The Morgan Hill Unified School District’s Oct. 8 Board of Education meeting will be a double feature of charter school petitions.
Part I is Rocketship Education’s public hearing on the petition to open one of its schools in MHUSD in the fall of 2014. The Board will not take action, but instead only listen to community members’ voices.
Part II is the Board of Education’s much-anticipated vote on whether to approve Navigator Schools’ petition and allow the organization to open its third charter school for the 2014-15 school year.
“It’s a lot for one night, but, with the processing of the applications and the time constraints, it just kind of aligned that way,” said Board President Don Moody. “There’s going to be one vote that night and that will be the Navigator vote.”
Interim superintendent Steve Betando announced the district will address both petitions on the same night. The meeting will be held in the Britton Middle School gymnasium to accommodate a larger audience. The public session begins at 6 p.m.
“We want to make sure everyone can be heard,” Betando said. “The Board needs to hear from the educational community.”
Director of Development Jessica Garcia-Kohl for Rocketship Education said she does not have a problem with holding the public hearing and a vote on separate charter petitions at the same meeting.
“We knew that was a possibility,” said Garcia-Kohl. “We’re just looking forward to having a public discussion on the merits of Rocketship in the Morgan Hill community and how it can serve all students.”
James Dent, co-founder of Navigator Schools and principal at Gilroy Prep School, said he does not “have a problem with it” and is confident that some board members “are going to vote ‘yes’” on Navigators’ petition. He added that four trustees have visited the Gilroy or Hollister campuses this past week and all seven have taken tours, which he described as “unprecedented” compared to previous school district boards. He also gave MHUSD’s trustees his “highest compliments” during the petition process.
“They’ve asked more questions than any other board,” Dent said. “They are trying to find out the facts because there have been some misconceptions put out there that have been laid to rest with their visits.”
Some of those “misconceptions,” Dent said, revolved around Navigators’ handling of special education students and critical thinking in the classrooms.
Rocketship’s public hearing will be the first item on the school board’s agenda, Betando confirmed.
Dent said he’s “not really concerned with order.”
“Obviously, it would be preferable not to have to wait until 10 o’clock at night,” he continued. “I just want the day of the vote to finally be here.”
Navigator was the first to petition MHUSD back in April, but pulled its application for revisions at the district’s request in June. They re-submitted their petition Aug. 9, clearing up concerns with No Child Left Behind legislation and mandatory parent volunteer hours.
Rocketship, already approved to open 20 charters within Santa Clara County by the county’s Office of Education, notified MHUSD of its intentions in June. Meanwhile, Rocketship held a bond issuance hearing at the Aug. 28 City Council meeting to attain $50 million to finance the construction of schools in Morgan Hill and San Jose. The City Council rejected that, and Rocketship instead decided to first petition MHUSD, which it did Sept. 6.
Navigators’ public hearing Sept. 10 - held in the auditorium at Britton Middle School rather than the district office - brought out hundreds of community members with nearly 70 speakers offering their varying opinions.
Scott Forstner is a general assignment reporter who covers education and other community issues for the Morgan Hill Times. Reach him at (408) 847-7158 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org