News

Ravenswood preliminarily offers KIPP shared middle school space

Charter school, district to negotiate facilities proposal

The Ravenswood school board unanimously agreed Thursday to preliminarily offer the growing KIPP Community Valiant Prep shared space at the district's new comprehensive middle school in East Palo Alto next fall, a proposal opposed by both the charter school and teachers and students at the district school.

The board is mandated under state Proposition 39, which requires school districts to make equitable facilities available to charter schools, to present a preliminary facilities proposal to KIPP by Friday, Feb. 15. The proposal is not binding and will prompt negotiations between the district and charter before the board must make a final offer next month.

The board approved a resolution that states the district determined it could not accommodate KIPP's enrollment — set to grow by 150 students in the next school year to a total of 550 — on a single site and that doing so "would neither be feasible nor in the best interest of all students, both district and charter school students alike."

KIPP is currently housed in 18 rooms at the adjacent Brentwood Academy and Los Robles/Ronald McNair Academy sites. The district is preliminarily offering KIPP 11 classrooms at Brentwood and 11 at Ravenwood Middle School for the 2019-20 school year. The schools are about 2 miles apart.

Kate Belden, the principal of KIPP, told the board Thursday that the offer is "not fair nor equitable nor will we have the space that's needed to serve our students."

In a letter sent to the superintendent and trustees this week, KIPP leadership argued that there is enough room to accommodate the school at the Brentwood and Los Robles/McNair campuses, "especially" with the addition of several portables. The charter organization has developed a plan "to accommodate our entire school on these campuses next year with little to no additional impact to district-run activity," the letter reads.

"Just as you don't want to disrupt and displace students in the district ... we ask that you don't disrupt or displace our students as well," Belden told the Ravenswood school board.

Several KIPP parents echoed this sentiment, urging the board to consider their children, who are still considered district students, equally. Juan Garcia, the parent of first- and seventh-graders at KIPP, said splitting the elementary and middle school students would pose transportation challenges for families like his.

The district disagrees that there is sufficient space at Brentwood and Los Robles/McNair and argues that providing it would inequitably impact district students.

According to the resolution, making enough space available at Brentwood would require the "forcible displacement" of students attending their neighborhood school by either redrawing attendance boundaries or eliminating grade levels. To make room at Los Robles/McNair, which houses Ravenswood's only Spanish dual immersion program, the district would have to move its students to another location, according to the resolution.

The district argues that housing KIPP at a single location next year could negatively impact students' safety, social-emotional health and access to neighborhood schools.

The leadership team at Ravenswood Middle School (RMS) penned their own letter calling the preliminary facilities proposal "unfair and shortsighted." The district's first-ever comprehensive middle school opened in 2017 and is still growing itself as Ravenswood transitions its other campuses into elementary-only sites.

"RMS is arguably the district's most fragile and vulnerable site," the letter states. "Despite the fact that the RMS staff is working exceptionally hard and giving their all to this monumental task, the fact is that the school is still in its infancy and just trying to get its footing."

The middle school also lost its principal and vice principal last summer. In their letter, the leadership team voiced concern that an "extensive and detailed plan" for the middle school is not being fully implemented, including the lack of a vice principal for each grade level and needing more yard duties to provide supervision at lunch and recess.

Only two board members briefly commented on the facilities proposal before voting. Vice President Stephanie Fitch emphasized that "tonight is not a vote of what will for sure happen" and Trustee Ana Maria Pulido queried a district attorney about how much flexibility Ravenswood will have in negotiating with KIPP after making its preliminary offer.

"There is a specific consideration or an acknowledgment and encouragement in the law that charter schools and school districts engage in conversations to come up with solutions that are going to be win-win situations or at least mutually agreeable," said attorney Elizabeth Mori of Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, who oversees the district's charter school work. "There's no restriction on the ability to have conversations and negotiate."

If approved, Pulido noted that the multisite proposal is "only a one-year solution" given KIPP's plan to grow through eighth grade by 2021, with a maximum total enrollment of 610 students. She asked staff to provide more information about how the middle school and KIPP would share facilities — the logistics of which was a point of concern for Ravenswood Middle School teachers and students at the board meeting, as well as the impact on transportation and parking.

