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By Stephanie Greenleigh, Clerk
Annotated for clarity by Dan Dugan by removing non-Waldorf Charter items

OCTOBER 28, 2003


A regular meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Ross Valley School District was held on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 at the Wade Thomas School. The meeting was called to order at 7:35PM.


Stephanie Greenleigh, Lee Pollard, Zev Rattet, Sharon Sagar, Lester Levy


Pat Davis, Bryce Sumnick, Marci Trahan, Dennis Riley, Gloria Chao, Rick van Adelsberg, John Carroll, Kandee Adams, David Finnane, Sue Akeson, George Baranoff, Carin Brooks


No one absent

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*** [non-Waldorf item removed]

Waldorf Inspired Charter School - Oak Mountain Charter School

Pat shared the purpose for the Board of Trustees' meeting tonight is to make a decision on the Oak Mountain Charter School proposal. She shared the background. On July 10th, 2003 the Board of Trustees received a proposal for a Waldorf Inspired Charter School in the Ross Valley School District. A public hearing was held on August 7th, and board study sessions on the proposal were held on August 20th and September 9th. Prior to submission of the formal proposal, the trustees had two study sessions on Waldorf Inspired Education and Charter Law - September 10th and October 1st, 2002.

The proposal describes a K-8 educational program designed to eventually serve 232 students. The proposal group requests commencing instruction for the 2004-2005 school year and serving 112 students in grades K-3 that first year.

She continued explaining that should the trustees decide to approve the proposal, they will not be approving a site for the program. Site approval will be decided by April, 2004.

Should the trustees decide to deny the Oak Mountain Charter School Proposal, they must do so based on one or more of the criteria listed below from Education Code 47605:

1. The Charter school presents an unsound educational program for the pupils to be enrolled in the charter school.

2. The petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition.

3. The petition does not contain the number of signatures required by subdivision

4. The petition does not contain an affirmation of each of the conditions described in subdivision. (d) (i.e. shall not discriminate against any pupil on the basis of ethnicity, national origin,, gender, or disability)

5. The petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of all of the 15 elements. (i.e. educational program, pupil outcomes, assessment, health & safety, etc.)

She further explained the format for the meeting:

  • First the proposal group will begin and share their progress
  • Second the staff's report of findings will be presented
  • Third the audience will have a chance to make comments; there will be a time limit. Anyone who wants to speak must fill out a card

She also mentioned all the hard work and innumerable hours that the trustees and staff have spent on this, because we all care very deeply for children. Pat said it's her last board meeting, and she thanked everyone for all their support during her time here.

Laura Leary spoke on behalf of the proposal group. She made a brief update on their progress. She went through the development and their work on the proposal. They want to work collaboratively with the community; they are committed to a positive impact, and they have put a lot of effort into working with the school district. They all want the children to come first. The group has articulated and answered questions and concerns on budget, special education, and curriculum from the trustees and staff during meetings. They feel that they have addressed all areas that have been brought up. She also said that they understand the high standards of excellence in the district. Laura said that state standards do not have to be taught at grade level and by eighth grade all students will have caught up. They have worked the last two and a half years on refining their program. She went over each one of the five criteria for denial.

She briefly covered the budget and the start up grant that they received from the state. Laura also mentioned their commitment to great detail and why the proposal should be approved especially since they have followed and gone beyond the intent of charter school law. She continued that they will offer an educationally sound program and it is their right and the trustees' responsibility to move forward and approve their proposal. She thanked the trustees for their consideration.

The superintendent also clarified in response to Laura Leary statements that the state standards are recommended not required by law to teach them at a grade level. But the students are tested on them at the grade level; this is a "Catch 22", and we also use state adopted texts and they teach the standards at the grade level.

She said to the trustees that tonight you are called upon to make a decision regarding the proposal for Oak Mountain Charter School. Your decision follows many months of meetings, discussions, and personal study/deliberation.

