Credo charter faces scrutiny
CRPUSD board feels enrollment woes are a strain on resources
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By Dave Williams  December 14, 2012 12:00 am

Rohnert Park’s Waldorf-inspired high school has yet to meet enrollment projections, prompting the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District Board of Trustees to call for a special meeting on Dec. 6 to discuss the situation.

The enrollment of Credo High, located on the former campus of Richard Crane Elementary School, currently stands at around 80 students in the ninth and 10th grades. It had been estimated the inaugural freshman class last year would be 100 students. But the enrollment was only 39. CRPUSD officials feel the school has been a strain on the district’s resources. The district provides oversight for the independent charter school in exchange for 1 percent of Credo’s daily attendance income.

“We want to make sure the students and parents enrolled in the school know that what was called for in the charter, it didn’t take place, and here are the consequences and risks,” said CRPUSD Superintendent Rob Haley said. “If you choose to keep your student enrolled, that is your choice. That is OK with us. What we don’t want is the parent body not to have that information and then later say the district didn’t do its oversight.”

Credo’s enrollment may be low, but the standards are high, which is one reason Credo posted a score of 822 on the Academic Performance Index, placing it in the top three among Sonoma County high schools.

“It would be one thing if we weren’t performing,” said Steve Bossio, the treasurer of the school’s board of directors and father of a Credo sophomore. “Yes, we have some financial challenges and yes we probably pushed the envelope pretty far last year, but (Credo is) going to be a feather in the cap for this district and the county. You have to see the big picture.”

The current school spending plan is $760,000, with revenues expected to reach $775,000. The school was given a three-year $375,000 charter school start-up grant from the state, and last year the school took out a five-year state loan for $250,000. Credo’s reserves are depleted, and the school has had trouble making its monthly payment of $2,500 for rent on time.

If the school’s money issues persist, it will impact the school’s effort to earn accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Haley said. WASC accreditation makes transferring credits between schools smoother while affording students a more straightforward path in college applications.

Credo High principal Chip Romer said the lack of accreditation has become a point of contention with the school district and the school is pursuing the designation.

Romer expects enrollment to increase significantly in years three or four at Credo.

As a public “Waldorf-inspired” charter school, the curriculum follows Waldorf philosophy but remains public. There are seven Waldorf-inspired feeder schools in the North Bay that graduate about 160 eighth graders every year.

The issue is expected to remain a hot topic at the school board’s January meeting.

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