Natomas Residents Respond To School District Officials’ Plans For Community Day School

A seemingly innocuous item on the Natomas Unified School District board of trustees’ agenda last week has since generated outcry by some area residents.

The item in question appeared on the school board’s June 18 agenda as follows:

a. Proposal to establish a Community Day School for grades six – eight within the Natomas Unified School District Time Certain: 06:50 PM

Residents in Creekside, Hamptons and Natomas Park tell THE BUZZ they weren’t aware of the proposed community day school or that it had any bearing on their community — being located at the brand-new H. Allen Hight Learning Center — until a few days after trustees approved the proposal. There was no public comment.

That’s when area resident Darryl White, also a member of the grassroots Natomas Parent Alliance Organization, started passing out these fliers at a neighborhood garage sale held over the weekend:

“It is clear the Natomas School District is trying to put one over on the Creekside and Hampton community regarding its placement of the Community Day School Program on the Hight campus,” White tells THE BUZZ. “Placement of a program with negative community potential in any neighborhood one would think the district has enough respect for the community to ask first.”

To say White’s fliers ignited a firestorm is an understatement as a flurry of telephone calls and electronic messages were exchanged between community leaders, school district reps, and other entities.

“What I can tell you is that several board members (I specifically) voiced serious concern and disappointment in the fact that this proposal was not an information item and very unhappy that it was an action item,” trustee Lisa Kaplan tells THE BUZZ. “It was expressed to the board that this item needed to be voted on so that it could be presented to the (California Department of Education) at its July hearing for review and approval.”

Kaplan says she and the other trustees were told they could not delay voting on the proposed community day school if the district planned to open one this year. The reason, she says, is the state Department of Education meets in July and then again in September — which would be too late for the school to open on August 11 as planned.

“The board’s approval of the plan was conditioned on the fact that this was needed for California Department of Education review and approval only and if the board did not feel our questions and concerns about the success of this program were satisfactorily answered by the district we could pull the approval of opening the school,” she adds.

But Creekside residents call into question both the timing of last week’s vote and the district’s failure to include the neighborhood in their planning process for a community day school.

“(They cannot) say they did not know us — since obviously they do,” says Angelique Ashby, president of the Creekside homeowner association. “(The district) asked us for help reaching out to get folks to the (H. Allen Hight) introduction meetings and registrations.”

Kaplan confirmed the board asked the Natomas district to move toward establishing a community day school for middle school-age students about a year ago.

“The board has had several public discussions regarding the establishment a community day school for kids from our community since 2006,” said board president Ron Dwyer-Voss. “The decision to locate it, for now, at H.Allen Hight was a recent development based on the availability of space.”

Agenda documents show a committee was formed consisting of two middle school principals, the Discovery High School Principal, the middle grades Opportunity Teacher, the Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Planning and representatives from Student Services and Special Education as a result of this action.

The committee reviewed several models provided by the California Department of Education, made recommendations and developed the proposal trustees later voted to approve. According to these same documents, reps on the state level have already reviewed the proposal and made recommendations to assure its approval at the State Board of Education’s meeting on July 11.

Students expected to attend the new community day school are 11 to 14 year olds who live in Natomas. They will reportedly be in a closed campus environment, and not free to roam the neighborhood or elementary portion of the school.

“They are kids who have made a mistake or are not fitting into our traditional, large middle schools very well and need a more focused environment with a higher staff-student ratio,” Dwyer-Voss says. “They are not children who pose a danger to the neighborhood or elementary students at the school.”

Currently, Natomas students go to school community day school in another area. It’s Dwyer-Voss’ opinion, however, “schooling options provided by the county office of education or other districts for these students are not up to our community’s standards, and therefore we do well by our kids to run our own community day school.”

According to Dwyer-Voss, the Natomas district will be more effective — educationally and financially — running its own community day school.

The proposal presented to trustees last week indicates the district expects 16 students in the new program and that the district will receive an additional $5,485.53 per student in the program. The numbers also indicate the district could net more than $9,000 in revenue after school expenses.

Despite Dwyer-Voss’ assurances the community day school would not impact on the surrounding neighborhood beyond the normal traffic that comes with a school, he agrees with area residents the district should have met with the community.

“What is most disconcerting to residents of Creekside and Natomas Park was the lack of notice and opportunity for public comment on such an important issue,” Sean Avalos, Creekside Neighborhood Watch program coordinator said Thursday night. “I met with Board President Ron Dwyer-Ross and Superintendent Dr. Steve Farrar this evening. They both agreed that the community did not have an adequate opportunity to review and comment on the proposal prior to the NUSD Board approval of this action item.”

The Natomas Unified School District has agreed to hold a public informational meeting on 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on July 1, at Heron School. At this meeting, area residents will have an opportunity to review the plan and ask questions about the community day school program.

According to Avalos, on trustees’ July 9 meeting agenda the district will have an action item whether or not the community day school should be placed on the H. Allen Hight Learning Center campus.

“I do believe in the success of a CDS and that we can develop one that will meet the needs of our students who are having difficulty in school and their personal life,” says Kaplan. “Now with that said, I do believe in making sure we start off on the right foot with a well thought out plan to optimize the success of a community day school.”


  1. NUSD is notorious for this type. I’ve heard Kaplan complain before about information vs. action items. Are they in charge or their staff anyway? If you don’t want it to be an information item, move it to the action calendar- duh, you are the board!

    This same thing happened a few years ago when some special people in the district decided to open NP3 Charter. They did not follow the normal chartering procedures, snuck it in the back door with the pretext that “it has to be approved by July!!!!”

    Seriously, Dwyer-Voss says the community schools in other areas aren’t up to our standards? Uh… our OWN schools aren’t up to our standards!

  2. Wow. This story is expertly written and reported. In fact it is as good or better than anything I have read in the Bee since I moved to Sac in 1989. And the Sacramento Bee wonders why it has lost 20% of its readers. EXCELLENT JOB, Buzz. Natomas is VERY LUCKY to have you.

    As for the school, all I can say is: I feel for these kids. I truly do. I just wish the city would stop dumping ALL of its high risk citizens on poor old North Natomas. We can’t take much more.

    Most alarming thing? Tretheway ONCE AGAIN did not get the word out. Why do Natomas accept this? Tretheway has dissed N Natomas since the beginning. He is one of the main reasons we have the problems we do.
    He’s a good hearted man and good-intentioned civil servant, but don’t let that fool you into thinking he is the progressive, vigilant, open-minded, forward-thinking, proactive council person this district needs.

    Recall Tretheway

  3. Anonymous says

    Agre with all of the above! Well said, thank you.

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