Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story misidentified information from CUSD’s report relating to the number of signatures collected in support of the charter’s petition. CUSD in its report did not include any finding regarding the petition’s required signatures. San Clemente Times apologizes for this error.
By Shawn Raymundo and Collin Breaux
Following an evaluation of a San Clemente resident’s proposal to launch a new charter school in South Orange County, staff with the Capistrano Unified School District issued a scathing report that advises the Board of Trustees to deny the petition.
In its 24-page report made public on Tuesday, Oct. 25, the district found, among other things, that the proposed California Republic Leadership Academy “presents an unsound educational program” for students and that the movers of the charter school “are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program.”
“The charter school is demonstrably unlikely to serve the interests of the entire community in which the school is proposing to locate,” the staff report also found regarding the charter school’s plans, which potentially included using an underutilized CUSD campus in either San Clemente or San Juan Capistrano.
Kevin Pratt, who’s leading the charge to open the charter school, said on Wednesday morning, Oct. 26, that he was unable to comment on the report’s findings, as he needs to do some analysis on it first.
According to the report, the Board of Trustees could still approve the charter school when it meets on Nov. 9. Should that occur, CUSD staff asks the trustees to use the report’s findings as conditions of approval for the charter school to satisfy through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
Trudy Podobas, a San Clemente resident and homeowner in the Marblehead community, said that the findings of the district report touched upon concerns expressed by local community members and parents.
The district, she said, had “done their homework” when it came to the proposed charter.
“It’s exactly what we’ve said,” Podobas said.
Based on the report, Podobas said, the petitioners were unfamiliar with the educational programs they want to institute and that the school’s financial plans are “unclear.”
“Lots of questions here,” she said of the proposed charter.
Groups or individuals who want to start a new charter school must create a petition proposal and submit it to the school district for approval.
“Originally, we submitted our petition Aug. 1. Our understanding was we needed enough signatures to represent 50% of our planned enrollment,” Pratt previously said to San Clemente Times. “Our planned enrollment was 375 (students). Basically, we needed signatures for 188 kids. We turned that in, got the signatures. That ended up being a little over 100 families.”
Pratt said the district’s “interpretation” of the signature requirement was that the signature of a mother of three elementary-aged children counted as one toward the requirement, not three. The number of signatures they had at that point limited their Year 1 enrollment to 200 students.
“We took 30 days and came back with over 250 signatures,” Pratt said.
Pratt had stated earlier this month that if the board does turn down the proposal per district staff’s recommendation, he plans to appeal to the Orange County Board of Education, which is generally in favor of charter schools.
The CUSD Board of Trustees will meet at 7 p.m. on Nov. 9 at the district’s headquarters, located at 33122 Valle Road, San Juan Capistrano.
Shawn Raymundo is the managing editor for Picket Fence Media. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Shawn previously held the position of city editor for the San Clemente Times, and for The Capistrano Dispatch before that. Shawn can be reached at email@example.com or 949.388.7700 ext. 113. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow all of PFM’s publications including the San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews; The Capistrano Dispatch @CapoDispatch; and Dana Point Times @DanaPointTimes.
Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.