Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007 | We wanted to take an opportunity to respond to the recent article “Closed Schools, Open Tabs,” which appeared in the Voice on December 4th. As the President of the Board and Principal of the San Diego Cooperative Charter School, it’s very easy for us to see where both the district and charter schools quoted are coming from. We believe the Principal of Darnall summed up what should be every charter school’s goal in the final paragraph of the article. She stated: “We want to be accountable, to show the district that we’re fulfilling our educational mission. If a charter school isn’t working, it should be closed down. But for every school that closes, dozens are doing really good things for kids.”

The article was particularly interesting to us in that the frustration which is clearly felt by both sides is, in many respects, pointless. We think the whole charter community in San Diego, and the district, would be smart to take a deep breath and think about our collective goal n to educate children in the best, most effective manner possible. When we keep our focus there, it is easy to find common ground for all of the issues raised in the article. Charters should welcome assessments and audits, so long as they don’t detract from the business of educating children, as they are an excellent way to gauge progress and look inwardly at the work we are doing. The district needs to exercise its oversight responsibilities in a differentiated manner that takes into consideration the track record of the charter school in terms of both student achievement and operations. This work is already underway between the district and the charters and we hope that it will continue and grow stronger.

We have found the district to be a great source of information and support, and yes, we have found the process of dealing with the district to be frustrating at times. But at an individual level, everyone with whom we have dealt has been a true professional dedicated to the children of this community. They themselves are sometimes frustrated by the slow-moving decision-making processes of their own bureaucracy; such is the curse of bureaucracies everywhere. But no one can ever suggest to us that the district doesn’t care about what happens to the children in our charge. And if the charters and the district view one another as competitive because they are each trying to lure students with better programs and services, we say great the kids and families are the winners in that situation. Raising the bar can only be a good thing.

The fact that some charter schools are not well-run reflects the fact that some people, while perhaps possessing passionate educational visions, don’t have the business acumen needed to succeed. That’s a reality, and it’s incumbent on all of us in the educational community to address those issues. The fact that some people have taken advantage of the charter movement for personal gain is just plain disgusting and deserving of the strongest punishment our legal system allows under the circumstances.

If you read between the lines in this article, the answer to many of the objections raised can be found in the name of our school. The word is cooperation. It has worked for us at SDCCS, and the district has responded by supporting us in our efforts. We would like to see more charters try it, and we would like to see the district display their willingness to work on a new type of relationship: one that takes into account the unique needs of each charter school. This work is underway through the leadership efforts of Dr. Yamishiro at the district, and we hope that the collaborative efforts will continue to grow and flourish as the district makes its own leadership transition.

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