You might remember that one of the schools-within-a-school at Crawford High was looking at seceding from San Diego Unified late last year. Teachers were worried that budget woes might convince the district to scrap the small high school model that it credits for its success, and was looking to become an independent charter school.

But today the School of Community Health and Medical Practices, aka Champs, dropped its charter ambitions, said math teacher Jonathan Winn, one of the leaders of the initial charter push. Teachers were reassured by Chuck Morris, deputy superintendent of San Diego Unified, that their school was not under threat.

“It sounds like the new administration is really in support of small schools,” Winn said.

The decision is remarkable not only as a reversal of Champs’ earlier fears, but because it immediately follows a San Diego Unified board meeting on Tuesday morning where Superintendent Terry Grier said the existing small high schools have not met expectations academically — the exact kind of talk that worried Champs teachers earlier in the year.

“They weren’t able to give us a lot of reassurance,” Winn said. “But we discovered there isn’t much assurance anywhere. There were risks involved in going charter, too.”

The charter also ran aground on legal issues not long after our story ran. San Diego Unified Deputy General Counsel Jose Gonzales contended that it is not permissible for part of a public school to convert into a charter. Its founders countered that it is a public school in its own right because it has its own principal and has to raise its own scores under No Child Left Behind just like any other public school. The only thing it lacks, they said, is its own campus.

Winn said the legal obstacles were not the chief reason for dropping the charter, but “at times it felt a little bit like pushing forward with the charter was going to create a hostile relationship with the district,” he said. “That certainly wouldn’t be good for kids.”


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