The Coast News Group

County Board of Education rejects Epiphany Prep renewal on appeal

ESCONDIDO — The San Diego County Board of Education unanimously denied an appeal from Epiphany Prep Charter School on May 12 in which the school asked for a two-year renewal.

The Escondido Union School District (EUSD) board unanimously rejected a five-year renewal for Epiphany Prep Charter School back in February, after the state deemed the school “low performing.”

Epiphany Prep is in the process of challenging the decision with county and state officials in a lawsuit that claims the district and the California Department of Education is not accounting for growth in student learning.

The charter school, which opened in 2016, serves more than 750 primarily low-income students in transitional kindergarten through eighth grade.

More than half of the school’s students are English learners, at least 91% are from low-income families, 98% are Hispanic and 100% of students receive either free or reduced lunch.

The board heard a presentation from Epiphany Prep President Daniel Rivera and the school’s principal Anna Lozano-Partida on why the school should be renewed.

According to the SDCOE report, “a charter school in the low performing category may only be renewed for a two-year term if both of the following are met:

  1. The charter school is taking meaningful steps to address the underlying cause or causes of the lower performance and these steps are, or will be, reflected in a written plan adopted by the charter school’s governing board, and
  2. There is clear and convincing evidence as demonstrated by verified data showing either the school achieved at least one year’s progress for each school year enrolled in academic achievement, or the charter school has strong postsecondary outcomes (college enrollment, persistence, and completion rates equal to similar peers).”

The board received 24 public comments on the issue, with the majority of the comments in support of renewing the charter school.

EUSD Superintendent Dr. Luis Rankins-Ibarra shared a public comment promising a smooth transition for Epiphany Prep’s students, families and staff if the appeal is denied.

“I want to remind the board to let the data speak for itself… our board made the determination that [Epiphany Prep]’s petition for renewal did not meet the requirements for renewal,” Rankins-Ibarra said. “Please keep in mind that the decision here tonight starts with the presumptive denial of a 2 and 5-year renewal… the staff report is quite compelling and mirrors the concerns we found in our review.”

Dr. Gregg Robinson, District 1 board member, raised concerns that portions of the performance data that Epiphany Prep presented seemed to contradict the education board’s and EUSD’s data.

Board Vice President Rick Shea ultimately proposed a motion to deny the renewal.

“I have grave concerns of its ability to remain fiscally sustainable and serious concerns about the academic performance and progress, particularly of children with disabilities. I find our staff report complete and compelling,” Shea said.

The board unanimously supported Shea’s motion.