In a deal that will put more teachers in East Palo Alto schools and help them meet federally mandated improvements, the Ravenswood City School District will sponsor a charter high school previously slated for sponsorship by the Sequoia Union High School District.
The Ravenswood school board voted Thursday to instruct Superintendent Maria de la Vega to draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Sequoia Superintendent Pat Gemma to support the petition from Aspire Public Schools, Ravenswood board President Chester Palesoo said.
The vote was 3-2, with members John Bostic and Jacqueline Wallace-Green dissenting.
The proposed plan — which will form the basis for the MOU — says Ravenswood would sponsor Aspire Public Schools' charter in exchange for $500,000 annually from the Sequoia district.
It would have cost Sequoia about $1 million annually to sponsor the school, Sequoia board member Gordon Lewin said earlier this month.
But now the district can save money while Ravenswood can use the money to hire more credentialed math and science teachers at middle schools, he said.
Middle-school students from Ravenswood eventually end up in Sequoia's high schools, making improving teaching good for both districts, Palesoo said.
He called the agreement a "win-win situation."
Ravenswood is currently under "Program Improvement," a designation of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 that requires districts to improve test scores or face federal sanctions.
More teachers would help students, thereby helping the district meet federal requirements, Palesoo said.
Ravenswood was also listed as one of 97 districts requiring state intervention earlier this month.
The intervention would come from the San Mateo County Office of Education, whose superintendent, Jean Holbrook, attended Thursday's meeting to review the district's to-date efforts to meet the federal standards, Palesoo said.
She urged the board to form the agreement with Sequoia, he said.
Last month Sequoia board members vowed to support Aspire's petition, but called for one last round of negotiations with Ravenswood to see if the other district could be persuaded to do so instead.
Sequoia is a basic-aid district that doesn't receive additional state money per extra pupil, Sequoia Board President Lorraine Rumsley said.
Supporting the charter would have cost $1 million annually, Lewin said. But Ravenswood, a revenue-limit district, does receive more state money per pupil.
Yet Ravenswood Superintendent de la Vega expressed doubt before the board's Thursday vote, wondering if the district had enough time or staff to oversee a new high school.
Ravenswood denied Aspire's initial petition 18 months ago largely because incoming board members feared they weren't experienced enough with high schools to supervise the school well, according to Aspire CEO Don Shalvey.
But he said he thought Sequoia could help Ravenswood supervise the secondary school, adding processes such as teacher credentialing and school accreditation are very different at primary and secondary levels.
Aspire already operates the K-8 East Palo Alto Charter School with a charter from Ravenswood.
Locating the high school in East Palo Alto saves students from a daily commute north to Redwood City, he said.
The school in question, the 60-student Phoenix Academy, will grow to 300 students with an official charter, he said.
Aspire plans to conduct a $6-8 million capital campaign to transform the 40,000-square-foot former industrial complex currently housing the school on Bay Road into a proper high school, he said.