Dispute over new rules for Santa Rosa charter schools

Santa Rosa City Schools is overhauling enrollment policies for the district's four dependent charter schools to try to increase diversity, but the officials at the first school affected are crying foul that their input was not sought before changes were made.

In the first year of implementation, the policy shift will affect just one campus, and parents at Santa Rosa Accelerated Charter School say they were not included in discussions that will affect who gets the coveted 62 fifth grade spots at the nearly 130-student school next fall.

Enrollment will continue to give priority to siblings of SRACS students, but the second tier of priority will put students from across Santa Rosa City Schools' high school boundaries into two pots: one with students who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch, and one for those who do not. After siblings, remaining spots will be doled out at a 2-to-1 ratio favoring economically disadvantaged students until the incoming class of fifth-graders reflects the demographic ratio across the high school district.

Slightly more than 44 percent of the district's high school students qualify for a free or reduced-priced lunch. In 2012-13, 2.3 percent of SRACS's 128 students qualified for a subsidized lunch.

"We are very committed to diversity," said Rachel Mon?rez, assistant district superintendent for transitional kindergarten through sixth grades. "We know that the previous demographics of SRACS did not reflect that."

California Education Code requires districts work to ensure that enrollment at dependent charter schools reflect the demographics of the overall district.

"Ed code really defines that," Mon?rez said. "This is an attempt to try to make that happen."

But officials and parents at SRACS, an accelerated curriculum charter school that opened in 2004 and serves fifth- and sixth-graders on the Rincon Valley Middle School campus, said they were not informed that changes would be made to the school's charter when it went to the school board for renewal in June.

The board passed the change to the enrollment policy at its June 26 meeting on a 4-0 vote. Trustees Laura Gonzalez, Larry Haenel and Frank Pugh were absent.

"I'm not necessarily (saying) that is good or bad, but it was a decision that was made without warning, notice or discussion. They were trying to impose it," said Mark Stephens, a father of student at SRACS. "There was clearly no due process here."

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