We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.


Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

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."

The school's website on Wednesday still reflected outdated lottery procedures that were to have occurred in December. Announcements of which students gained entry have in years past been announced in January, with families required to commit to the school in the same month.

That process has been disrupted as district officials meet with staff and parents from the school. A meeting is scheduled for Thursday, but district officials say the change has already been made.

The new lottery process will be used because, as in years past, more students applied for admission than there is space available.

"We will need to go to a lottery," said Anna Guzman, district director of charter schools. "Parents will be notified by the end of February."

Matt Marshall, who serves as principal at both SRACS and Rincon Valley Middle School, said many parents feel anxious because in years past spots have been secured at this point in the school year.

"I think the board was trying to do the right thing, but parents want to be in the loop," he said. "Now (parents are) a little in limbo and feeling uncomfortable."

District officials said SRACS was the first charter to come up for renewal since Sonoma County's largest school district has placed increased emphasis on balancing the demographic makeup of its four dependent charter schools. The changes at SRACS will be in place for the upcoming 2014-15 school year, but enrollment policies for Santa Rosa Charter School for the Arts, Santa Rosa French-American Charter School and Cesar Chavez Language Academy will be changed for 2015-16, Mon?rez said.

The percentage of socio-economically disadvantaged students at the arts charter is nearly 32 percent, while the percentage at the French-American charter school is slightly more than 19 percent. State-validated information for Cesar Chavez Language Academy is not available because it is in its first year of operation.

Board member Jenni Klose said the district needs to make "meaningful" attempts to increase diversity on its campuses.

"I think it's important that our schools individually better reflect the diversity of our community," she said. "There is benefit to diverse schools and right now that is something we are struggling with and when I say 'we,' it's not just our district and not just our city, but on a statewide basis. We have many segregated schools."

Klose acknowledged that SRACS officials had tried to expand their outreach, but said to date it has had little effect on the school's makeup.

SRACS founding teacher Anna Williams said she was disappointed that district officials did not involve school leaders before instituting the change.

"As founding teacher here, I have loved the way we have had a consensus process," she said. "I was surprised in the (renewal) of our charter that that process was not followed."

"We found out when we came back to school," she said.

Williams said she hoped the school's continued popularity would inspire expansion, rather than in-fighting over a set number of spots.

But Board President Bill Carle said the law requires the district to act and that the district's charter consultant clearly and publicly outlined the changes that needed to be made.

"To the extent that parents had absolutely no knowledge of what was going on, that's a miss. You would hope that they would be involved," he said. "All said, the changes were made in accordance with what we were hearing from the consultant and what the law required."

"It's not likely that something would have been different if people had said, 'This is going to keep me from getting in, so don't do it,'" he said.

(Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@press democrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.)

Show Comment