The Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District voted against the approval of the “Inland Leaders Charter High School” at a special meeting on Feb. 8.
The petition, if approved, would’ve established a new charter high school in the district that would’ve operated at Grace Point Church on Yucaipa Boulevard under the direction of the Inland Leaders Charter School board.
In a report prepared by San Diego based education attorney Dina Harris and presented to the board, multiple issues were highlighted with ILCS’s application.
They were grouped into three categories: that the proposal presents an “unsound educational program” for students, that the board is “demonstrably unlikely to implement the program,” and that the petition “does not reasonably contain comprehensive descriptions of all the required elements.”
The first section lays out a number of issues with the purposed curricula of the school, and additionally says that the petition “fails to adequately describe how the charter school plans to serve students with disabilities.”
In the second section, the report notes that the ILCS board attempted to establish two unsuccessful high schools in the past. One was slated for YCJUSD and approved by the board before folding due to an inability to find facilities, while the other was planned for the Coachella Valley area but was closed voluntarily.
The report also criticizes the admissions process laid out in the petition, saying that it “does not conform to legal requirements.”
In the third section, the report says that the charter petition “fails to provide clear, specific, and measurable pupil outcomes,” citing a number of areas of the proposed curriculum.
At the school board meeting’s public comment period, ILCS board chairman Dr. Bob Stranger defended the accomplishments of his organization’s currently running K-8 school and criticized the report.
“This petition is not perfect. It’s made by imperfect people, but for a noble purpose: to offer a choice that people want,” Stranger said. “This (report) is not perfect, even though it was created by a team of crafty lawyers.”
He added, “To deny (the petition), you have to convince yourself that a program that has taken its students to a level of 70 percent proficiency, has 600 kids plus on a wait-list or in the lottery, is supported by parents, and has a financial reserve of 80 percent of its ongoing expenses, is not worthy of your vote.”
The board voted 4-0 to deny the petition, with board member Rosalicie Ochoa-Bogh recusing herself due to a "potential conflict of interest" with ILCS, according to the meeting minutes.
Dr. Chuck Christie, president of the board, defended Harris’s findings and the decision of the body while also praising the current ILCS educational program.
“The ILCS program has obviously had a great deal of success...and we applaud you for what you’ve done,” he said. “We clearly have shown support for charter schools.”
However, Christie said it “ultimately comes down to the specific petition.”
“On the basis of the findings, I would argue that the petition is premature and clearly has a lot of loose ends,” he said.
Fellow board member Sharon Bannister echoed Christie’s sentiments. According to Harris, as well as YCJUSD Superintendent Cali Binks, the petition serves as a contract that lays out how the school will operate if approved.
“I can’t base my decision on some of the things that were said, or some of the promises that were made, or just trust,” said board member Sharon Bannister. “It’s the document I’m making the decision on.”
With the denial of the petition, ILCS has the option of appealing the decision to the San Bernardino County Board of Education.
Correction on March 1: This story was updated to correct Board Member Rosalicie Ochoa-Bogh's position on the item. She recused herself, and did not abstain.