon enrollement requests and the districts needs to in consultation with the parent/guardian (including the need for students to experience being both the youngest and oldest in a class).

      Ideally Birch Lane Montessori would have this structure. I understand that the ideal is not always possible in a public school setting. But I feel we have strayed too far from this important tenant of a Montessori based education. Despite the fact that a multi-age classroom is a key component in a Montessori education this year one of the Montessori classrooms is a straight 4th grade.

      In the past, there has even been a 3/4 combo. Not only is this combination not in line with the Montessori master plan, or Montessori philosophy it is an awkward combination due to Birch Lane’s School schedule. (3rd and 4th graders have different recess, lunch, and dismissal time). Long interrupted work periods are the essential for a Montessori classroom, having 3rd and 4th graders in the same room on different schedules does not allow for this to happen.

      Another concern regards the the Evaluation of Program Process again from the Master Plan:

      A program evaluation will be conducted in consultation with AMS/AMI affiliated organizations every other year to ensure that the program meets the needs of students and the expectations of Parent/Guardians, maintains the integrity of Montessori education, and is aligned with state and district standards. The evaluation will include classroom observations and individual teacher interviews as well as program alignment with the guiding Montessori principles and the Montessori Master Plan. The results of the program evaluation will be presented to the DJUSD Board of Education and the MPAC along with commendations and recommendations for improvement.

      It is my understanding that this type of evaluation has not been conducted to many years.

      1. wdf1

        This might be the sort of thing to direct toward a school board member. They have a responsibility and obligation to see that community/parent concerns like this are addressed. I’d send it to all five, just to make certain that it is read and considered. Just make sure that a Montessori teacher (or more) will back you up on it if asked. Montessori teachers would be considered more a pedagogic expert on such issues. If you don’t have a teacher backing you up, then what would happen is that an administrator (or school board member) would ask a Montessori teacher, the teacher would say “everything is fine as is. We don’t need to change anything,” and then you’d be out of luck.

        A principal might not be a high enough pay grade to make something like this happen. It might have to come from the district office and/or school board member.

        1. Michelle Millet

          I have gotten a chance to talk to some Montessori teachers about this, and the sense I got from them was that teaching multiple grades in made challenging by state curriculum requirements.

          Given the demands placed on all our district teachers by the increases class sizes, I had no desire to make their jobs more difficult by pushing this particular issue, so I dropped it and chalked it up to a necessary compromise.

          The point I’m trying to make is that if the program was a charter there would be more flexibility in regards to the curriculum issues and these types of compromises wouldn’t be as necessary.

          All that being said, except for the large class sizes, we have been extremely happy with the Montessori Program at Birch Lane and have very little to complain about.

      2. wdf1

        The Montessori Master Plan was approved by the DJUSD school board at the Nov. 5, 2009 meeting. The posted master plan is here. As you say the master plan calls for the configuration that you mention.

      3. wdf1

        The approved master plan mentioned above is set to go from 2009 to 2014. I take it to mean that there should be a master plan revision/update in the works this calendar year, probably one that will cover the next 5 years. I’d expect that there would be some opportunity for parent input.

        1. Michelle Millet

          Yes it is being revised. I’m sure there is opportunity for parent input and that this input will be seriously considered when the plan is revised.

          There is no reason that any meeting or information regarding this matter needs to remain confidential so I am also confident that the entire process will be conducted in an open and transparent way and that meetings regarding the revision will be announced and open to the public.

          Unfortunately MPAC (The Montessori Parent Advisory Committee) has no official bylaws laid out in the Master Plan, so there is no requirements for their meetings to follow any official procedural process, and there is no process laid out to select committee members or define their roles on the commission. Hopefully this will be corrected in the new Masterplan.

  7. Michelle Millet

    I also want to add that current climate at Birch Lane does not foster open communication. For example, a friend of mine posted a link to this article on a Birch Lane Parent Montessori Facebook Group, run by the Montessori Parent Advisory Committee (MPAC), within a half and hour of her posting the link it was no longer there.

    I sent an email to an officer of MPAC to ask if the link was removed by someone on the commission and if so why, I have yet to here back from her on this.

      1. Michelle Millet

        I have no idea. I haven’t talked to anyone specifically about wether they support a charter school or not.

        I am frustrated that an attempt to share information about this issue with other Montessori parents was apparently stifled. While I don’t have confirmation that this link was purposely removed, I can say that in the past other posts regarding other issues facing our program have been. (Note that administrator do not control this site, parents do).

  8. Michelle Millet

    I should also make very clear, I am not actively supporting the formation of this charter, nor am I against it. I would like to learn more about it, and I would like other parents to be given the opportunity to do the same.

    My kids love Birch Lane, and have no intention of moving them. I will say if this charter had been an option before my kids started at Birch it is something I would have considered.

  9. Stacia Langley

    Birch Lane had a really difficult time filling a position this year in the Montessori program. I am wondering where all these teachers with double certification are going to come from, given that many teachers would prefer the perks that are often not available for them at charter schools.

