PCS has spent the summer months lobbying elected school board trustees throughout the County of Santa Cruz for a seat on the fledging County School Boards Association. As proposed, the Association is comprised of 11 public school districts, each district appointing one trustee as their representative. School board trustees are seated through public elections, are sworn officials and are accountable to the voters.
Under the proposed structure, every charter school in the county would be represented by an elected official from that charter school’s board of oversight. The County Office of Education is the chartering agency for Pacific Collegiate School and is ultimately legally responsible for ensuring that the school adheres to the Education Code and applies sound financial practices. PCS would be represented in the Association by a member of the County Board of Education. Conceivably, that would be the same member that is supposed to occupy their long unfilled seat on the PCS board, as required in their charter. It is unclear why Pacific Collegiate has not pursued a closer relationship with their board of oversight. Other charters and district trustees in the county have much closer ties and open lines of communication.
Pacific Collegiate School is not a school district, nor are their board members elected by the public. In fact, their board members are not nominated, elected or ratified by their own parent community, let alone the voters and taxpayers who provide the public funds to operate the school*. Board members are selected by other board members in a closed-door process; they can only be unseated by an act of the board itself.
PCS contends that they are an “independent charter school”. A quick check of the Education Code and California Code of Regulations unveils there there is no such designation. All charter schools are under the oversight of public school boards: district, county or state. A charter school cannot function as a school district under the law. In a meeting last night, PCS Board President Deepika Shrestha Ross furthered her case by stating that they are not advocating that all county charter schools have direct representation, just Pacific Collegiate.
Trustees from throughout the county have responded to PCS’s request with affirmation that the association will ensure that all charter schools are represented equally: through their elected boards of oversight. It was noted that charter schools and other education groups such as bargaining units are welcome to participate in the public meetings, contribute to the issues at hand and benefit from the representation of their views by their elected officials.
Scotts Valley, Soquel Union and Santa Cruz City school districts have joined the association. The matter comes up on the agenda for other county school districts later this month.
*Board proceedings are no longer available to the public via the school’s website; community members must request agendas, minutes, financial records, enrollment data, information about legal proceedings against the school, etc., through a cumbersome pubic records act request process. Agendas are posted briefly (@72 hours) on the website, but are removed shortly thereafter. Agendas and board packets are accessible to registered parents of the school through links emailed directly to them.