Community Voices

Community Support

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These letters from the community were sent to us in response to the articles in the Sentinel, emails and the publication of this website.

Hey Schools Alert folks,

Just thought you might want to know that I’ve been informed that PCS does not intend to make their regular minutes or board packets available to the community online as they have done for many years.  Not sure why, but guessing your site has something to do with it.  It’s unfortunate because I know that potential parents, potential board members and likely potential principals will (a) wonder why all postings stop in October and (b) found or find the information helpful in better understanding the school.  I guess they see some harm in being open and transparent.  So much for “public”. — SH

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From Kenji K:

It probably doesn’t make much sense for PCS to respond to the Natural Bridges lease proposal until SCCS has provided some information about the pending Prop 39 request. I know they’re not obligated to provide all the details until February 1, but they certainly are allowed to respond sooner if they want to. And once PCS has all the information in hand, it’ll be easier for them to evaluate the possibilities and reach a decision.

It was PCS that argued so strongly to engage in lease negotiations during the Prop 39 process.  The timeline is one reason why simultaneous tracks are problematic.  PCS has stated on multiple occasions that they intend to sue the district if they don’t like the Prop 39 offer. The legal requirements of the process and the threat of a suit are compelling reasons for the district to take the time to do it right. That said, the district has also said at a previous board meeting that if they can present the offer earlier, they will do so.  Don’t forget the holiday break impacts the timeline for both parties as well.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

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A message from a member of the PCS community, verbatim:

Interesting, how every single “community voice” is anonimous…

Regarding the Prop39 versus a potential rent agtreement, it would be most unfortunate if SCSB makes a decision to give up 10-13 classrooms under Prop 39, give up over 200K of windfall rent $$, and allow Nat. Bridges site to remain vacant. On the other hand, it may be worth it, given the satisfaction of punishing all those snooty PCS students and their elitist parents. Oh, wait, it would not be “punishing,” since PCS would wind up with 10-13 free clasrooms and extra cash to spend on additional facilities as they please.
Lena Dreszer

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Schools Alert Folks: Thought you could use this for your comments page.  These are my comments from the 11/12/08 school board meeting — SH

That must have been some letter! [the lease offer from PCS] The “ball” has been in PCS’ court all along.  Nothing has stopped PCS from bringing forward a negotiable offer during these many months.

I hope the offer from PCS reflects both the value of the 9.4 acre Natural Bridges campus and the school’s ability to pay. Let’s put their 48% cash reserves into perspective – in SCCS terms, that would translate into a district reserve of $29 million!

All of the staff time, board time, lawyers, community rifts and student anxiety  — all were entirely avoidable had the school made a reasonable offer one year ago.

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I am one of the silent majority that is just about done being silent. If the PCS parents think their children are too good to go to our “real public schools”, then they should come up with the money to go over the hill to private schools. My children went to Gault, B-40 and Harbor. One got an MBA from UC Irvine, one is a Cum Laude graduate from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and one is a freshman at UC Davis. If that is not good enough for the PCS supporters than they need to cough up the money for private school so they can see that their little darlings will probably not do any better than that.

This elite, brain drain, private school, trying to disguise themselves as a public has worn itself very thin in my eyes. Just exactly how many minorities and special needs kids do they have at PCS? Inclusion is the heart of the public schools. This is not a public school. If COE is really responsible for finding them a location, then they should do it and leave the Santa Cruz City Schools out of it. I am going to study up on the situation so I can be involved on more than a purely emotional level, but at this point, all I see is a bunch elitist, my kid is better than yours, whiners.

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You know what’s fascinating?  That PCS seems to lay responsibility for their problems and their future on City Schools.  Far as I know, anybody who starts up a charter is responsible to house their students.  PCS has a choice: pay rent or split up through Prop 39.

All the rest is noise, chatter and Rovian deflection away from the real issue: PCS leadership let their kids down and now they’re soon to be without a home — because they never came up with a serious offer to pay the rent.

No one I know claims the charter doesn’t have a right or reason to exist. It’s great for the kids who go there.  But the adults in charge let those kids down in a big way — and now they’re trying to lay the blame on the district.  That’s irresponsible.

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Three cheers for you and your letter in today’s paper Janet! I couldn’t have said it any better!!

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It really bothers me to lose money for our schools when we work so hard to fundraise with all different social economical families in our community to give our students and schools what they need.  So, I’d like to know what we can do (I’d love to make the site an elementary school again, since all the other elementary schools are impacted) to help.  Thank you for what you are already doing.

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Thank you for all of your good work on this.

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Thanks for voicing your viewpoint. I know it is a small community. What happened to the progressive spirit of Santa Cruz where racial and socio-economic diversity were a part of the public school experience?

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Thank you for this alert.  I appreciate your concrete actions suggested on the website.  In any case, even the suggestion of closing a Santa Cruz school is appalling.

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Well said. Thanks for making it so clear.

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Superintendent Watkins, Board President Dilles & Respected Trustees,

While I appreciate Trustee Bryant’s mediation suggestion, with all due respect, that offer should have come in April, when the lease renewal discussion failed. Further, it is my belief that had the COE occupied its seat on the PCS board, we would be in an entirely different position today. While you have expressed concern about the potential for conflict of interest, the actual result of not being present in those meetings has proven to be the worse alternative.

The “blue ribbon panel” to bring PCS and SCCS together to resolve the facilities issue will result in, at best, a short term resolution for temporary housing. It does nothing to address the inherent issues that led to the missteps bringing us to this moment. PCS today is leaderless; there are no experienced educators or administrators in the decision-making body of the governing board. In the coming months they face a yet-to-be launched search for a principal, WASC review, possible violations of their charter and of the education code, facilities negotiations, a move and possible litigation. Today, more than ever, they need the guidance and support of the County Board of Education and staff.