The District Administrative Staff and I have also spent many hours reviewing and discussing every aspect of the petition as well as many hours studying Waldorf Inspired Educational Programs.

I have a great deal of respect for the parents and community members who developed and presented this proposal. They have worked very hard.

Following is the staff's report of findings that Pat presented:

After a lot of study and reflection, I must share with you some serious concerns that I have about the proposal. I have organized my concerns in the context of the five criteria for denial, which are part of the Board Policy on charter schools and charter law. These concerns are shared by the entire administrative staff.

The Board of Trustees shall deny a petition only if the Board makes written factual findings, specific to the particular petition, setting forth specific facts to support one, or more, of the following findings:

Criteria 1: The charter school presents an unsound educational program for the pupils to be enrolled in the charter school.

In analyzing the standards for each grade level at Oak Mountain, staff found that most of the California standards are taught at least one year later than they are taught in a regular public school program - two years later age wise for students who attend two years of kindergarten. For example, in Kindergarten, in the area of Reading/Writing/Oral Language, there are 37 state standards to teach. Only 4 of the 37 will be taught in the Oak Mountain Kindergarten. One will be taught in 2nd, two in 3rd, and 30 in first grade.

By the end of third grade, most primary Reading/Writing/Oral Language State Standards will be taught. However, the Oak Mountain teacher responsible for the third grade Language Arts program must also teach 27 standards from 2nd grade plus seven from grade one. This does not appear possible with only a two hour main lesson.

One of the reasons that the state of California has developed standards for each grade level is to assure parents that their children can move/transition from one school to another with the skills necessary to succeed. That assurance can not be made with Oak Mountain Charter. For example, in the Ross Valley School District, students are expected to read and write simple sentences by the end of kindergarten and to be fluent oral and silent readers by the end of first grade. Reading fluency is a second/third grade expectation at Oak Mountain.

Research shows the importance of early intervention when children are experiencing difficulty. When the teaching of specific standards is so delayed, the opportunity to determine concerns and provide appropriate help is very limited and substantially delayed. As noted in the English-Language Arts Content Standards for California Schools' booklet, "National Institutes of Health Studies indicate that students who are behind in reading in grade three have only a 12 to 20 percent chance of ever catching up."

An analysis of the Oak Mountain Curriculum standards also shows that attention to critical thinking skills is basically left to the 7th and 8th grades. By contrast, in the traditional public school program, this instruction begins much earlier. For example, children start distinguishing between fact and opinion in broadcast and print media as early as third grade. This critical thinking analysis continues into 4th grade, and by 5th and 6th grades students are critiquing persuasive techniques in the media, providing evidence for an author's conclusion, and evaluating various influencing techniques. The skills of comparing/contrasting are a first/second grade social science standard, but they will be taught at 4-5th at Oak Mountain.

The process of mathematical reasoning begins as a statewide standard in kindergarten, and it continues throughout the grade levels with grade level appropriate activities. At Oak Mountain, mathematical reasoning is not introduced until 3rd grade. In addition, in a charter school program with an emphasis on fairy tales, legends and mythology, there is a concern that the State Kindergarten Standard of teaching students to discriminate between fantasy and reality will not be taught until third grade.

In reviewing the History/Social Science standards, staff discovered that basic map symbols and traffic symbols which we teach in Kindergarten are not taught until 4th grade at Oak Mountain. Locating where students live and constructing simple maps, a first grade California standard, is not taught until 4th. Other map skills that we teach in 1st and 2nd grades are left until 4th, 5th, or 6th grade at Oak Mountain. Basic traffic signals and geography are essential to the safety and welfare of students and should be taught at an early age.

Our analysis also shows the lateness with which students learn about being a responsible citizen in a democratic society. Rights and responsibilities of citizenship that we teach throughout all grade levels are left until 5th through 8th grades at Oak Mountain. Understanding the roles of rules and laws in our daily lives and the basic structure of the U.S. government, a third grade California standard, isn't taught until 6-8th grades. These concepts seem so fundamental to our democratic culture that we are concerned they are taught so late.

