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Charter school rejected
Great Valley appealing MUSD decision to county level
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Proponents of the proposed Great Valley Academy in Manteca are now turning their attention to an appeal process before the San Joaquin County Board of Education after their charter application was denied unanimously by the Manteca Unified School Board of Trustees.

“We anticipated this possibility,” said Modesto Great Valley Principal Cy Cole after the 7-0 vote Tuesday night.

But rather than bringing back their application to the Manteca board of trustees with the modifications suggested by district officials, Great Valley school officials who attended the board meeting said they will instead take their appeal to the county school of education board.
Cole said they will be filing the appeal “within the next two weeks,” and they have 60 days to respond.

He made that announcement during the gathering of school officials, parents and children in the district office lobby outside the board room immediately after the trustees’ vote on the item. One disappointed parent from Lathrop, Tamara Langenfeld, who has two children attending the academy in Modesto, called the board’s decision “ridiculous.”

She added, “They can’t deny it just because they don’t want it.” She was specifically referring to comments made by Trustee Manuel Medeiros days prior to the board meeting in a story in the Manteca Bulletin. In that interview, Medeiros stated that he had already made up his mind and that he would be voting against the new charter application.

However, another parent urged, “It’s important to maintain our integrity.”

Addressing the issue on fiscal reliability which was one of the reasons given by district officials for denying the new charter application, Great Valley Academy founder and Modesto optometrist Eldon Rosenow pointed out that not only is the school “fiscally viable;” they also have a $1.2 million “reserve in fund balance.”

In voting against the charter application, Board Vice President Wendy King said, “My job here is to protect our public school.”

She has heard a number of comments made that “people of Manteca don’t have (alternative school) options.

“I disagree with that. I’m a parent and I know the options I have that are available,” she said.

For one thing, Manteca Unified has an open enrollment. Parents also have the choice of taking their children to a private school. They can also take their children to another school or send them to another school in another city, she pointed out.

Don Scholl, the newest member of the board and the winner in the MUSD Area 5 along with Evelyn Moore in the Nov. 2 elections, said he echoed King’s comments and added another option for parents: home schooling.

None of the Great Valley Academy officials went to the podium to offer any comments. But one parent, Ron Bergquist, who was at the meeting for the item on the city of Manteca’s controversy over the Kids Zone before- and after-school program, stood up in defense of the charter school.

“In the Manteca Unified School District, we’re blessed to have quality material and quality instruction. But why would you, guys, not consider (the opportunity) of a charter school? This is one more option given to parents and children to better themselves and their education. They should at least be given the chance and the time frame to effect a charter school and be under review after a period of time,” said Bergquist.

His comment received an enthusiastic applause from the dozens of Great Valley Academy parents and students who attended the board meeting.

Superintendent Jason Messer explained that the charter application review was “a very detailed process” with more than 100 hours spent by school officials reviewing the application. Staff’s recommendation was for the board to deny the application; however, if the trustees decided to approve it, the recommendation was to grant Great Valley a five-year charter subject to follow-up review.

With the unanimous vote against the proposed charter, Messer said Great Valley officials could take their appeal to the county board of education and, should that next level result in a denial, to take the appeal to the state. Or, Great Vallely could submit a new petition with all the issues brought up by the school district addressed.