LIKE LAZURUS RISING FROM THE DEAD

Don Gosney
By:

Situated along Richmond’s waterfront lies the family of charter schools owned and operated by AMETHOD Public Schools (AMPS):  Benito Juarez Elementary, Richmond Charter Academy and John Henry High School.

JHHS-RFR1.jpg

Citing irregularities and deficiencies that had long gone unabated, on December 18th, 2019 the WCCUSD Board of Education voted not to renew the John Henry High School (JHHS) charter.  This was a highly contentious issue at a highly contentious meeting.  Immediately after the vote was taken, several senior AMPS staff members used their bullhorns to stir the hundreds of supporters in the crowd.  Security personnel were compelled to form a line between the emotionally angry crowd and the WCCUSD Board and staff.

JHHS-RFR2.jpgAMPS appealed the renewal rejection to the Contra Costa County Board of Education, which took up the issue at their meeting in Pleasant Hill on March 11.  AMPS chartered several busses to bring students, parents and staff—mostly clad in the JHHS maroon t-shirts—to this meeting where the County Board of Education took no action on the appeal.

The next step was to appeal to the California Board of Education.  The CA BOE uses their Advisory Commission on Charter Schools (ACCS) to sift through the details, listen to stakeholders and then provides the full Board with advice.

JHHS-RFR3.jpgYesterday the ACCS held an 11 hour meeting to listen to several appeals.  The JHHS appeal was the last of nine items on the agenda with this hearing lasting two hours and nine minutes.

Interested viewers can watch this part of the meeting at:

https://youtu.be/GmVNiHx3m2M

JHHS and the County BOE/WCCUSD were both allowed 10 minutes each to present their cases and some members of the public were allowed 1 minute each to call in their comments before the ACCS asked their own questions, presented their opinions before voting.

In the virtual world where meetings like this are conducted, there are glitches and the hosts of this meeting experienced a number of glitches that delayed the proceedings.  One of the problems was that several callers stayed on the phone for lengthy periods of time but were never allowed to speak.  Radio Free Richmond was on the phone in the queue for more than 90 minutes when staff declared that public comment was over.

JHHS-RFR4.jpgJHHS cited their test scores for the approximately 320 students (almost all of which are Latinx) and provided data to validate their financial viability.  The WCCUSD cited problems with English Learners; students with disabilities; community outreach to make the school more diverse; their continuing failure to provide transparency; the extremely high turnover of senior staff, Board members and teachers, and then the high percentage of teachers that do not yet have teaching credentials.

Staff had recommended denying the appeal but the ACCS commissioners were unswayed by their own staff and the arguments made by the WCCUSD.  The vote was 7 commissioners upholding the appeal with 2 commissioners voting to deny the appeal.  The recommendation of the ACCS now goes to the full Board of Education at their meeting on July 8-9.

 

Read more about the original renewal denial at:

https://richmondpulse.org/2019/12/23/wccusd-board-denies-renewal-of-john-henry-high-charter/

 

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  • Peter Hanley
    commented 2020-07-15 19:13:06 -0700
    About 150 years ago Ulysses Grant noted, “Wars produce many stories of fiction, some of which are told until they are believed to be true.” Such is the case with nearly all the ongoing attacks on charter schools generally and certainly was true with West Contra Costa Unified’s December report denying John Henry High School’s charter renewal. It was full of misrepresentations, outright falsehoods, twisted data that ignored CA Charter School Law and a hearing that denied the school due process. The perverse politics of Contra Costa County allowed it to survive far longer than it had any right to live. Once the facts and reality were exposed before impartial bodies without these political axes to grind, the WCCUSD report fell apart like dried straw in a wind. First the Advisory Commission voted 7-2 to recommend the State Board overturn WCCUSD’s decision and then on July 9 the State Board voted overwhelmingly 8-1-1 to do just that and renewed John Henry High School for five more years.

    The attack on John Henry was a travesty and ought to offend all Richmond citizens interested in quality education and good governance. Closing a school that has consistently outperformed neighboring schools, is in high demand from Richmond families, sends over 90% of its graduates to four-year universities, and has steadily improved over its five year existence makes no sense. Richmond is hardly known for a surplus of quality educational opportunities.

    It’s time for the pendulum to swing back to rationality in education. The press should stop repeating fictional stories. Education has neither the time, energy, nor resources to continue this internecine market share war. No one can claim that California is overflowing with good schools. We need to focus on how we create, replicate, and sustain excellence in education, especially in urban areas. We are ultimately supposed to be on the same side—providing students with the highest quality education.

    Peter Hanley
    Board Chair
    Amethod Public Schools
  • Peter Hanley
    commented 2020-06-14 00:52:53 -0700
    That John Henry High School is rising and is likely to survive is not so surprising to those who do not surround themselves within the bubble of West Contra Costa Unified’s lawless, corrupt, and incompetent charter school office and its board’s treatment of charter schools. When St. Augustine told us “truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself,” he hadn’t met Trumpism, which has spread to the left, the California Teachers Association, and the radicals in the Democratic Party with gigantic lies and million-dollar propaganda campaigns against charter schools, which by the way have shown repeated academic gains for minorities in urban locales. Nevertheless, truth does still count, though it may take a bit more effort these days to break through.

    For those of us who actually lived in and fought the Cold War against the Soviet Union and Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe, seeing the “radio free” moniker abused to regurgitate this district and teacher union garbage without the slightest attempt at balance is especially insulting. You are about as “fair and balanced” and “without fear or favor” as Fox News, so that slogan is appropriate.

    John Henry is on the latest US News and World Reports list as one of the nation’s top high schools. In 2019 it received a six-year WASC accreditation with only a 1-day visitation required after three years, the best and highest ranking it could receive—an amazing achievement for what was a four-year-old high school at that time. Opening a new high school is a monumental undertaking and John Henry did not do it perfectly, but it responded to correct identified difficulties and received a “letter of good standing” from the District in 2018. It has had no letters of concern since that time.

    It far outperforms academically all the alternative high schools its students would attend and sends its graduates to college, mostly to four-year universities. More than 300 families are on the waiting list for 90 opening in its freshman class even given the uncertainty surrounding its existence. Presented that reality, along with the gross violations of due process and California’s Charter School Law the WCCUSD engaged in last December in denying renewal, it was not surprising to see overwhelming support for John Henry. Only the CTA rep and the California Department of Education rep, which under Supt. Tony Thurmond, operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of CTA, voted against John Henry.

    For those who would like to read an executive summary of WCCUSD’s violations, they can be found here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Bqnwmw1JfoK7D2X9egvNLOZg43MuL5hd

    For those who want to dig deeper into a more detailed analysis, it is here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1XlQYpSKX4WkYtUkmn7otnRab0galZ58Q

    Peter Hanley
    Board Member
    Amethod Public Schools
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