The parent applicant group provided Oak Meadow resource material that will be available for the charter school teachers to use in planning lessons. (This material is referenced in the charter proposal and samples from various grade levels are provided in the Oak Mountain Curriculum Resource Binder) In reviewing the material, staff has some concerns particularly in the area of science. Statements are made that are not grounded in scientific research. For example:

  • In the fourth grade curriculum in a study of the cell, the following description is given: "The communication between the life force coming from the sun, air, water, and earth, and the plan in the nucleus of the cell, is the cell's sensitivity and intelligence. There are little "messengers" that carry these life messages so that the messages coming from the life force can react with the plan in the cell to bring about the right activity."
  • In a study of food, the following is stated: "Food is not food when the energy it provides for the body is misused. Previously we stated that 'health' is the expression of the plan in the seed, and that anything that goes against the plan of the seed goes against health. What a person thinks, feels, and does is as important as what he or she eats. Food is just a fuel, but it is the body that converts the fuel into useful energy or harmful energy. If the food we eat is used in a harmful way, then instead of nourishing us, it will cause our own destruction."

Criteria 2: The petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition.

Oak Mountain "does not plan to adopt textbooks or require teachers to teach from certain prescribed materials each day. Petitioners believe that excellent teaching emerges from the creativity and the resourcefulness of a teacher who takes the time to prepare good lessons." This could be problematic because state adopted textbooks not only address particular content areas but they assure an emphasis on integrated instruction. For example, the state adopted texts in K-1 for reading/language arts also address the science standards.

Oak Mountain teachers will loop with the same children for four years. Although staff has a great deal of respect for the skills and commitment of teachers, it is unreasonable to expect that each Oak Mountain teacher will have the knowledge or time to create a four year comprehensive program in all subject areas without textbooks and without a defined curriculum similar to that provided regular classroom teachers. In addition, the No Child Left Behind Legislation requires research based curriculum. It is also unreasonable to expect that teachers will have the time to provide/find such curriculum on a daily basis.

The time allotment of two hours a day for the main lesson is insufficient for teaching the required California State standards. It is unreasonable to expect that volunteers, who will work with the students after the main lesson, in special subject classes like knitting, woodworking, music, etc., will have the expertise to be sure these standards are integrated into the program. Also, can we reasonably assume that volunteers will be there every day?

According to Education Code 47601 it is the intent of the legislature that charter schools will improve pupil learning. Charter Schools are required to meet API and AYP goals of state and federal law (No Child Left Behind).

Without textbooks, a specific curriculum, standards not aligned with the appropriate grade levels, it is questionable whether Oak Mountain students will score as well as other students on the state/federal exams. The proposal group has shared that the primary students do score very low. Therefore, the prediction is that the school will be facing sanctions with a negative reflection on the granting agency, the Ross Valley School District.

In fact, the Novato Charter School after which Oak Mountain is modeled, did not meet its 2003 API Growth target. Furthermore, it scored 74 points lower than similar schools. All Ross Valley Schools, but one scored higher than similar schools, and that one school was only 17 points lower. One Ross Valley school was 40 points higher than similar schools.

Criteria 5: The petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of all the information required under paragraph A(6) of this policy (paragraph 47605(b)(5) of the Code).

Required Element G: Racial and Ethnic Balance

Charter School law requires equal access to all students who wish to enroll with a preference given to returning students and local school district children. It further requires a lottery system should there be more enrollees than spaces available. The enrollment priority for Oak Mountain is as follows:

  1. Students returning from the previous year
  2. Children of the school's Development Team
  3. Children of the school's founding families
  4. Children of the school's employees
  5. Siblings of currently enrolled students
  6. Ross Valley School District residents
  7. Marin County residents; and
  8. Other California residents

We have, on several occasions, expressed to the Charter School applicants our belief that Ross Valley District residents should be given a higher enrollment preference. It may well be that the priorities stated in the Charter Proposal will mitigate against Oak Mountain Charter School achieving a racial and ethnic balance which reflects that of the District.

