Officials from Credo High School and the Cotati-Rohnert Park School District say a potential agreement on an action plan to remedy the school's financial and organizational woes could be reached in the coming days.
Credo High School, a Waldorf-inspired independent charter school now in its third year, was issued a notice of violation in June for what district officials called fiscal mismanagement and violations of the school's charter and state law.
But officials from both sides of the sometimes contentious debate over the school's future said this week that an agreement about how Credo should proceed appears imminent.
"I think that they recognized that we took their concerns very seriously," said Credo Director Chip Romer.
District officials long have contended that Credo's enrollment is dangerously below projections and that school spending has put the operation in perilous debt.
The debt of $397,000 reported in June has been reduced to $235,000, according to Romer. Credo parents are asked to contribute $200 a month for 12 months per student — a number backers say bridges the gap between what the state allocates per student and what the Waldorf-inspired high school curriculum requires.
Officials from Cotati-Rohnert Park, Sonoma County's third largest school district and the chartering authority for Credo, have complained that the school is pulling resources from the district and has failed to live up to promises laid out in the charter.
But this week, Superintendent Robert Haley said an agreement allowing Credo to continue appears imminent.
"They provided quite a bit of information, but the district still needs more time to evaluate some of the critical issues which revolve around their budget," he said. "We believe we are close to an agreement."
That is a far cry from where the two sides were just last June, when tensions ran high. Credo backers, who said district officials have not given their fledging school time to establish itself, said the district issuance of the violation notice threatened to scare off current and potential students.
But that does not appear to have happened.
Credo currently has 101 students in 9th, 10th and 11th grades. The number has grown steadily each year of operation, but remains well below expectations announced when the school was opened on the former Richard Crane Elementary School campus on Southwest Boulevard in Rohnert Park. At that time, Credo projected an eventual enrollment of 600 students.
Maria Martinez, newly installed president of the board of directors, said the economy has played a role in the school's slow start.
"The fact that we are a start-up school in a pretty tough economy, I know that has lent itself to making it hard," she said.
Backers say Credo offers a Waldorf-inspired curriculum in a public school setting and without private school tuition. There are seven Waldorf-inspired "feeder schools" in the North Bay that graduate about 160 eighth-graders every year, according to Credo officials.
It is that pipeline of students officials had hoped to tap into — something that has not materialized. Some families may be loath to commute and others may have students that opt for a more traditional high school experience, officials said.
Credo's curriculum emphasizes a low-technology approach and students are asked to infuse art into almost all aspects of learning.
Sophomores in Tiffany Roberts' oceanography class spent time Tuesday morning sketching an underwater scene before students eventually looked at phytoplankton under a microscope. In Eddie Guthman's "History through music" class, juniors drew musical instruments before being asked to identify snippets of Renaissance, madrigal and medieval musical styles.
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