NUSD Race: Charter School Views

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

THE NATOMAS BUZZ invited the 10 candidates for Natomas Unified school board to participate in a series of articles wherein they answer questions submitted by readers.

Today’s question was sent to us by David Kawada. THE NATOMAS BUZZ asked, “What are your thoughts on public charter schools in NUSD such as NP3 and Natomas Charter?”

Here are the answers we received by the deadline, in the order they were received:

Scott Dosick

Charters were created to provide schools with flexibility in meeting the educational needs of their communities. What’s frustrating to me, as a dad, is that you do not have to be a charter school to implement many of the programs and strategies used by Natomas’ incredibly successful charters. I’m running because I want to improve all of our public schools for all 12,000 NUSD students and their families. As vice president of the Inderkum International Baccalaureate non-profit, I worked with other dedicated Natomas parents to fundraise and advocate for this academically rigorous program. Every student that leaves Natomas costs us $5,000 annually. One of my highest priorities will be to ensure that our schools improve their performance and competitiveness by offering programs like the International Baccalaureate programs that will bring students back to NUSD and generate the revenues we need to reverse the cuts imposed the last few years.

Ryan Herche

I strongly support public charter schools such as NP3 and Natomas Charter. Innovation comes in many forms, including non-traditional forms of education. To ensure a world-class education for every child in Natomas Unified, we should be open to the idea of allowing children who are subject to unfortunate educational circumstances to seek alternatives. The more choices there are, the better. Making sure our children are adequately prepared for the profession of their choice is critically important. Parents should be empowered to send their children to the school of their choice. I’ve talked with numerous parents in Natomas who support having a solid public charter school system, and I agree with them. Fundamentally, we should do everything we can to promote equal and quality access to education. Our children are counting on us to make a difference. We cannot disappoint them.

Mike Bedrosian

I believe that charter schools, when properly implemented are a great benefit. Charter schools were historically set up to be test schools for programs that were later to be applied in public schools. Unfortunately, the current board members have made it an “us versus them” mentality. This has resulted in a divided school district and community which has pitted charter schools against public schools. Charter schools could be a great tool and asset in expanding educational services to ALL of the children of Natomas. We need to work together tounite charter schools and public schools to truly make a Natomas UNIFIED School District.

Bruce Roberts

Charter schools are part of the Natomas educational system. Charter schools are allowed by state law to provide an education that is funded with public resources. Natomas Unified School District has five independent charter schools (Natomas Charter School, Westlake Elementary and Middle School, NP3 Middle and High School) and one dependent charter school (Leroy Greene) operating within the district. Independent charter schools are governed by their own board; make their own education and budgetary decisions. For independent charters, the role of the NUSD board is to see that they are provided facilities and financial oversight. For dependent charters these decisions are made by the elected board. As demonstrated by student enrollment, support exists in the Natomas community for the education options provided by charters. As a board member I will work to ensure that the charter schools of Natomas serve a representative proportion of all students that choose to attend.

Vina Guzman

Natomas has charter schools with innovative programs providing students and parents with expanded choices in alternative types of educational programs. Natomas also has traditional schools providing students with high-quality educational programs that challenge students to succeed. Given the diverse student population of the Natomas community, charter schools are not the right fit for every child. Therefore, I think it’s great that parents can evaluate the individual needs of their child and decide which school or programs are best suited for them. Regardless of charter schools having a separate governance structure, it’s critical to the success of our students that we all work together towards a common goal – a top notch education in a safe environment. If elected, I promise to support student success at every school in the district.

Karen Bernal

This topic, too complex to summarize in 150 words, is certainly worth community discussions, and any talk on the subject would be well attended. I believe that if a school is truly public, all aspects of that school are public, not only its funding. Currently, a dual system exists, since both charters and traditional public schools receive the same public money, but operate under different rules. One ‘cost’ of such an arrangement are student populations at charter schools that aren’t as diverse as those of traditional schools. Free and reduced lunch, English Language Learners, special needs, Latino and African American students are not represented at levels found in traditional schools, in part, due to the ability of charters to disenroll students. Shortcomings for charter students can also exist. Even as a parent of a charter school student, I want to ensure parity and equal treatment for all students in the district.

HK Allen

Originally, charter schools were created to be centers of innovation by developing new learning methods which could be universally applied throughout their respective district. This is not what we have in Natomas. We have a divided house because our board created a contentious relationship between our charter schools and our traditional public schools. Their actions undermined traditional public school parents for years in favor of charters, and now they’ve reversed their focus by undermining charter parents in reaction to the backlash they have created with public school parents. These behaviors show me there is no real desire to improve community relations and restore the public trust. Instead of embracing the current board’s dismissive behavior, we must move together as a community. This starts by remembering that in order for our children to succeed all parents must be respected and their concerns addressed.

Briza Trujillo Cardenas 

NUSD offers parents a variety of school options, including public charter schools, to meet or address the diverse needs of their children. This includes a variety of schools, teaching methods, educational and support programs, etc. As a parent with children who have attended both neighborhood and charter schools, I am supportive of parents who seek schools that engage students in their education and that develop their desire to learn and graduate prepared for college or any path they choose. As a trustee, I will represent and be accountable to the Natomas residents who entrust me their children and their tax dollars. As general rule, I will question how we spend district funds and if schools, educational programs or service are working or not working. Charter public schools are part of the district and as result must receive the same type of oversight and support to help them succeed, just like a traditional neighborhood school.

Have a question you’d like to ask the candidates? Send it to us at [email protected].

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