The debate over KIPP's expansion request has brought to the surface several hot-button issues, including a bitter division between the district and its charter school; criticisms of district leadership, in particular, Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff; and unanswered questions about the future of a school district with shrinking enrollment and funding. Just under 2,400 students are currently enrolled in the district, down by more than 1,000 from seven years ago.

Hernandez-Goff sought to separate those issues on Thursday, stating that the KIPP decision is unrelated to the district's financial health.

Ravenswood must make its final facilities offer to KIPP on or before April 1.

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Comments

9 people like this
Posted by Thankful
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 15, 2019 at 10:16 am

Board Members, Thanks for not closing any of our schools. Under the former board members, this would have been a done deal since December 15, when the superintendent first brought the issue to the board on the regular meeting. We are so lucky we have now three super good board members and they are making an incredible job. Now our district will improve.


7 people like this
Posted by Go Public
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 15, 2019 at 11:38 am

Charter schools take funds and facilities from neighborhood schools. Public school students deserve our full support. Public education is the foundation of democracy. Repeal Prop 39!


1 person likes this
Posted by Good job, but...
a resident of another community
on Feb 15, 2019 at 12:21 pm

This was progress - we'll see where the negotiations lead.

While it was great that the Board insisted on lots of community meetings, it was clear at this meeting that this proposal / resolution had been discussed at length behind closed doors - only two Board members said anything about it before the vote, and then only to clarify things for the public. It's impossible for the community to know where Board members stand if the debate and decision-making takes place in closed session, and opens up the District to accusations of back-room deals.

Next time I hope they have a real discussion that the community can watch and understand. It's messier, but the only way the community can see where Board members really stand.


5 people like this
Posted by Ask Questions
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 15, 2019 at 6:50 pm

Good job, but ... you obviously missed the open session on Monday night where they did have this conversation publicly


8 people like this
Posted by Ask Questions
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 15, 2019 at 7:08 pm

There is the conversation around where KIPP will be next school year and how that will impact all of the children that live within the East Menlo Park and the East Palo Alto community.

The bigger conversation, though, is how disgraceful the situation is for the poor children who attend KIPP. The children are often kicked out of class to sit outside unsupervised in the cold and rain. Adults yell at and belittle them and children of the RCSD schools are horrified by what they have seen from the adults in the neighboring classrooms. They frequently say "adults can't act like that to kids." If that is what these kids see on the outside of the room it pains me to think of what happens inside.

If you know a parent that sends their child to KIPP tell them to visit! Tell them to observe the conditions their children are learning in. Tell them to ask how often kids get sent outside. Ask them if they have ever seen an adult put their hands on a child and restrain them? Then tell them to visit a Ravenswood school - hands down they will pick the loving and nurturing environment in the Ravenswood schools - it could be seen and felt at every community meeting.

The children of our community deserve better than the KIPP charter machine that uses children for profit and takes from the community they claim to be serving.

Ask questions!


7 people like this
Posted by Maria
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 16, 2019 at 10:26 am

The failure of public schools to provide a good education to children in our country has become the largest civil rights issue of our time. Our dysfunctional education system allows poor performing teachers to keep teaching and this must stop if we want to have any chance of repairing our broken system. We must have tenure reform. Charters are the one glimmer of hope as they have the ability to let poor performing teachers go. Charters will continue to expand across our county as parents choose them over poor performing unionized public schools. In our state 25% of high school students don’t graduate from high school.....when is enough going to be enough? I believe in what FDR said decades ago that public employees should not be unionized. We need true reform if we want to provide the children of our county a fair, equitable and excellent education.


