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Office of Education plans to open charter school by this fall

Teacher’s union disappointed with approval
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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The Placer County Office of Education is moving forward with plans to open a charter school in South Placer County in time for the 2012-2013 school year. The board voted unanimously to approve the Placer County Pathways Charter School Monday night despite a legal challenge by the Placer Associated Certified Educators, a local teacher’s union. Office of education officials say they are confident the school is legal and will give families in Placer County more choices in education. PACE representatives say they are disappointed with the board’s decision. The charter school will offer several programs the office of education already has in place, but aren’t yet grouped into one school. These include an independent home study program for Kindergarten through eighth graders called iLearn Academy, which will be considered part of the charter, but not be located at the new school site, the Care program at school sites for at-risk students, an Intensive Care program for students who can’t legally attend their traditional school and career technical education specifically geared toward students who can’t legally attend 49er ROP classes. Last month PACE challenged the charter’s legality. As a result of the charter passing, about 11 alternative education teachers would lose their collective bargaining agreements and current union representation, according to Debbie Bennett, president of the union and a 49er ROP teacher. “I’m just going to say we are really, really disappointed and the teachers are going to look into what options they have,” Bennett said. She said she isn’t sure if the board adequately responded to the union’s legal challenge. Pam Robie Hart, office of education board member, said she is excited to be able offer innovation in education to families in Placer County, especially since many of the programs are geared toward students who are at-risk. She said she recently finished reading the Council of Foreign Relation’s recommendations on U.S. Education Reform and National Security. “It implored us as educators and communities to please be innovative. Education as it stands right not is not getting us anywhere. It’s not getting our kids to graduation,” Robie Hart said. “It’s not giving the all around education and civil skills to be competitive in the world and that is really important.” Robie Hart said the office of education is confident the school is legal based on the first line of California Education Code. The legal challenge was based upon the premise that the charter school was being converted from an existing school, which is not the case, she said. Gayle Garbolino-Mojica, Placer County Office of Education superintendent, said the district has worked hard from the beginning to ensure the charter school is legal. The office of education has also worked with other districts to revise the charter to address concerns that the charter school will take students from existing programs. “We were pleased with the approval. We have done a lot of work in the last couple of months in drafting the proposal and refining it,” Garbolino-Mojica said. “It is going to be geared toward students who desire non-traditional education and children who are at risk.” She said families with children currently enrolled in the iLearn Academy said they were relieved the charter was passed because declining enrollment has put their program in jeopardy recently. Aside from indepedent home study and online programs, the academy offers weekly enrichment classes with credentialed teachers and school events. The office of education is currently in negotiations to purchase a facility for the school in South Placer County and is recruiting for 10 teaching positions at the charter school. The cost of the facility is projected to be between $1 million and $1.5 million. Garbolino-Mojica said current teachers for the office of education are encouraged to apply. The office of education is anticipating the school will be open for the 2012-2013 school year. “We are excited we are going to be able to offer another educational option to families,” Garbolino-Mojica said. Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.