On April 29, 2019, the New Colossus Academy submitted a petition to SCOE for the establishment of a countywide charter school. While SCOE staff recognize the New Colossus Academy (NCA) Charter Petitioners are passionate about their proposed charter school, several concerns came forward through the Petition review process.
Why did the Stanislaus County Board of Education deny the New Colossus Academy Charter School Petition?
The Stanislaus County Board of Education denied the petition because it did not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of certain required elements outlined in Education Code.
New Colossus Academy (NCA) presented a poor business model, would have segregated students, lacked a plan for public transportation, did not demonstrate sound health and mental health provisions for students and staff, and listed nebulous partnerships.
Did the New Colossus Academy (NCA) Petition fail to identify a countywide benefit?
Yes, the NCA Petition failed to identify a countywide benefit. The Petition only identified one site for which it would locate, 717 W. Orangeburg Ave, Modesto, CA 95350.
Explain how the New Colossus Academy (NCA) failed to present a realistic financial and operational plan.
SCOE’s Business Services staff are experts in the area of school finance and staff reviews every school district budget in the county. The Petition presented an unrealistic financial and operational plan in the area of administrative services because the petition and supporting documents did not adequately describe the structure for providing administrative services. Also, the Petition did not provide a reasonably comprehensive description of how NCA would address audit exceptions and deficiencies to the satisfaction of SCOE.
Were there any problems identified with the proposed facility?
SCOE staff identified various issues related to the proposed facility at Grace Lutheran Church. In addition to reviewing the information included in the Petition regarding the proposed site, members of SCOE staff conducted a site visit on July 9, 2019, to assess the sufficiency of the proposed facility.
There were security concerns related to NCA not having exclusive use of the proposed facility. For example, it was unclear where NCA anticipated storing confidential files and student records and the security protocols were unclear.
What about NCA’s Partnership with Modesto Junior College (MJC)?
The Petition indicated that the dual enrollment partnership with MJC would be offered by way of College and Career Access Pathways. However, there was nothing in writing from MJC’s administration or college officials indicating that MJC would collaborate with NCA.
The Petition suggested that students would walk to MJC’s east campus, which raised serious safety concerns with students walking to MJC’s various campuses unattended. In addition to the serious safety concerns, it seemed impractical for students to take classes at the NCA campus as well as MJC in a single day. First, the sample schedules in the Petition assumed that all MJC courses would coincide with NCA’s 7th and 8th period; however, there was nothing in the Petition that confirmed that this was the case. Even more problematic, the MJC courses provided in the Petition begin at 2:10, just 5 minutes after the 6th period ends. This begged the question of how students would get to MJC in just 5 minutes.
Were there concerns about NCA’s Curriculum and Instruction?
Yes, the Petition did not adequately describe the proposed instructional program for the targeted student population. The instructional program described in the Petition appeared to be highly theoretical and general.
The Petition did not refer to scaffolding instruction, types of learning materials, pre-teaching, re-teaching, or any of the other standard learning strategies used to address the needs of English Language Learning students.
There were also concerns about math and science courses. There are two basic approaches for providing students with sequences of math and science courses: integrated and traditional. Schools must provide courses in only one of the pathways as they cannot be implemented in tandem. It is unclear which pathway NCA planned to implement, as the curricula they listed in the Appendix was different than it was in the Petition.
Where there any other concerns?
Yes, the Petition stated that NCA would offer “multiple pathways to graduation,” but there was no concrete description of these pathways.
Also, the Petition did not set out a reasonably comprehensive description of its plan for serving special education students. SCOE has a legal obligation to serve special education pupils and the Petition did not demonstrate how it intended to meet those responsibilities. For example, NCA’s budget only allocated $10,000/year for transportation for the entire school; however, this amount is grossly insufficient to provide transportation for students with special needs. It appears the Petitioners did not consider the costs associated with transportation for students with special needs.
The Petition also did not provide a copy of its proposed health and safety policies and procedures. According to section 47605(b) (5) (F), the Petition must include the procedures that the school would follow to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.
Another area of concern was information regarding the Petitioners’ plan for a school nurse. The Petition stated, “due to its small enrollment, NCA will seek to subcontract nursing services.” However, in the budget, $0 was allocated for “nursing.”
In addition to concerns regarding the lack of consistency regarding the plan for nursing services, the Petition did not provide any detail regarding how NCA would address serious mental health concerns. To the extent Petitioners planned to utilize only a volunteer nurse, there were no details regarding the individual’s experience and/or readiness to provide the needed nursing services to an entire school, including mental health care services.