5 people like this
Posted by Elephant in the Room
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 16, 2019 at 10:39 am

The mistreatment of children also happens at Ravenswood Schools. There are some Ravenswood Teachers who shall not be working with students, but when parents bring out complaints to principals and District Administrators, they are ignored. They cover for the teachers because they do not want this to become public and hey rather sweep it under the carpet. These teachers have tenure and that itself makes it more difficult for administrators to do something about it. Among many, I know a teacher who repeatedly said to the students, I will kick you out of my room" as a way to discipline the students when they do not participate. Sadly most of the students she kicks out are special ed. students who often cry outside her room. I also know other teachers who drove their students insane to the point of having suicidal thoughts. I am telling you, we also need to look at our own neighborhood schools, and yes, let KIPP parents aware of the mistreatment of students, but also let them know that this is also a practice of some Ravenswood Teachers. Parents have a conversation's with your students, but make sure that you tell them that they will not be in trouble for letting you know how the teachers treated them that day.


7 people like this
Posted by Elephant in the Room
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 16, 2019 at 11:04 am

One more thing, I agree with Ask questions in regards to this week's special open board meeting when and where the majority of the board members except for Pulido and Wilson expressed the direction they were taking and the reasons for the Cesar Chavez Site proposal to KIPP. This is the very first time we experience something like this, which never occurred during the regime of Pulido, Wilson, Lopez, and Knightmare (I meant Knight).


3 people like this
Posted by Ask Questions
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 16, 2019 at 9:53 pm

1. Just because you don’t see the admin dealing with it doesn’t mean they aren’t. It’s illegal for them to tell you what they did. (Yes, there are issues with tenure that need to be taken up with the state and federal government- RCSD doesn’t have the control to change that.)
2. The California Dashboard says KIPP only has 27% English Language learners. That is drastically different from RCSD. You cannot expect a child learning the language to have the same scores as one who is not.
3. Charter Schools are draining the funding from public schools making it even more difficult to provide the necessary resources for kids. They take money from public schools and have a machine that gets them even more money.
4. Charter schools recruit the highest performing kids and boot the others out the door.
5. If you went to the public meetings at the sites you would have seen multipurpose rooms PACKED with children and parents who LOVE their Ravenswood school. Let’s get that out in the public. Everyone loves the one negative story they hear. For each ONE of those negative stories there are HUNDREDS of heartwarming stories that no one is telling.

It’s time we boot the charters out in the best interest of the entire community.


3 people like this
Posted by Charters don’t support equity
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 16, 2019 at 10:09 pm

Crazy idea - how about we reform public schools so ALL children get the best education possible instead of supporting charter schools who purpetuate the awful reality that not everyone has the same opportunity in life. Public schools can’t just kick children out. Public Schools believe in ALL children.

Charters support the ideology that one should take from their neighbor in order to lift themself above.


5 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2019 at 10:40 am

rsmithjr is a registered user.

Charter schools are public schools, simply differently organized. The students in the charters come from the same community.

There is so much demand for the charter in the community for this charter that the hold lotteries to see who gets in. KIPP is trying to meet more of that demand.

Districts and charters do not get along well. Districts think that charters are elitist and are stealing their resources. Charters feel that they are discriminated against because they produce better results. KIPP is doing well for its students.

It would be nice to support the district but they have just not done a good job. After decades of trying to help the district, many in the community are turning to charters. I have lived here for 50 years and haven’t seen much improvement in the district.


4 people like this
Posted by Facts
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 17, 2019 at 11:30 am

Charter schools are not public schools - the only similarity is that they serve students that live in the same community.

Taking students from the community out of the public school and putting them in the charters is taking the ADA money which means less money to support the public school students that are desperately in need. You are literally taking from your next door neighbor. Those charters kick out (or push out) the students who do not meet their expectations (I've seen it first hand - it is true). This leaves the public schools with the children with the highest needs and less money to support those needs.

KIPP serves 27.1% English Language Learners whereas RCSD serves around 60% English Language Learners. That is NOT equitable. Now think about the Special Education difference, the number of homeless student difference and the foster student difference.

Talk to someone who works at Los Robles or Brentwood and ask them what they have seen at the KIPP campus - KIPP is NOT a better option.

Take a look at what is happening in Oakland and LA Unified. Those are huge districts with far more money and they are struggling with charters impacting their ability to serve children. Now, imagine how charters are hurting the small district of Ravenswood. A parent shared at one of the community meetings that inviting these charters in is like asking for gentrification. He was right!

