Get ready, long post!
The main business item on tonight’s agenda was the renewal of Thomas Edison Charter Academy’s charter for five more years. The school has a long, tortured history in SFUSD, colored mainly by the very poor relationship between the district and the school’s former operator, for-profit Edison Corporation.
The ancient history is that back during the Rojas years (1996-1999 ish; don’t quote me on the exact years), the Board approved Edison’s charter, then a few years later sought to revoke it. In what Commissioner Wynns tonight characterized as a backroom deal, Edison was ultimately allowed to ask for a charter renewal, which the Board denied, then appeal the denial to the State Board of Education to become a state-issued charter. Since then, the school district and Edison have mostly ignored each other, aside from the fact that Edison has been occupying prime school district real estate on 22nd and Dolores Streets, smack dab in the middle of the child-rich Noe Valley and Mission neighborhoods.
The state has renewed Edison’s charter at least once, but what has changed this time is that the school has now severed its ties with Edison Corporation and is now an independent charter operator. The current administration is apparently inexperienced in the ways of charter petitions, and the renewal petition submitted to the Board back in January was incomplete and inadequate from a budget perspective. So while the Board’s Curriculum Committee voted 2-1 back in February to give the petition a positive recommendation, the Budget Committee unanimously recommended to the Board that the petition not be approved. The full Board later voted unanimously to deny the renewal petition.
Enter the State Board of Education, which could in the past always be relied upon to approve any charter application that it saw. However, the State Board makeup has changed dramatically under Governor Brown, and many speculate that it is now much less charter-friendly than in the past. Anyway, apparently the Edison petitioners revised their petition before appealing to the State Board, but rather than approving the appeal outright, the State Board asked the SFUSD Board to take another look at the revisions before it agreed to review the petition. (According to testimony from SFUSD staff tonight, the State Board has some kind of rule about making sure it is working off the same information provided to local governing Boards, so it asked us to rule on the revised petition before it considered taking action).
Tonight SFUSD staff presented its review of the newly-complete petition, but still found deficiencies that warranted denial of the petition. Specifically, there were several grounds cited: that the budget figures and analysis provided in the petition contained omissions and inaccuracies; and that the petition contained inaccurate or incomplete descriptions of certain aspects of the program (discipline and employee rights).