STOCKTON — The New Jerusalem Elementary School District announced it will meet with five educational leaders from throughout California this week who will serve as a panel to determine the district’s oversight effectiveness as a charter school authorizer.
Retired Director of Charter Schools for the state Department of Education Carol Barkley, state Board of Education member Ting Sun, retired San Joaquin County Superintendent Mick Founts, attorney Megan Macy and retired San Francisco Unified School District Chief Business Officer Cathi Vogel will make up the panel for review that will take place Friday.
The panel will analyze the district’s self-study, interview key individuals, and then make a report to the district.
Superintendent David Thoming said the district had previously gone through oversight reports with an organization called the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, that he said, only pointed out areas in which the district failed on certain duties regarding charter schools. Thoming said that the vast majority of the reports made were “politically motivated attacks.”
“They played Monday morning quarterback,” Thoming said.
New Jerusalem oversees 13 charter schools which, according to the San Joaquin Office of Education, are public schools that may provide instruction in grades K-12 that are created or organized by a group of teachers, parents, community leaders or a community-based organization. They receive public funds and have their own autonomy over curriculum but must work with a school district.
Thoming said a panel of this expertise will lend “a fresh pair of eyes” and will look at areas such as curriculum and teacher effectiveness.
"We know we’re not perfect, but what we can do is improve,” Thoming said. “We can look at operations and point out areas that are doing well, and areas that are not doing well, and we can improve … It’s easy to be blind in your own operation, so it’s really exciting to bring in a group with the interest in helping us become better charter authorizers.
“I’m very confident that they (will) find in their report that shows we do an excellent job.”
Jim Thomas, deputy superintendent of business services at the Office of Education, said in a statement that it is necessary for school districts and county offices of education to authorize quality, effective charter schools and “perform comprehensive oversight of those charter schools to ensure they are providing a first-rate education to their students.”
The SJCOE provides fiscal oversight for 14 school districts in San Joaquin County. Thomas said the SJCOE offered to assist New Jerusalem to strengthen “its controls and improve its fiscal oversight of the charter schools authorized by the district.”
“The SJCOE, along with the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, will review the report to determine if additional steps are needed,” he said.
New Jerusalem district oversees seven dependent charters and six independent charter schools. Dependent charters are those that are created by a school district board, while independent charters are created by parents, teachers, community members or organizations.
The panel will also look at New Jerusalem’s handling of two charters in Stockton that had their charters revoked and then reinstated as ordered by a judge.
District trustees revoked the charters of the Acacia Elementary Charter School and Acacia Middle School, citing fiscal mismanagement by Tri-Valley Learning Corp., the company that had been running them.
Thoming said paperwork submitted by Tri-Valley had appeared to show the schools are in the red by nearly $1 million.
In August, the San Joaquin County Superior Court issued a ruling that immediately reinstated both the charter schools. Judge Linda Lofthus had ordered that New Jerusalem cease from interfering in the charter schools’ operations, and stalled any issues from moving forward relative to revocation.
The panel will commence its onsite review at 9 a.m. and is scheduled to share its findings at approximately 2 p.m. at the Delta Charter Schools annex office at 16988 Harlan Road in Lathrop. The public is welcome to attend the 2 p.m. session.
— Contact reporter Nicholas Filipas at (209) 546-8257 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on recordnet.com/filipasblog or on Twitter @nicholasfilipas.