Please stop hurting EPA and East Menlo Park. Shop local, go to locally owned restaurants go to local schools and believe in our community and our children. If you don't, you are basically giving your own community away to big corporation. Draw that connection between why the extreme far right wing is strongly supporting charters. It is not to help communities like ours. Now think about why the governor of California is calling for charter reform.

Instead of fighting against Ravenswood - fight for Ravenswood! If you don't like something in RCSD - speak up and demand change. The two new board members are listening.

The change is here. We are the change we have been waiting for. Take our community back and make it what we want it to be!


2 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2019 at 2:14 pm

rsmithjr is a registered user.

@Facts,

Charters only receive tax dollars and resources proportional to the number of students the charter serves. It is not like stealing from your neighbor, it is more like relocating your share.

Charters are public schools. The reason I like the idea is that it gives some control to individual parents by letting them choose what happens to their children.

The district has created huge confusion and mistrust in the community. I well understand parents who want a different administration for their children’s education.


3 people like this
Posted by Facts
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 17, 2019 at 3:38 pm

@rsmithjr You are welcome to your opinion. I happen to disagree with it, but I am entirely respectful that it is your opinion based on your perspective and experience.

My opinion based on my first hand perspective is that while Ravenswood has its issues (like any school - charter included) we have a team of teachers and staff who are exceptional. They care about children and work around the clock for their community in more ways than I can share. There were packed multipurpose rooms at all 4 of the K-5 schools with parents and children singing the praises of their schools (This speaks volumes). We also now have two new board members who are listening to teachers and the community.

It is very disheartening to not hear those voices uplifted and only the negative press makes it's way around. The truth is there are so many more heartwarming stories than complaints.

Please don't trash the East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park community by trashing "the district." (The district is in quotes because people are usually only referring to particular individuals when they say that.) If you have a concern pick up the phone and call the school or go a board meeting so they can find a way to support around the concern that you are bringing to the table.


Like this comment
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2019 at 3:56 pm

rsmithjr is a registered user.

@Facts,

I am referring to the board, superintendent, and some staffers. There has been a lot of confusion.

I an sure that there are many great people in the district. It is also likely true that KIPP has a lot of great people.

It is difficult to quantify the benefits of charters but many people think that the movement is promising. They expect more of students and parents and this can make a difference.

There don’t seem to be data on KIPP in Ravenswood. Aspire seems to have more data from what I hear.

Again, I like giving parents choices. Most people I know in Ravenswood actively look for choices.


1 person likes this
Posted by Facts
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 17, 2019 at 4:32 pm

@rsmithjr

I am unlikely to convince you online of the wonderful possibilities within Ravenswood. KIPP has no data online because they haven't been around long enough. The visual that I've seen with my own eyes does not look good - I will leave it there.

In the literal thousands of people I have encountered in Ravenswood I have only encountered less than a handful that have wanted to look elsewhere.

A few more data points for you to consider:
- Many of our children did not attend pre-school - This means they start school already far behind their peers across the freeway.
- 60% of our children are learning a second language
- 75% of our children are socioeconomically disadvantaged (Their parents are working multiple jobs to stay afloat in the bay area)
- 37% of our students are homeless (96% of the 37 are doubled up) meaning many times children don't have their own room and at times not even their own bed. They are sharing a single room with their entire family.)

I know your perspective is that Charters aren't taking money (thereby resources) from the district, but mine is. We need every cent to provide the supports needed for children living with these statistics. This is about far more than reading, writing and math - this is about supporting the whole child. This is about making our community and our country a better place. You may not know this, but we feed our kids breakfast, snack, lunch and, if they are in the after school program, supper. They need and deserve every material and emotional support we can give them

If you are concerned about the board - vote them out of office.

If you are concerned about the Superintendent engage with the petition to remove her (Web Link)

Thank you for sharing your thoughts - I appreciate perspectives even when they differ from my own.

Have a wonderful Sunday.


Like this comment
Posted by Charters are not public
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2019 at 8:42 am

Who elects the charter school board? Not the taxpayers. Charter schools function like private corporations. Why should they get to use public money when they don’t serve the public equitably?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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