PCS delays diversity vote

From the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

PCS board to delay vote on diversity proposal

Pacific Collegiate School’s board will not vote on a new diversity proposal at tonight’s 5:30 p.m. meeting as initially planned, President Deepika Shrestha Ross said. Rather, the board will discuss the proposal and vote at a later time, she said.

The school’s diversity committee has drafted a proposal to set aside 10 percent of open seats for the seventh-grade admissions lottery to students who would be the first in their family to go to college or who qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program. The plan is meant to diversify the school along ethnic and socioeconomic lines.
The county Office of Education, which chartered the 480-student school 10 years ago, has urged the board to devise strategies for making the student body more closely resemble the rest of the county’s student population, which is 52 percent Latino and 40 percent white. Seveny-two [sic] percent of PCS students are white, according to the most recent figures available.

California Educational Code 47605 (b) (5) (G):
The means by which the school will achieve a racial and ethnic balance
among its pupils that is reflective of the general population residing within
the territorial jurisdiction of the school district to which the charter
petition is submitted.

The 2006 PCS Diversity Plan



PCS names new principal

In an unnoticed, unpublicized meeting, the Pacific Collegiate board named Archie Douglas, former headmaster of the Montgomery Academy, a private school in Montgomery, Alabama to lead the public charter school into its second decade. It will be interesting to see how Douglas’ experience in private school administration translates to the very challenging and decidedly different climate of public education in California.  First steps might include a gentle suggestion that his board members study the requirements of the Brown Act concerning the conduct of public meetings.

In an email sent to parents late last night, PCS board leadership made their announcement:

Dear PCS Community –

We’re writing with some wonderful news this evening. After an extensive and competitive search, the Board of Directors voted tonight to appoint Archie Douglas as the next principal of Pacific Collegiate School. Archie is an accomplished administrator with a strong record of success in independent schools. He brings experience from some of the most academically distinguished college preparatory schools in the country and his own academic background is equally distinguished. We are thrilled to hire a principal of his caliber to lead PCS into its second decade.

Archie recently completed eight successful years as the Head of School at Montgomery Academy, an independent K – 12 school in Montgomery, Alabama. At Montgomery Academy, he was instrumental in moving the school forward in several notable ways, including:

  • Raising the profile and impact of college advising, which resulted in college scholarship offers to seniors growing in value from approximately $500,000 in his first year to over $5 million in 2007-2008;
  • Increasing AP course offerings and overall enrollment in AP classes while maintaining historically high levels of AP performance;
  • Increasing the non-white student population from 5% to 12.9%, which brought essential shifts in awareness and understanding to the student body and entire school community;
  • Creating core change through the development of a strategic plan, campus master plan and long-term financial plan, which increased the school’s sustainability and aligned student outcomes around the pursuit of academic and civic excellence;
  • Helping administer the largest capital improvement campaign in the school’s history (approximately $10 million), which included the construction of state-of-the-art science, theater and athletic facilities.

Archie’s previous positions include Upper School Director at the Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland and College Counselor and History Teacher at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. At both Landon and Montgomery Academy, Archie was a key player in developing innovative models for teacher evaluation. He brings to PCS considerable experience in improving teacher performance and enhancing professional development for faculty and staff.

He has spent the last 24 years in education – as a teacher, coach, college counselor, admissions officer and head administrator. In all of his roles, he has demonstrated a genuine dedication to students, an ability to inspire those around him and a clear commitment to high standards.

Archie has an undergraduate degree in history from Yale University and a graduate degree in education, with a concentration in administration, planning and social policy, from Harvard.

Currently, he lives with his family in Monterey where he is enjoying a brief sabbatical and working as an educational consultant. His wife Michelle is a California native with a J.D. from UC-Davis. They have two sons, one a sophomore at Reed College and the other a high school senior.

The Board anticipates a transition period with Archie working closely with Interim Principal Chris Mercer through January and moving formally into the position in February, 2010.

We are very excited to have Archie and look forward to an official welcome soon. As we move forward with this transition, we offer a huge and heartfelt thank you to Chris Mercer for her steady leadership. We deeply appreciate all that Chris has brought to PCS and we hope you will join us in celebrating her contributions before she leaves.

All the best,

PCS Board of Directors

Posted in News. 1 Comment »

Commenters debate PCS online

A recent post to the San Francisco Schools blog incites debate over Pacific Collegiate’s diversity issues, charter appeal and the concerns around charter schools that address the underserved student vs. those designed to segregate students from their underserved peers:  http://www.sfschools.org/2009/08/critical-views-of-charter-schools-from.html

PCS seeks seat on County School Boards Association

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.

Sentinel Coverage

Scotts Valley joins association

Santa Cruz joins association

*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.

Charter modeled after PCS faces legal challenge

Western Sierra Collegiate Academy, a college prep charter in Rocklin, CA, modeled after PCS is facing a challenge to the approval of their charter application.  The WSCA charter was denied by the Rocklin school district, their appeal was denied by the Placer County Board of Education and a final appeal failed at a meeting in March of the State Board of Education.  After that appeal failed, the SBE recessed.  Upon reopening the meeting, the WSCA charter was placed back on the agenda for the following day (without due public notice); a re-vote was taken and the appeal was granted.

Rocklin school district officials filed suit in Sacramento County against the State Board of Education in April; WSCA opens this week.

Sacramento Bee story

Turnover and recruitment issues

It’s confirmed: With over one year to complete the task, conducting an international search,  the PCS board was unable to recruit a new principal to lead the “#3” public school in the country.

Also confirmed: Founding teacher and academic conscience of the school, Dr. Sherri Helvie, has resigned.

Newsweek Public School list released

Newsweek’s controversial Top Public High Schools list shows Pacific Collegiate at #39 (vs #13 in 2008 and “Public Elite” status in 2007).  Given that the list measures the number of students taking AP courses, and all students at PCS are required to take AP courses, it simply measures that yes, students are taking the required courses.  There are some interesting new aspects to the list, including up and coming schools working with students in poverty, challenging low achieving students to demand more of themselves. The methodology used by Jay Matthews to compile the list has stirred controversy as long as the list has been published.  What it does accomplish is the generation of thoughtful conversations about what it means to challenge students and how to best support them in meeting their academic goals. Further, it brings attention to schools and programs like SCCS’ AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) that bring underrepresented groups into college prepartory programs – attention that should be applauded as comprehensive public schools struggle financially while retaining their mission to serve all students.