Nevada City Charter School potential closure ‘like a blow to the stomach’ | TheUnion.com

Nevada City Charter School potential closure ‘like a blow to the stomach’

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

When Jennifer Bond, the parent of one son and aunt to two nieces at Nevada City Charter School, got the news, she felt blindsided.

Bond was told to attend a “mandatory parent meeting” this week, led by the school’s administration with the exception of district Superintendent and Principal Trisha Dellis.

“It was our faculty that told us, minus our principal,” said Bond of the meeting. The superintendent explained that she was absent because she is new to the Nevada City Charter School, and thought it inappropriate to attend a meeting where people felt more like family than peers.

“The feeling was that if I were there, it would be more of a negative feeling for people, and that there would be the opportunity to speak with me (Thursday, Friday or), Monday, and then certainly at the board meeting on Tuesday night,” Dellis said.

The jolt Bond and other parents finally felt came when they were informed why they were being gathered: Administration is recommending the school’s closure to its district board.

“We were told that (the superintendent) was recommending that the board vote to not renew the charter for the charter school,” said Richard Altenbach, a parent whose child joined the school in January.

test taking

Low test scores were cited as the reason, and the school would close by the end of the school year in June.

According to several parents, the low test scores were due to the fact that many students chose not to take examinations. What those same people said they didn’t know, however, was that if students opted out of taking a test, their absence would impact the aggregated test scores of the school and lower their overall standing in comparison with other schools in the area.

“You were thought to believe that those students would be waived and not counted in (the overall) percentage,” said Stephanie Schaut, a parent of two students at the school. “From what we were told last night is that our teachers were not aware of that as well.”

Parents, Dellis said, have the right to waive their kids of taking tests in California. However, that doesn’t mean the school’s aggregated test scores aren’t affected by their absence.

“The state looks at participation rate for the test as well as academic performance on the test,” she said. The superintendent said she wasn’t sure why parents did not know the significance of kids skipping the tests.

While parents were taken aback by the announcement, the staff was informed of what was coming for a number of months, according to Dellis.

“I’ve been talking with the staff, most definitely, this whole current school year, regarding the renewal process and the criteria we have to look at,” she said.

Some parents said otherwise.

“(The teachers) were totally shocked,” said Altenbach, noting the general feeling among the school’s teachers. “Like a blow to the stomach, and that’s how I felt.”

Moving forward

In addition to faculty, Dellis said she had been meeting with Nevada City board members to discuss the low test scores, and how to prepare for the future.

“We’re required to talk about test scores to our board,” she said. All of the information gathered at such meetings, the superintendent said, is on the public record. However, it’s “not the board’s role to communicate to parents” what was said during these meetings, she said.

If the school, which has been open since 1994, closes, 69 students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade would have to attend school elsewhere.

“Twenty-seven of those students are residents of Nevada City School District,” said Dellis. They, therefore, would be able to attend Deer Creek Elementary or Seven Hills Middle School. The remaining students would be able to attend schools where they are residents, or “attend many charter options in our county,” Dellis said.

A petition has been developed to prevent the school’s closure.

“The petition is requesting that the (district’s) board (of trustees) hear our side of it before they vote on pulling the charter because, the fact is, there was no indication that there was a problem,” Altenbach said.

Schaut signed the petition, and echoed Altenbach’s sentiment, hoping parents have a say in the process before it’s too late.

“I think, for one, just to be heard by the school board, and to be given a chance to remedy the situation,” said Schaut.

The Nevada City School District’s board of trustees will make the final decision whether to close the school. It will host a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the district office conference room at 800 Hoover Lane in Nevada City.

The Union reached out to a number of teachers at the school for comment. They did not respond by time of publication.

You can contact Sam Corey at (530) 477-4219 or email him at scorey@theunion.com


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