Talks between the Cotati-Rohnert Park School District and backers of Waldorf-inspired Credo High School hit a snag this week when communication over a tentative deal to rescind the school's revocation warning broke down.
The district held a special school board meeting Monday with only two items on the agenda: to approve an agreement with Credo High School and to consider rescinding the June 24 notice of violation.
District officials said Credo representatives failed to produce documents that would have proved the two-year-old independent charter school is now on secure financial and academic footing.
"It's hard for us as a board to act on documents given to us literally minutes into the meeting," said board president Marc Orloff. "What's really disturbing from my perspective is we have really been working diligently, trying to come to an agreement with them about their future."
The school district is now likely to schedule a meeting by Sept. 23 to consider the notice of violation of Credo's charter. If the board votes to rescind the charter at that meeting, a public hearing on the issue must be scheduled.
An agreement seemed likely just weeks ago.
In fact, Credo backers said Tuesday an agreement has been reached but simply needed to be ratified by their board of directors at the 3 p.m. meeting immediately before the school district's 5 p.m. special meeting.
"We unanimously approved the agreement," said Maria Martinez, president of the Credo board of directors, adding that it is the same document pored over by both Credo and district representatives for weeks.
"We both wrote it, we both edited it. The last edit we did was last week," she said.
"I'm not sure what happened," she said of Monday night's meeting.
"I expected it to go sailing through because of all of the background work," said Credo director Chip Romer. "It was really puzzling and surprising."
But district officials said the agreement calls for an increased level of communication from the school about their budget, enrollment fluctuations, bill payment and debt schedules. District officials said they expected updated documents prior to Monday's meeting, while Credo officials said the as-yet unratified agreement called for those documents to be given to the district by the 10th of each month, which was Tuesday.
"The district made clear to the Credo High School charter board that we expected a signed agreement last week. We did not receive that," Superintendent Robert Haley said. "We can't receive documents with no staff time to review."
Credo officials said that after weeks of improved relations between the two entities they felt blindsided by the events at Monday's meetings.
Credo has shone academically in its two-year history. The school posted an 853 out of 1,000 on the 2013 state Academic Performance Index. The state target is 800. Only Cotati-Rohnert Park's Technology High and Santa Rosa's Maria Carrillo scored higher.
But the school's enrollment has consistently fallen below projections and school officials have taken out loans to maintain operations.
The school, located on the former Richard Crane Elementary School campus on Southwest Boulevard in Rohnert Park, has 101 students in the ninth, 10th and 11th grades.
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.