Natomas Candidates Share Charter School Opinions

THE NATOMAS BUZZ asked the six candidates for Natomas Unified School District school board “What role do you envision charter schools playing in the Natomas community? What do you think was done well or not done well, in establishing and maintaining NUSD’s existing charter school establishment? What changes would you want to make (if any)?” Here are the answers we received, in the order they were submitted. Click here for previous entries in this series.


As President of the Natomas Parent Alliance, I am a charter school supporter and I consider my response to this question a teachable moment. By California law, charter schools should be developed to:

Improve pupil learning by increasing learning opportunities, encourage the use of innovative teaching, train teachers in new and exciting ways, provide parents expanded choices when students aren’t performing well in the regular school programs, and promote vigorous competition within the district to stimulate continual improvement in all district schools.

The most obvious mistake is we have not used the charter school process to help students who need it the most.

In many school districts in California educators create programs that keep their district schools attractive, vibrant, and academically enriched. These programs act as magnets that draw the local student population, thereby reducing student flight to other non-district educational programs.

In Natomas this trend has reversed.

Our most attractive academic programs occur in our charter schools – test scores validate this point – leaving our regular school with ill equipped programs to cope with struggling students. Parents unable to get their children into charter schools because of competition for a few openings get frustrated and send their children to schools outside of the district.

Therefore, I will continue to support the charter schools we presently have and will work hard to equalize the parity between charter and district schools to create the kind of model programs parents feel comfortable sending their children to.


Charter schools will continue to be an important part of our educational portfolio in Natomas. Charters that are well designed and offer unique options not otherwise available in the district can provide programs for students who would not otherwise be engaged in school.

We have always had a good relationship with our charter schools, with a member of the Natomas School Board serving on each of their boards as a liaison with the district. This allows us to work together to share resources for the benefit of both programs. For example, we have partnered with the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law to bring a pre-law charter school to our area that is designed to help low-income students consider careers in law.

We are exploring new program options for additional charters that could be operated by the district itself and new programs that the district should operate directly within our current system with a goal of meeting the learning needs of each student.

The traditional program works well for most students, and we need to continue to improve our course offerings and the professional development of our staff. By expanding our core offerings within the district structure the district and area charters will all be forced to continually improve and that helps all of our kids.


It’s All About the Kids. Charters in Natomas play a very important role in our district. Natomas Charter School, Natomas Pacific Pathway Prep (NP3) and Westlake Charter offer an opportunity to involve parents, students, community members and staff in the education process, while giving parents another educational option other than traditional public schools, to ensure their children receive a world class education.

Quality charter schools are an alternative for parents, which I believe ought to always be available. For example, parents who believe their children would learn in a more “family-oriented” environment instead can explore the charters school option as an alternative to the K-6 elementary, 7-8 middle school, or K-8 schools that Natomas offers.

Our charters began from within the community, and are an integral part of our educational family. I am proud to have voted for the approval and creation of Westlake Charter (Spanish emersion) and NP3 (in partnership with McGeorge School of Law and UOP). Charter schools ARE public schools and operate in the interest of public school students.  They use funds and other resources designated by the tax-paying public, for educating students.

The quality of the charters in Natomas is very important. Therefore, our charters have to be held to the same rigorous accountability standards and scrutiny as other public schools, to ensure responsible growth, balanced finances and accountability in educating our children.

As your Board member, I will continue to fight for quality charter schools and the success of all of our Natomas’ kids.


The charter schools role in the Natomas community should be a model for parent/community involvement.

The success of a school does not come exclusively from a child’s test scores; it also comes from parent and community involvement. Natomas charter schools have done an excellent job getting parents to play an active role in their schools; they have also shown success in reaching the community and receiving support for on-campus events (such as the Duck Pluck). We need to mirror this design in other schools within the district and build on the success that charter schools have accomplished.

Natomas charter schools educate Natomas children.

One of the biggest fears about charter schools are, once the school is established, will it primarily serve children that live in its district. One of the things I like about the charter schools in Natomas, unlike others areas, they have not forgotten about Natomas. If charter schools are designed to give a parent a choice, the first opportunities should be given to parents within the district first.

Building a stronger Natomas

We can build a stronger Natomas by changing the Us vs. Them mentality between the public and charter schools in Natomas. I would hope that the success of parent involvement that the charter schools have found can be a model for other local public schools, providing alternate ways of increasing parent involvement. A partnership like this is just one way we can secure a permanent position for Natomas as a successful school district in California .

Victor Hugo said, “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”
It is a sad moment for education when experts analyze the failure rates of fourth graders to determine the State’s future prison construction needs. Our schools must impact the lives of these 4th graders to change their futures.
I support the three charter schools in our district because parents support them. The high API’s at our charter schools signals things are working. We as a board need to examine what is working well and incorporate them into our traditional school models.
I support the development of another charter school in our district. This charter would be developed based on the “dependent charter model” that Sac City uses where charter teachers are part of the teachers union.
What I envision is the development of a demonstration charter school whose purpose is to develop innovative educational programs, designs, methodologies, techniques and strategies that will eventually find their way into our local schools. This innovation can be used to create new learning opportunities for students and parents who want varied choices for their children. Teachers interested in new and exciting instruction will be encouraged to visit and observe. These ideas would then permeate their classrooms in a way which allows them to package instruction in new and exciting ways.
The overall goal of this special or demonstration school’s purpose is to raise the level of instruction and learning throughout the district and, most importantly, to close those prison doors.
One thing is clear: Natomas parents have embraced our district’s public charter schools.  Although 28% of Natomas students are enrolled in other districts, our public charter schools have wait lists in the hundreds. 
Public charters are tuition-free public schools that participate in state tests and employ credentialed teachers. I attribute much of the demand for public charter schools to the high parental involvement and alternative course offerings. These schools rely heavily on parents for their day-to-day operations, through volunteer hours and campus participation. 
Westlake Charter teaches a diverse selection of languages and world cultures. NP3 Middle and Prep schools offer a law-themed curriculum in collaboration with the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. Natomas Charter School offers a Performing and Fine Arts Academy, Pursuing Academic Choices Together (a home school support program for K-8), Leading Edge, and an Individualized Learning Program. These schools are nationally-acclaimed assets to our community.
A future charter school proposal should specifically target the needs of students who are ill-served by the status quo. We should look for opportunities to use our charters to help close the achievement gap, and consider taking advantage of Federal funding for a charter at the Leroy Greene school site. 
Our public charter school offerings provide choice and variety for parents. They should also complement the entire district. We should ensure that our public charters don’t inhibit funding for our traditional public schools, and hold every school to a high standard so every Natomas student receives the best education possible. 


  1. NUSD used to have a charter for struggling students- Sacramento Valley Technical High School- which they did not support finanically or in commitment. They allowed the school to flounder, in the end, leaving 125 students with a school failure. It takes money, time and commitment to make a charter run effectively.

  2. When are going to face the reality that our charter schools have become divisive in our community? Sure the charter schools do well since they have motivated parents who in turn motivate students. I am disappointed to see the candidates jump on the charter school bandwagon as not to alienate any voters since those motivated parents are likely to vote. I would to see the candidates tell the community what their plans are to make the Natomas publics schools better.
    Fred Lavell

  3. Thanks for the reminder, Tracy. I’d like to learn more about Sacramento Valley Technical High School.

  4. Our teachers have expressed concern over losing students to Charter. It may be about loss of funding, loss of the best and brightest students, loss of the parent population who is interested in volunteering or other things. I think Charter is an important option for the district, and should not be something for our non-charter teachers to be concerned about. How do we address the concern and keep all schools healthy, providing the best for our students?

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