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School Officials Recommend Against New Charter School

Proposed Pajaro Valley Preparatory Academy may look for a home with the County Office of Education.

A proposed charter school that would serve the children of migrant farmworkers will seek credentialing through the Santa Cruz County Office of Education if the Pajaro Valley Unified School District board of trustees doesn't approve the school.

District officials are recommending board members deny the charter petition for Pajaro Preparatory Academy at the board's Wednesday meeting.

The school doesn't have a sound educational model and district officials suspect the program will not be implemented successfully, according to a report prepared by Dr. Albert Roman, assistant superintendent.

Mitch Barlas, a teacher and school leader who founded ConnectedSchools, the organization that wants to open the K-8 bilingual program for struggling students in August, was notified of the recommendation by a reporter on Friday. He said he is prepared to take his plans to the county.

“I kind of got word that that’s the direction they're going to go," Barlas said, referring to school district officials.

Barlas, a one-time principal in PVUSD, said he had been optimistic that the school board would welcome Pajaro Preparatory Academy into the district, which is already home to six charter schools.

"We had very good conversations with them in the beginning," he said,

Barlas speculated that the school district's bleak financial picture may have caused staff to change their stance. School districts receive state money based on student enrollment, and charter schools do not count toward that funding allotment. The school district is facing deep cuts that likely will impact classroom sizes and essential student services.

“I think they’re very hyper-sensitive to the financial situation," Barlas said.

But the staff report for the board of trustees paints a different picture. The document questioned the viability of Pajaro Valley Preparatory's educational plan, including a longer school day and increased number of classroom days. The report brought up doubts about literacy instruction, how students of varying ability levels would be taught and if the bilingual school model contributed something new to the school district, which already supports a dual-language program at .

Barlas said concerns about his educational plan are without merit. Other issues, including questions about the school's nonprofit status, are errors on the part of the school district, according to Barlas.

"We had a very extesinve petition. The petition was over 400 pages," he said.

If the charter school is rejected Wednesday, Barlas said he will begin formal talks with the county immediately.

"Basically our parents are the ones really pushing to open in August," he said. "All along our plan was—if there’s a bump in the road—to file a petition with the county."

Jennifer Squires April 10, 2011 at 02:10 AM
Tough situation ... Do you think Watsonville students and families need more education options?
C towers April 18, 2011 at 05:44 AM
Absolutely yes! The traditional public schools in PV have been producing low achievement and low high school graduation rates for years and years. Not to mention the very low college attendance levels of students from the area...It's the same old system producing the same old results. It past time for change and more options to come to Watsonville --for the sake of the sake of the children, parents and families..

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