    1. wdf1

      Also, I understand that local school parcel tax money would not be available to such a charter school. On the other hand, charter schools often have access to grants (one-time money) that is unavailable to traditional schools. That might be handy as a source for startup funds, but a tenuous position for the long term. At the elementary level, the school parcel tax funds, in part, elementary science, library services, smaller class sizes, elementary music, and, indirectly, teacher prep time. Such a charter school could find alternative ways of funding such programs, but it likely puts a much heavier burden on the teachers.

      1. growth issue

        wdf1, I’m often impressed with your overall knowledge of everything public school and policy in Davis. Are you a DJUSD board member, school administrator?

          1. growth issue

            LOL, okay if you say so but you sure know a lot or must spend all your time reseaching school policies and are sure quick to defend the local school system at every opportunity.

          2. wdf1

            If you’re searching for a reason to identify me as a compromised source, my mother was a grade school teacher in an inner-city public elementary school. I saw up close what she did to prepare and what dedication she had. When I got my driver’s license as a teenager, I sometimes drove her to work when a car had to be taken to the shop, and I got to see the neighborhoods she served.

            I remember reading newspaper articles from her time talking about schools being “crappy”. I have found no time in U.S. history in which schools were not considered “crappy”. And yet somehow here we are, arguably the greatest nation on Earth. At various times in U.S. history we have thought more kindly of soldiers serving in the military than we think of grade school teachers in general. These days we are more likely to say to a stranger introduced as a soldier, “thank you for your service” than we are to a stranger introduced as a teacher. Sure soldiers face death and they should be credibly recognized, but teachers give up chances to pursue more lucrative careers, prevent more social misery than we recognize, seldom get social recognition for it, sometimes left questioning if their careers really made a difference, and it’s typically a commitment to a 30-something year career.

            We have the strongest military in the world but we don’t stop of thinking of ways of improving it. We have a stronger public education system than we give ourselves credit for, and it will continue to get better. But it would get even better if we didn’t have such an inferiority complex over standardized test scores and we respected where things are going well. It’s as bad as someone having a negative image of their body and losing confidence to do what needs to be done.

            Education will always be political. Everyone who gets involved does it for the best of intentions, but it’s still political. If it’s something you really care about, then you read up on it whenever and wherever you can, and you engage the conversation.

          3. growth issue

            wdf1, my wife happens to be a Montessori teacher in Davis and my daughter is a high school English teacher so I well know what preparation they do and what dedication they have. That being said they don’t have near the knowledge that you have when it comes to Davis school policies and to think you’re a parent and you know all this. You must be very dedicated.

          4. Don Shor

            When you serve on site councils, curriculum committees, advisory commissions, and so forth for the district, you tend to get a much better grasp of the budget and policy issues. I did those things and became quite conversant with a lot of the information at the time. Though it’s been a few years, it wouldn’t surprise me if wdf and I overlapped on some of those commissions. There are some very dedicated parent volunteers in DJUSD, and wdf sounds like one of them.

          5. iPad Guy

            Hear, hear, wdf1!

            PS–I’m struggling to determine why we have the push for a Montessori charter school in Davis. The method already is here, so how is this bringing innovation? If there’s demand for Montessori in the numbers projected here, why not expand the present program in the present location until it’s necessary to move?

          6. wdf1

            That is somewhat my reaction right now.

            How is this a significant improvement of choice?

            If the true goal is to have a certain kind of Montessori school, regardless of whether it is charter or not, what is it about the current Montessori program that the charter group couldn’t work with the district to improve it to their liking?

          7. BNice

            Besides the problems with class configuration funding sources for Montessori supplies is another problematic issue with the current system. To address this a non-profit has been set up so Montessori parents can help pay for needed supplies that the Disrict is unable to fund. This had led to concerns of inequitable funding of Montessori classrooms over neighborhood classrooms. A charter could better address these types funding issues. (Again I’m not actively supporting a charter, just pointing out some of the problem with the current system).

          8. iPad Guy

            BNice, I don’t get how the proposal is needed to solve the two problems (or will solve them without adding a host of new ones).

            It sounds as though what we’ve got here failure to communicate on a couple of relatively minor issues.

            The fact that teachers don’t have adequate funds for necessary supplies hardly is unique to Montessori classrooms. Teachers and parents have tried to fill this void for many years with their own contributions. I’m a little skeptical that we need to start a new school to get away from some perceived jealousy about “inequitable funding” successfully collected by the Montessori parents. The resources that would go into establishing and maintaining an unneeded charter school, however, is a legitimate concern for all taxpayers.

          9. BNice

            Again I’m not advocating for the formation of a charter school, I’m just pointing out some of the “challenges” faced by the current program. I do not believe it would be possible to run a “true” Montessori program without it being a charter school. What Birch Lane runs now is a hybrid between a traditional and Montessori program, and most parents, including myself are fine with that. But a charter school could offer a very different Montessori program, which is the question that was asked.

