On March 6, 2014, Jonathan Feagle submitted a petition and supporting documentation to the Davis Joint Unified School District in order to grant a charter that would establish the Montessori Charter School of Davis. The 326-page document was drafted on January 31, 2014
The district held a public hearing on April 7, 2014, “to hear the Montessori charter school proposal and to allow the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed charter.” Under current law and Board policy, the Board must take action to approve or deny based upon analysis of the petition.
Staff writes, “Based upon a thorough review of the charter petition for the 2014-15 school year, staff recommends board action to deny the Montessori Charter School proposal as presented.”
In an email to supporters, Mr. Feagle writes, “Among the board’s findings are that the educational program is not reasonably descriptive. They have really thrown everything they have at us and we feel that we can provide strong replies to each of their points as we move forward on appeal should the board follow the recommendation of the district staff.”
In January, Mr. Feagle wrote a piece for the Vanguard outlining the goals of the charter school.
“The proposed charter school will be an independent charter, governed and funded independently of the DJUSD,” he wrote. “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.”
He writes, “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.”
“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,” he writes. “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.”
In the staff report, the district staff writes, “After a thorough review of the charter petition for the 2014-15 school year, staff found numerous issues with the petition for the proposed Montessori charter school.”
- Educational Program. [Ed. Code § 47605(b)(5)(A)(1).] The description of the Charter School’s educational program is not reasonably comprehensive based on Instructional Minutes and School Calendar.
- Governance Structure. [Ed. Code § 47605(b)(5)(D).] The description of the Charter School’s governance structure is not reasonably comprehensive.
- Employee Qualifications. [Ed. Code § 47605.6(b)(5)(E).] The description of the Charter School’s employee qualifications is not reasonably comprehensive.
- Dispute Resolution. [Ed. Code § 47605(b)(5)(N).] The Petition’s description of the procedures to be followed by the Charter School and the District to resolve disputes related to the charter are not reasonably comprehensive.
- Facility Location. [Ed. Code § 47605(a)(1) and (g).] The description of the site and/or facility to be used by the Charter School is not reasonably comprehensive. The Petition fails to identify and provide specific information regarding the proposed location of the Charter School and the facility to be utilized by the Charter School as required by Education Code sections 47605(a)(1) and (g).
- Operational Budget and Financial Statements. [Ed. Code § 47605(g).] The operational budget and financial statements for the Charter School are not reasonably comprehensive.
- Affirmations. [Ed. Code § 47605(d)(1).] The Petition does not contain valid affirmation of each of conditions described in Section 47605(d)(1).
Staff writes, “Based upon these findings, the Petitioner is demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the Petition.”
For example, in the resolution, they argue, “The Petition is internally inconsistent with respect to the number of instructional days students are to receive which results in the instructional minutes calculations to be uncertain.”
For example, “In the narrative paragraph on page 105 describing the Academic Calendar, the Petition states that the Charter School will offer 197 days of instruction with 45 being minimum days. On the same page, Table 15 presents the instructional days in graphical form by month, and states there will be 190 instructional days with 41 of them being minimum days.”
Skipping down, the district argues, “However, the Petition also states that lead teachers have “every other whole Friday for preparation, development, team meetings, and other activities of professional teachers.” The Petition appears to call these days “Enrichment Days” and states there are 23 of them. If lead teachers are not engaging in instruction on those days, then they cannot count as instructional days for purposes of apportionment and the ‘instructional’ minutes attributed to those days cannot count towards the instructional minute minimums required under Education Code section 47612.5(a)(1).”
In another example, the district cites, “The Petition does not specify whether a School Director has been hired or appointed.”
Further the district argues – perhaps ironically – that procedures to resolve disputes “related to the charter are not reasonably comprehensive.”
“The Petition states the parties should attempt to resolve disputes amicably and reasonably. While the procedure as set forth in the Petition would attempt to resolve disputes informally, final resolution is ultimately left to ‘any available remedies under the law,’” the district argues. “This phrase is both vague and allows for potential drawn out litigation between the parties and provides no assurances of finality in the process within a reasonable amount of time.”
“The Petition does not provide any information regarding its procedures to resolve internal disputes including notice to the District of any internal dispute between the Charter School and students, parents, etc., of matters within the Board’s oversight responsibilities,” the district argues.
In fact, the Petition states: “The School will not, at any time, refer internal complaints to the District.”
The district argues, “This would impede the District from properly exercising its oversight responsibilities and thereby safeguard its immunity from liability under Education Code section 47604(c). In order to exercise such oversight responsibilities, the District must be made aware of any serious complaints, especially those involving claims of discrimination, harassment, and bullying, to monitor whether they are being properly investigated and resolved.”
As we learned several years ago with the Valley Oak Charter Petition, should the board ratify the staff recommendation, the petitioners have the option to appeal their charter to the County Board of Education.
—David M. Greenwald reporting