Napa County Bd of Ed: Don't Override Local School Decisions

Napa County Board of Education

Every local community deserves to decide if a new Charter school is necessary to meet the needs of students. Napa Valley Unified School District leaders, parents, and educators have worked together to make responsible decisions for the future of our school district.

Last year, a new charter school (Mayacamas Charter Middle School) that would put the future of our district’s fiscal health in jeopardy was rejected by the Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) Board of Education and the Napa County Board of Education. The school appealed to the state board trustees, far removed from our community in Napa Valley. The state voted to overturn our community’s decision, causing confusion at the beginning of our school year. And now, a California Superior Court judge has ruled that the state abused its discretion when it approved the opening of the school, and that the school should not have been approved. The school is appealing the court’s decision and opened its doors despite the ongoing questions about its legal authority to do so.

Adding further confusion into our community, the now open and illegally-authorized school asked the County Board of Education for permission to open as a countywide charter school. The school is proposing to maintain its existing location in NVUSD and to add an additional location in Angwin – in a school district (Howell Mountain) that is already very small and facing significant enrollment loss. This new school, if approved by the County Board, will not only cause cuts to programs and services that Napa Valley students count on but also that students in the northern parts of Napa County count on.

Education Trustees at the state and county level should respect the decisions of our local school districts. They didn’t. Now it is time for us to take action to protect the future of our school districts and resources for Napa County students:

Tell the Napa County Board of Education that they should reject this new petition and definitively let this charter school know that they can’t override our community’s decision and shop around with our student’s futures. In addition, the County Board should reject this new charter school because its educational program, enrollment projections and budget are so lacking in specificity and knowledge that even the County staff is recommending that if the board approves it, they also require 25 significant, albeit legally unenforceable, changes before the school would be legal and safe for students.

To: Napa County Board of Education
From: [Your Name]

We are parents, grandparents, guardians, educators, school staff, taxpayers and voters in Napa County and we are asking you to deny the fast-tracked countywide charter school petition from Mayacamas, which is illegal and undermines democratic decision-making.

This petition is problematic for several reasons that cannot be fixed by a lengthy and legally unenforceable MOU. The problems with the petition include, but are nowhere near limited to:

• The enrollment projections in the petition are not based on the realities of the current school.
• The budget in the petition is unsound, relying on percentages of unduplicated pupils that are nowhere near what the petitioners have succeeded in enrolling so far.
• The partnership with Pacific Union College (PUC) is problematic because of that institution’s discriminatory policies against members of the LGBTQ+ community.
• The enrollment preferences and complicated zip code-based enrollment percentages are legally dubious.
• The petition does not legally qualify as a countywide charter school and only includes field trips (called “residencies”) to PUC during the first three years.
• Last, but not least, the approval of this petition will not only have a significant community and fiscal impact on NVUSD students – causing cuts to services and programs that students deserve – but will also have a significant impact on northern Napa County districts like Howell Mountain, which are already experiencing significant enrollment declines.

It is clear that the petition is inadequate and unlikely to be successful if approved. It is also clear that the only reason the petitioners have submitted this new petition is to do an end-run around the courts, the Education Code, the Charter Schools Act, local control and democratic decision-making. Please don’t allow this subversion of the law. Please deny the petition for the Mayacamas Countywide Charter School.