CARLSBAD — In front of shouting, poster-wielding crowds of OPA (Oxford Preparatory Academy) supporters, the San Diego County Board of Education (SDCBOE) denied OPA’s appeal to open a charter school in Carlsbad at its April 10 meeting. In December last year, the Carlsbad Unified School District (CUSD) Board of Trustees unanimously denied OPA’s original application to open a charter school for kindergarten through eighth grade students.
OPA’s application and subsequent appeal of the CUSD Board’s decision to the SDCBOE inspired a debate that has pinned school choice against standing by public schools.
Citing the fact that some of the SDCBOE members’ children attend charter schools within the county, Carlsbad resident Ami Calhoun said to the board, “By denying OPA, you are saying that your children deserve a choice and mine don’t.”
“This is not just a rubber stamp denial,” said Dr. Eric Beam, OPA’s director of special services, addressing the board. “You have to look at these parents in the eye.”
“I understand why you doubt the district, they have an interest in the status quo,” said Board Member Gregg Robinson, addressing the audience, many of whom urged for OPA’s approval during public comments.
Yet ultimately, Robinson, along with Board President Sharon Jones and Vice President Susan Hartley, composed a majority vote to follow their staff’s recommendation to deny the charter school’s appeal.
A committee of San Diego County Office of Education staff reviewed OPA’s charter petition and concluded in a final report to the board that the petition presented an “unsound educational program” that is “demonstratively unlikely to successfully implement.”
OPA currently operates two charter schools, one in Orange County and the other in Chino Valley, which have achieved API scores above those of CUSD’s high-performing schools.
Board of Education member Mark Anderson opposed the staff’s recommendation and voted in favor of OPA’s appeal.
“I see this energy, I see this power, I see this force that you are putting into this,” Anderson said to the present OPA supporters as they clapped and cheered for him. “I hope that you continue to fight (for your children’s education).”
Board Member Lyn Neylon abstained from voting because she was unable to attend a public hearing about OPA’s appeal. When pressed on if she had watched the recording by fellow board members, she acknowledged that she had but still felt uncomfortable voting.
Jones was berated by shouts from the audience when she said that the parents have every ability to change the education system in Carlsbad public schools.
After the Board’s vote, the meeting’s attendees filed out, murmuring comments including, “This is disgusting,” and “I can’t take this anymore.”
“Although we’re disappointed, this is the result we expected,” said Beam.
He said that OPA staff and parents would have to debrief and discuss before deciding whether or not to appeal the decision to California’s State Board of Education.
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