|By Jane Futcher|
Marin Idependent Journal
A new charter school is slated to open in Novato next fall despite a state audit blasting California school districts and boards for issuing charters without "effectively monitoring their charter schools and ensuring that these schools meet agreed-upon student outcomes."
The Marin School of Arts and Technology, launching with 110 ninth-graders, will host an informational meeting for parents and students Thursday evening at the Novato Unified School District offices.
The charter school is the flagship for Envision Schools, a nonprofit organization that promises to develop and sustain small, innovative, high-performance public high schools that prepare a diverse student body for college and careers.
The new state audit evaluated four large districts - Oakland, Fresno, San Diego and Los Angeles - and found them woefully poor at keeping track of their charter schools.
But Marin School of Arts and Technology's principal, educator Bob Lenz, said that won't be a problem with his charter.
"We think Marin School of Arts and Technology is an example of the innovations we hope for," Lenz said. "It's a school started by educators with a sound financial plan."
The new charter has been selected by the New Technology Foundation Replication Project, a nonprofit educational foundation, to be the fifth in a pioneering network of 10 public schools in Northern California. The foundation will provide the new charter with $375,000, which comes directly from a $4.9 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition to financial support, NTF will provide Envisions Schools with classroom-tested curricula and state-of-the-art assessment tools.
Novato school board president Ross Millerick said his board approved the high school charter because it adds to the educational alternatives available to parents and students in the district.
"It's another choice for our community," Millerick said. "The board approved it and I look forward to it being successful."
Nevertheless, Millerick said he and the school board and staff are well aware of the difficulties of monitoring charter schools, which he believes stem from a state law governing charter schools that is "not very specific."
"Districts have to find reasons to deny charters as opposed to giving an even-handed mandate to evaluate them," Millerick said.
Novato educators closely monitor another charter, the Novato Charter School, a K-8 school at Hamilton Field, according to Millerick.
"We are infinitely involved in the bills that are getting paid and the day-to-day operation," he said.
Contact Jane Futcher via e-mail at email@example.com