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County board says no to charter school in Manteca
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The San Joaquin County Board of Education Wednesday unanimously denied Great Valley Academy’s appeal to open a charter school in Manteca.

The five-member panel agreed with staff’s evaluation of the charter school’s application that “assurances for a successful operation” of the proposed campus in Manteca were “insufficient” based on the Charter School Evaluation Matrix that was used in the review.

Of the seven areas listed in the matrix, five were identified as insufficient:

•academic program and student assessment,

•governance and administration,

•financial plan,

•supplemental information financial documents, and planning assumption and impact statement, and,

•supplemental information on special education

The three areas that the evaluators considered sufficient were staffing and employment, student policies and facilities.

“There were strong components of this charter,” said James Mousalimas, the assistant superintendent of county-operated schools and programs who presented the report to the board. However, much of the details in the application required by the education code were insufficient, he said.

Board member Mark Thiel said he appreciated the matrix that the staff evaluators used which made it easy for them to understand the issues. However, he asked Mousalimas, “How is it that Stanislaus County (Office of Education) approved it and we do not? Are they more relaxed?”

He added that “they have a proven success record,” referring to the Great Valley Academy charter school in Modesto that was approved by the Stanislaus County Office of Education three years ago after it was denied by a Modesto school district.

“I can’t comment on Stanislaus County but I can comment on our process,” replied Mousalimas, adding, “We use a very rigorous standard, which we should, and also we used experts in this area.”

In the end, it was Thiel who made the motion to deny the charter application saying, “I don’t think we should hold anybody to a lesser standard.”

One of the big concerns mentioned by the board that they found lacking in the charter application was the issue over finances. Board member Dave Sorgent said the concept and philosophy of the Great Valley Academy charter has many merits. However, “If we fail, we’re hold responsible for the failure,” he said.

Mousalimas said, “There were strong components of this charter,” and pointed out that the report included suggestions that Great Valley Academy could use in reworking the application to give it a chance of approval the next time it’s submitted.

Great Valley Academy founder, Dr. Eldon Rosenow, said he was “disappointed” with the county board’s vote.

“We hope that by correcting some of the problems they found that we can come back” and file the application with the corrections, he said.

Rosenow said their next step from here is to file an appeal before the State Board of Education in Sacramento. And if meet yet another denial at that level, they will come back to the Manteca Unified School Board and file another charter application with the suggested corrections incorporated.

The review committee was comprised of six key county staff members headed by Gary Dei Rossi, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. In the absence of Dei Rossi, the report was presented to the board by James Mousalimas, the assistant superintendent of county-operated schools and programs.

Rosenow, who attended the meeting with the appointed principal of the proposed Manteca Great Valley campus at the soon-to-be vacated Manteca Christian School on Button Avenue, along with three parents, said they are prepared to put the opening of the Manteca campus on hold for a year until the charter is approved.

The three parents who attended the meeting did not have children currently enrolled at Great Valley Academy but were planning to sign them up at the Manteca campus. Yvonne Ray of Manteca who has a 7-year-old home-schooled child, said she “kind of expected” the county board’s nay vote. She said she will continue to home-school her child until Great Valley opens in Manteca. She said she likes the school because “it has a proven track record.”

Trisha Wagner who has a 5-year-old son whom she home-schools, said she was also disappointed with the county board’s decision. She said she wants her son to attend Great Valley because she like’s the school’s “focus on morality and its nurturing environment.”

Eleanor Van Wetter of Lathrop who plans to enrolls her 6-year-old sun at the Manteca Great Valley echoed Wagner’s sentiments about the school as well as the “visual learning” incorporated in their curriculum. Her son is currently a kindergarten at Cornerstone Church School in Manteca.

The proposed Great Valley campus in Manteca already has more than 530 students signed up to date.

Asked the same question that trustee Thiel posed to Mousalimas as to why San Joaquin Office of Education is not approving the charter when Stanislaus did, Rosenow simply replied, “politics.”