A “blue ribbon panel” will not resolve the issue of a long-term, permanent home for PCS. I call upon you to lead the way to a creative solution that serves this school of dedicated parents, teachers and students while preserving access to all 38,000 students of this county.  A resolution that balances the needs and resources of all districts under your jurisdiction. Work with PCS to modify its charter status from “charter on appeal” to a direct charter by the COE. Work with PCS to draw upon your considerable resources and experience to find and fund a permanent home, a home that preserves access to students countywide, a home that does not place an unfair burden on a single district, a home that will allow the school to thrive and prove its mission in the service of all students, of all abilities, race and means.

When you step into this leadership position, you will begin the process of healing in this community. We all support the mission of public education and we are all strong advocates for excellence. But current circumstances pit charter schools against school districts in a competition for resources during very difficult times. I urge you to look beyond the status quo and reach out for a solution that rises above this competition and models for our students cooperative process and true vision.

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Thanks for keeping parents informed

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We expect the County Office of Education to act in the best interests of all Santa Cruz County students and not to be bullied into submission by a charter school currently catering to an elite and non-diverse population, and a school, furthermore, that has made it clear that it intends to go after more top-performing students attending Santa Cruz City schools. I find this tack completely outrageous and threatening to the financial welfare of the SCCS District.

Please take steps to provide a facility for PCS, the school that the COE, not SCCS, granted a charter. All of PCS’s students fall under the jurisdiction of the COE. Not all of them reside in the SCCS District. Please hold PCS accountable for making its student body reflect the diversity of Santa Cruz County’s population. Its current student body represents “white flight” from public schools. Please take the lead to negotiate a fairer course of action with PCS that will not harm SCCS District and rob the latter’s schools of students and funds. Santa Cruz High School is doing an outstanding job providing for a diverse population of students with very diverse academic needs. Do not allow PCS to hamstring or reverse this progress.

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Isn’t PCS chartered through the County?  What does the County Board of Education think about PCS’s plan to limiting access to SCCS students?  Seems the County would want to have some say in that.

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Dear Superintendent Watkins and the Santa Cruz County Office of Education Trustees,

Please bring together both interested parties and help us end this controversy over Pacific Collegiate Facilities space. The COE and PCS are the two parties involved–not Santa Cruz City Schools.

As the chartering agency, 100% of the students at PCS are the County Office of Education students.  It is the COE’s responsibility to provide space for a school that the COE chartered.

Take responsibility for the PCS students and help them find a facility but not on the backs of SCCS students.  Take responsibility for the school you are legally bound to oversee and make sure their diversity efforts reflect a change in PCS to reflect the diversity of the county by which they are chartered.
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Dear Superintendent Pagano and SCCS Trustees,

Thank you for supporting our student’s best interest in the negotiations with Pacific Collegiate School.  Santa Cruz City Schools takes it seriously to meet the needs of ALL our students.

Please continue to take a strong stand and know we are behind you to hold the County Office of Education responsible for actually providing space for their charter school.  That would best serve the needs of PCS while not threatening SCCS.  Please make sure the County Office does not allow the blind eye to diversity infractions to continue at PCS.  That is not what we are about here in Santa Cruz and we will not stand for it!

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Is this group so bold as to go after Harbor and try and rename it PCS?
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I don’t understand why they feel so entitled.  They operate like a  board for a non-profit -using public funds.

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I appreciate your letter.    We are lucky to have parents like you.

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I resent PCS because of its exclusivity, and its predatory attempts to skim off the top students in the district into their homogenous prep school setting. PCS preys on parents who are afraid of their kids being in a comprehensive high school and who want something more controlled. Children in SCCS receive a top level education in diverse, all-inclusive public school settings at our three high schools. On my block alone, kids who went to Bay View, Mission Hill and SCHS got into UC Berkeley, UCLA, University of Chicago, Stanford and Rice University, to name just a few. These are the best schools in the country. There is no need to isolate high-achieving children. Our schools have programs for them, and everyone else too.

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I would love to have my name on a petition. I am tired of hearing this elitist institution that is masquerading as a public school whine about their situation. If their kids are too good for our real public schools then they can pay their own money to send them to a private school.

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PCS Gaming the Lottery?

PCS board member Ken 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.” Proof positive that PCS will be, is, and has been, only open to every one “technically”.

This, from the Executive Director of the Santa Cruz homeless shelter. Cole and many of his fellow board members, whose only connection to education prior to PCS were private schools, need the guidance of the COE to ensure they follow the law and mission of public education.

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Students of privilege with educated parents will do well in any school. There are excellent programs for motivated students in our public schools — AP courses, Math Academy, Humanities Academy, and the outstanding Career/Tech ROP courses. The difference is that some parents, out of fear, seek a homogeneous peer group for their children. A fear that says if the kid next to mine is somehow different, has a different motivation, my kid is at risk.  PCS students have excellent teachers and interesting courses, filled with kids just like them. Students are our future; I’d rather be led by young adults who have lived and excelled among the full spectrum of our community.

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According to Ken Cole, the PCS lottery is only open to the extent that PCS wishes it to be. Open, equitable access to public education is the law and the moral obligation of the PCS board. It’s hard to be diverse when you sell admission preferences to wealthy private school parents in the form of board seats.

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PCS is in survival mode? Their cash reserves of $1.2 million dollars approach those of an entire public school district. Public schools are mandated to hold reserves of 3%; PCS sets the bar at 17% (reasonable for an independent charter), yet actual reserves are are nearly 50% of the operating budget. Is that reserve built from public money unspent on students? Or have they stockpiled the $3,000 per student they claim they need to operate the school? PCS looks like a public school trying to be a private school.
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Thank you. The political process works because of folks like you.

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