          10. Michelle Millet

            Let me clarify something about the funding. As it is right now the district, by law, has to supply Montessori classrooms with materials that wouldn’t normally be used in a Montessori classroom (workbooks for instance). But because they aren’t required to fund supplies actually used in Montessori classroom they don’t. Parents were told that if they wanted the classrooms to have these supplies, crucial to a Montessori education, they would have to come up with a way to pay for them themselves. My guess is that this would not be the case for a charter school.

          11. Michelle Millet

            To answer a couple of questions, yes there is demand. Montessori had more parents on the wait list last year then they had spots available. The district is hesitant to expand the program because of the impact this could have on other schools enrollment numbers. (Not saying a charter wouldn’t also do this, but just wanted to answer your question in terms of how things stand right now).

        1. Michelle Millet

          wdf1, I’m often impressed with your overall knowledge of everything public school and policy in Davis

          Me too, I’m also grateful for your willingness to share this information. You are a great resource.

    1. Jonathan Feagle

      Dear Growth Issue,

      Although we are not certain of the exact date, we will be officially submitting the charter petition to the school district in the next 2 weeks or so. Once the charter petition is submitted, California law requires the school board to hold a public hearing within 30 days. According to California law, the school district has 60 days from the date of submission to vote on the charter petition, however if both parties agree the 60 day requirement may be expanded to 90 days.

      Typically, what I have seen in the past, is that a school district will hold the public hearing at the next available board meeting, which is usually within the 30 day limit. The school board will then vote on the charter petition at the very next meeting, which is usually within the 60 day limit.

      I appreciate all of the comments and views expressed here. I would like to add one small point to the discussion. This proposed charter school should save local tax payers’ money. Charter schools in California have historically received on average about $395 less per student than school districts (see link below to a 2012 Legislative Analyst Office report.) However, this year’s switch to the LCFF model has closed this gap considerably, although there is still a gap. The Charter Schools Development Center (CSDC) estimates the LCFF funding gap to be about $300. This is most likely an overestimation. Once the final audit reports come out for this current school year, we will have a better idea of what the real difference is.

      In the particular case of MCSD, and as WDF1 mentions above, parcel tax money may not be available to MCSD or, if it is it would be less per student than the district receives. This implies that approval of the MCSD charter petition would increase the amount of parcel tax available per district student. Although it would be a small amount because MCSD enrollment projections show that less 100 district students will enroll in MCSD.

      In any case, this charter school will provide a high quality education that costs tax payers less per student to educate. It will not cost more per student.

      LAO report: http://lao.ca.gov/reports/2012/edu/charter-schools/charter-schools-012612.pdf

      Thank you,

      Jonathan Feagle

      1. iPad Guy

        Still wondering why you would pursue the charter school route when we already have a Montessori program in the system. If you foresee potential for 500 in the program, why not work to build from the Montessori foundation that already exists?

  10. Michelle Millet

    WDF1-if you are still following this thread, I have a question for you. (Or anyone else who may know) Do you know if committees like the Montessori Parent Advisory Committee fall under the Brown Act?

    1. wdf1

      If the MPAC was commissioned by the school board, then likely it is subject to the Brown Act. Here’s a summary of the Brown Act: link I’m not knowledgeable enough of this to give you more certainty. But but being connected to a tax-payer funded public education system, there is generally a culture and expectation of transparency.

      I think you could ask someone at the school district office for clarification. Someone there should know the answer or know where/how to find out the information.

  11. Michael Ziser

    I am the parent of two students in the Birch Lane “neighborhood”–i.e. Non-Montessori–program and was among a group of parents and teachers there who felt (and still feel) strongly that the Montessori program was, all things considered, a net negative for the school district and its students. It was clear that many at the district level felt the same way, but were afraid to risk the possibility of a charter school. So here we are, after a great deal of disruption at BL and a great deal of sacrifice for the sake of the Montessori program, only to find that some of the Montessori parents are still going to go ahead with the charter application (while keeping the BL program as well)! I mean, they got their ransom, so they can go ahead and shoot the hostage, right? Pretty despicable behavior, if you ask me.

    While I have no beef with the Montessori philosophy and am sure that most of the Montessori parents have nothing but the best intentions, it is also pretty clear that some of the Montessori boosters have lost sight of what comprehensive public education is all about. They have become so fixated on a brand of schooling that they have become blind to wealth of pedagogical experience already available in Davis schools, to say nothing of the broader Davis community. I wish they could see that the pretty cereal box called “Montessori” is not going resolve whatever educational issues they have. That takes broad, sustained commitment of time and money–something that the charter would drain away from the rest of the DJUSD.

    If they just must have this particular brand, they are free to start a private school and run it however they wish. There is no reason to take even more resources from those of us who want to remain in the “we’re all in this together” spirit of public education.

    1. Michael Ziser

      I understand now that the supporters of a Montessori charter are not the Birch Lane Montessori parents–or at least that the two groups only weakly overlap. That changes matters quite a bit and makes me wonder what the BL-Montessori reaction to the charter idea is, since it would seem to be the death knell for the public program. The district is not likely to continue both the BL program AND a separate charter location.

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