Orange County Education Board Approves Charter School Rejected by Capistrano Unified

Orange County Education Board Approves Charter School Rejected by Capistrano Unified
"In God We Trust" hangs in the meeting area of the Orange County Board of Education in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Oct. 7, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Micaela Ricaforte
2/10/2023
Updated:
2/12/2023
0:00

The Orange County Board of Education Feb. 1 unanimously approved a petition for a charter school—that uses what’s known as a “servant leadership model”—after its application to the Capistrano Unified School District failed in November.

The pro-charter board expressed support for the school’s approach, which in addition to teaching core subjects, seeks to instill leadership, critical thinking, and good habits through classical texts, service-learning projects, and lessons in responsibility, time management, and financial literacy.

“I’m excited because you’re providing a unique opportunity in the community,” Trustee Mari Barke told the school’s leaders during the board meeting. “I’m very impressed. … I love the curriculum.”

The school, called California Republic Leadership Academy, expects to enroll about 550 students in grades TK–8, according to petitioners, and aims to open its doors in fall 2023.

The board unanimously approved the petition without conditions, although officials with the OC Department of Education had recommended some previously.
(L-R) The Orange County Board of Education trustees Tim Shaw, Lisa Sparks, Jorge Valdes, Mari Barke, Ken Williams, and the county Superintendent of Schools Al Mijares during a meeting at the Orange County Department of Education in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Aug. 17, 2022. (Micaela Ricaforte/The Epoch Times)
(L-R) The Orange County Board of Education trustees Tim Shaw, Lisa Sparks, Jorge Valdes, Mari Barke, Ken Williams, and the county Superintendent of Schools Al Mijares during a meeting at the Orange County Department of Education in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Aug. 17, 2022. (Micaela Ricaforte/The Epoch Times)

In a report, they expressed concern that the school had only submitted a sample of its curriculum, worried it was not fully developed, and that there was no information on how it would teach non English-speaking students.

“There are elements of the petition that require further information in order to be considered reasonably comprehensive or to comply with current law,” the education department’s charter school director, Aracely Chastain, said during the meeting. “The [petitioners] submitted only samples of curriculum in scope and sequence and … stated curriculum would not be developed prior to approval.”

The charter’s co-founder, Gary Davis, however, said at the meeting that leaders had submitted a letter to the board explaining how the school would address concerns.

In October, Capistrano Unified staff published a report echoing similar concerns about the petition’s lack of developed curriculum, calling it an “unsound educational program” and recommending the petition’s denial.

The district also said it had concerns about the charter school’s financials, which Chastain said, at the meeting, the department does not share.

She said the charter’s projected reserves are adequate for a school of its size, and that the department had received a letter from a lender indicating they are willing to loan the school $600,000.

The school’s next step is to secure a campus.

Leaders said in their petition they are hoping to use an existing campus under a state law that requires school districts to make facilities available to charter schools.

Though Capistrano Unified denied the school’s petition, it will likely be required to provide the charter school with a facility under the law.

Charter schools are those that receive public funding but operate independently of the school district in which they are located.

Micaela Ricaforte covers education in Southern California for The Epoch Times. In addition to writing, she is passionate about music, books, and coffee.
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