In light of the concerns she listed, she and the Administrative staff recommend denial of the Oak Mountain Charter School Proposal.

The trustees listened to the audience comments and the following people spoke in favor of the proposal:

Tristan de Frondeville, Birgit de Frondeville, Jane Waxman, Joannie Cayton, Paul Minney, Larry Organ, Gina Webster, Teresa McGlashan, Gordon Wright, Rita Child, Andrew Loft, and Anastasia.

They reiterated that it is not necessary to teach reading early, teach the state standards when public schools do because the children catch up by 8th grade and become stronger, better educated, and great decision makers compared to students that go to public schools. The test scores and statistics of Novato Charter were brought up as proof to their statements of catching up. They felt very strongly that their proposal and curriculum should be accepted because it offers an alternative program that develops the whole child, which they don't think is not done in public schools. They also addressed ethnic/racial balance in their school which they said would not be a problem. Enrollment policy was also commented on and they feel that their policy is fair for all. They were disappointed not to have gotten a copy of the staff findings and Pat's recommendation and wondered if it was not a violation of the Brown Act. They also wanted to know what documents the trustees have been receiving during the last week, which was clarified to them. Many spoke of how successful other Waldorf based schools and that they offer choice from test driven public schools with to much pressure on the children. Some explained how differently children learn compared to how the public school teaches. The early reading was being brought up frequently as not being good for children's' development and not necessary in detecting special needs issues. A few reminded the trustees that they were elected by them and should give them a choice for their children's education. The trustees were told to take a chance with a different curriculum and approach to learning, and to not listen to the staff's recommendation which perpetuates the problem that exists in the public school. (The only reason there is opposition to the proposal is because this is an upper-class white community.) Several said this is a highly educated group that want to work with the district and staff and that they will not take anything away from students here Also the Standards are not legal and don't have to be taught at grade level. Mr. Minney shared the State Board of Education's definition of educationally unsound. The district would not lose control because the proposal contains provisions to revoke the charter.

The following spoke against the approval of the proposal:

Katie Rice, Cindy Ross, Lisa Canin, and Michelle Perro.

There was great concern that reading is taught so late especially if there are problems and by 3rd grade it's too late to pick up issues. They all felt the Ross Valley School District is doing a fabulous job in the schools and asked the proposal group if they have visited any of them. Parents are volunteering 100s of hours at our schools without special preference and leaving all the teaching to credential teachers. They spoke of the excitement and energy at the schools, the art and music programs, and they feel the whole child is being developed. Concerns were brought up about taking away from our successful MAP program, which is an alternative program. Other concerns are that many of the students especially the 25% EL students at Manor would not qualify with their enrollment policy, single parents would not either, and the competing fund raising. One issue that was of concern is what is the drop out rate at Waldorf schools, who picks up the pieces when a child leaves and goes to a public school? The statistics and scores that the proposal group brought up were seriously questioned. They profoundly agreed with Pat's and the staff's findings to deny the charter.

Ian Roth spoke of how we are all neighbors and friends. Our children play together, and we live in the same community and we need to remember that after tonight.

Trustee Pollard asked Bob Henry, general counsel, how the final proposal compared in completeness and volume to other charter school proposals? Bob answered that this is less comprehensive than some and more comprehensive than others. It was mainstream for what we are seeing in the last six months.

Trustee Sagar asked him about the appeal process and timeline. He explained both.

The group can bring back a completely revised proposal to Ross Valley School District or petition MCOE for approval.

If the charter is approved, the County will negotiate with Ross Valley School District to run it, but the district does not have to. The district has to provide a facility if the group meets the requirements for Prop. 39.

