|Board OKs notice against Credo
Fiscally unstable high school in danger of losing its charter
Upon the recommendation of Superintendent Robert Haley, the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified District Board of Trustees on Monday, June 24, voted 4-1 to authorize the “issuance of a notice of violation based upon Credo High School’s fiscal mismanagement, violations of provisions of charter of law.”
“The vote is not to revoke the charter of Credo High School. It is to merely to follow the statutory positions that require us to issue the notice of violation,” said Haley in a short statement at the meeting.
CRPUSD oversees Rohnert Park’s Waldorf-inspired high school as an independent charter. Should the board opt to revoke the school’s charter, a public hearing on the decision must be held.
At the brief Special School Board of Trustees Meeting, the district staff advised “Despite the District’s efforts to work with Credo to address and correct the concerns and issues of non-compliance, Credo remains out of compliance with it’s charter, continues to violate the law, and continues to engage in fiscal mismanagement” in a 22-page district document signed by Haley.
“Right now neither side trusts each other that a good faith effort is occurring. Credo feels the district is trying to close the school down for reasons that do not warrant such a decision,” stated Susan Olson, Credo’s President of the Board of Directors in the meeting. “We are vulnerable and concerned… we request that Credo and the district discuss ways we can honor the commitment we made to students who will attend this August.”
Supporters of the Waldorf-inspired Credo cite the school’s excellent student achievement, and one of the most important factors in considering revocation of a charter. Administrators noted high academic performances, and 823 A.P.I. (Academic Performance Index) Test scores (third highest in the district). Credo officials encouraged the district to immediately mediate the issues with a neutral third-party. No plan specifically addressed declining enrollment issues.
The district has been concerned with the fiscal situation and declining enrollment at Credo High since September of 2011. Credo must be in compliance with state and federal laws. The district claims that Credo has “engaged in fiscal mismanagement by failing to meet contractual obligations…statutory obligations…special education accordance… payments for insurance and payroll…and over-relying on donations.”
The district claims that Credo did not adjust its fiscal situation to meet lower than expected enrollment and has periodically “not had the necessary funds to meet payroll.” Credo has also accepted high interest loans, and a $50,000 loan from a parent, which has not been repaid. Credo currently has a financial liability of $397,242.
Not one student parent spoke publicly at the special meeting.
“We discouraged our parents from coming to speak tonight out of respect for the board,” Credo director Chip Romer said in a single statement to the board. One Credo student supporter spoke to the board and said he drove 45 minutes everyday so he could go to Credo. Less than a dozen people attended the public meeting.
Credo originally petitioned the district and marketed itself to parent and students as a college preparatory high school in its inception and agreed to comply with the WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) accreditation regulations “in its first year.”
Credo has currently not met accreditation issues, and the opinion of the district is “a significant failure to comply with Charter that negatively impacts former and current students.”
Until courses are accredited, aligned and approved by UC/CSU, Credo’s courses may not be transferable or accepted. Based on the criteria, which includes fiscal stability, the District does not believe Credo will become accredited.
Credo officials are expected to submit a response to the Board of Trustees on or before July 26. Barbara Vrankovich, retired CRPUSD superintendent who helped develop and authorize Credo as a charter school, is currently on the Board of Directors for Credo, and is an education attorney.
All school board members were in attendance; Marc Orloff, President, Andrew Longmire, Clerk, Leffler Brown, trustee, Ed Gilardi, trustee, Jennifer Wiltermood, trustee. Brown cast the only no vote.