Last Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Education unanimously voted to renew Leadership High School’s charter for the next five years.
The 7-0 vote was unprecedented and demonstrated the Board’s confidence in the school’s track record. The renewal championed the democratic process. After all, charter schools are public schools and are accountable by law to their districts.
Just in case the SFUSD Board did not receive its first memo, the CCSA made sure last Tuesday — on the day of the vote — to send Superintendent Carlos Garcia and the Board a seven-page letter advocating the school’s closure.
Here is the introduction to the last-minute letter:
We understand that the Board of Education of the San Francisco Unified School District will be considering the renewal of the Leadership High charter petition (Charter) today. We urge you to consider data related to the Charter’s poor academic performance, as explained more fully below, and deny the Charter renewal.
CCSA senior vice presidents Gary Borden and Myrna Castrejon go on to provide tables and charts explaining their rationale. At one point, they ask the Board to consider the organization’s own metrics of performance rather than relying on state law:
We recommend that the district take into account CCSA’s data analysis because current statutory renewal eligibility requirements do not provide an adequate evaluation of a charter school’s academic performance.
At the end of the letter, however, Borden and Castrejon reverse themselves and call on the superintendent and commissioners to act in order to preserve state law:
Ultimately, the intent of the Charter Schools Act cannot be fulfilled if charter schools do not improve pupil learning and increase learning opportunities for all pupils.
This extraordinary last-minute letter did nothing to sway the commissioners. In fact, the CCSA’s strategy backfired. President Norman Yee suggested that CCSA staff members should consider visiting the school themselves. Even more striking, Commissioner Jill Wynns, who does not support charter schools on principle, also voted yes to the renewal. In fact, Wynns said she would normally be inclined not to vote for renewal but did not appreciate CCSA’s political attack.
I am proud of the SFUSD Board of Education for doing its job — for visiting Leadership High School, considering the experiences of students and parents, and doing the necessary research to make an informed decision.
It is true that not all charter schools are performing well, and some deserve to close. Nevertheless, the CCSA’s approach is needlessly aggressive and reckless. Instead of issuing public calls for closure and sending last-minute letters to encourage district boards of education to close down schools, the CCSA should honor current law and the accountability process that currently exists.