If it is denied, the group can petition the State Board of Education and if they approve the charter the district has to provide a facility if the group meets the requirements for Prop. 39. SBE can negotiate with Ross Valley School District or MCOE to run it or another district.

Trustee Pollard asked if all the standards are met even if at a different grade level? Pat answered that they were with a few minor exceptions. He stated his argument for approval. Other Waldorf schools work well and have a good methodology and the state law doesn't say it has to be as good as our schools. The proposal presents a sound educational system and needs a few things adjusted in the process of developing the school. Test scores are not bad and they end up teaching the kids within the scope. Philosophy is different, but ours changes from time to time while finding the best for kids. Can't deny on educationally unsound; they are likely to succeed with such dedicated parents, the grant money, and volunteers (same as we have now). Finally if we look at denying it they can appeal to the MCOE and it would be hard for MCOE to say it is educationally unsound. We would have no control if they are denied, but we have to provide facility. He said that the board should approve it and be the granting agency.

Trustee Sagar is concerned about the reading instruction starting late especially for children who come to kindergarten and are ready and able to read. Will they get the instructions they need?

She is also concerned about early intervention when children can't read, will teachers and administrators be able to know when intervention is needed.

Another concern is that so many standards are taught in certain grade levels.

She is concerned about how students are doing and if they are achieving at each grade level when standards are not taught at the grade level.

She sees no visual arts in the upper grades.

She also noticed that student academic achievement is 75%, she feels that 100% of the students should show academic progress.

Another area of concern is with students who leave Waldorf School that they struggle in the regular public school environment. The teachers would than have to take time from the other students to work with him/her.

When she visited the Novato Charter School she saw no creativity; it was missing and all our (RVSD) schools have so much of it. She didn't see it addressed during the visit.

How is the fundraising done? Will it be competing with our foundation and parent clubs? Will it be so many $ per capita (student)?

Are volunteers going to teach standards?

There should be lottery of who gets in not just volunteer hours. She said she has been there putting in 100s of hours and then standing in line with everyone else and waiting my turn. Everyone here volunteers 100s of hours and doesn't expect preferential treatment in enrolling.

She was concerned about Oak Meadow resources - are you going to edit the curriculum and what your teachers teach, edit out what is not appropriate for public education?

Trustee Levy commented on Trustee Sagar's very thoughtful concerns and approach. He said that the process is stilted. He shared that Pat could have dumped it all in the trustees' laps because she is leaving. Instead she and staff who are professionals spent hours going through all the materials and made a recommendation with no self-interest. We hired Pat for her skills and experience and her academic side as well. The meaningful comments - how they affect students - she came to on her own. She started from a neutral position, and made a recommendation with utmost thought and integrity.

Trustee Greenleigh echoed trustee Sagar's comments and concerns and brought up the late reading instruction and giving children who are ready extra instruction.

She sees a problem with the volunteerism and that uncredential teachers.

She is very upset about the enrollment process and that the proposal group will not change theirs.

She is also concerned that the teachers are going to teach four different grade levels.

Trustee Levy made the motion to deny the Oak Mountain Charter for the reasons set forth below:

1) The charter school presents an unsound educational program for the pupils to be enrolled in the charter school.

2) The petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition.

5) The petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of all the following:

(G) The means by which the school will achieve a racial and ethnic balance among its pupils that is reflective of the general population residing within the territorial jurisdictions of the school district to which the charter is submitted.

These findings are supported by the specific reasons set forth in Superintendent Davis' memorandum of October 28, 2003 which the Board adopts as its own findings of fact.

Trustee Greenleigh seconded the above motion.

The trustees voted 3-2 to deny the Oak Mountain Charter. Trustee Pollard and trustee Sagar voted no. The motion carried to deny the Oak Mountain Charter.

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The meeting was adjourned at 9:55 PM.

Stephanie Greenleigh, Clerk

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