Santa Cruz Schools at Risk?

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Should you care about these issues?  Yes.  Here’s why: Santa Cruz City Schools stand to lose music, art, small class sizes, good teachers –  even a high school or middle school – if PCS is allowed to target enroll our students.

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PCS/SCCS Facilities Negotiations

The 5-year lease between PCS and SCCS for the Natural Bridges Elementary School property ends on June 30, 2009. The lease terms are $200,000/year.  The negotiating window for a 3-year renewal of the lease opened October 1, 2007 and concluded March 31, 2008. PCS offered an average of $125,000/year; SCCS sought $420,000/year. Negotiations ended without an agreement on price effectively ending the lease.

PCS has repeatedly called for a return to negotiations yet they have never indicated a willingness to come to the table with an offer equal to or greater than the rate paid from 2004 through June 2009.

On October 1, 2008 PCS filed a Proposition 39 application for facilities with Santa Cruz City Schools.  Proposition 39 applications and responses are dictated by the California Education Code.  The time line, data, offer and response must all adhere to very specific instructions in the Ed Code. While PCS continues to call for a return to negotiations, they closed that door with their Proposition 39 application.

To leverage their position vis a vis Proposition 39, the PCS board seeks to change their enrollment profile to increase the number of students drawn from the Santa Cruz City Schools district. While PCS uses the public forum of the Santa Cruz Sentinel to call for cooperation, the action taken by their board is predatory and retaliatory. Words are one thing; action is another. The impact of that action is laid out below.

Santa Cruz City Schools has no options in this matter. They are bound by the rules of Proposition 39. PCS has options.

Option 1: PCS could have entered lease renewal negotiations with an offer equal to or greater than their current lease. They did not.

Option 2: PCS can accept the SCCS Proposition 39 offer (due April 2009) accommodating the @60% of their students residing in the district.

Option 3: PCS can apply the @$1.5 million cash reserve toward the lease, purchase or building of a new facility.  They have already allocated $800,000 toward this end.

The public has a right to know and understand the real information and issues at hand. This is not a referendum on academics. This is a matter of a property negotiation clouded by misinformation and emotion.

Fact:

On September 3, 2008, the Pacific Collegiate School board directed the PCS Long Term Facilities Steering Committee to seek a change in enrollment preferences that would effectively bar 80% of the students of Santa Cruz County by limiting enrollment to students residing within the Santa Cruz City Schools district.

Impact:

Should PCS successfully implement their proposed enrollment change, the impact on Santa Cruz schools would be profound:

  • PCS voted to grow their school to 84 students/grade or @500 students   (Source: April 3, 2008 PCS board minutes)

Why?

To leverage a property negotiation.

“…a preference policy designed to gradually increase the percent of in-district students; could result in increased leverage with SCCS.”

“We could adopt a preference policy where the first preference is sibling, then staff, then board, then have in-district preference. After that, open slots would go via lottery to out-of-district kids.”

“Could seek a court injunction to give us relief for next year so [we] wouldn’t have to move.”

“Even with Prop 39, district could make an offer and we could fight it in court.”

“Should determine how quickly would we get to 90% in-district enrollment if adopt in-district preference for next year.”

Source: PCS board minutes, 9/3/08

When?

By November 1, 2008, the day the applications for the 2009 lottery are made available.

“Action: Facilities Committee is taking direction from the Board to come back with something concrete and start talking to the COE about a charter amendment and change in language in the application for the lottery.”

Source: PCS board minutes, 9/3/08

How?

PCS has lobbied the Santa Cruz County Office of Education to support this action; the COE is the chartering entity for PCS.

“First responsibility of the COE as our chartering agency – after fiscal oversight and adherence to law and good practice – is to foster the health of the charter; if this is a threatening our viability [sic], they would have a hard time not going along with an in-district preference.”

Source: PCS board minutes, 9/3/08

But hey — they don’t need permission:

Even if PCS opted not to pursue the charter change, Cole said the school could still build an in-district population by focusing its recruitment efforts only on Santa Cruz children, while still technically opening the admissions lottery to every one.

Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 19, 2008

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