District deems charter school’s extension request ‘premature’

Summit Preparatory High School officials may appeal to the California Department of Education in response to Sequoia High SchoolDistrict’s refusal to consider a five-year extension of the school’s charter.

Diane Tavenner, director of the charter school, requested the extension in late September, just four months after the school won a two-year charter from the district. However, district officials say they need to see a full year’s worth of data, particularly regarding student enrollment and demographics, before they can commit to a longer-term charter.

“When I received the renewal petition I was a bit surprised and disappointed,” Sequoia Superintendent Pat Gemma wrote in a response to Tavenner on Sunday. “It is my continued belief that submission of this renewal petition is premature.”

Gemma has set a charter-renewal hearing for Aug. 1, 2007, but Tavenner is nervous about waiting that long. Summit’s two-year charter was approved May 31, 2006.

“The state Department of Education recommends that charter schools be re-approved before the start of the school year in which the charter would expire,” said Tavenner. “We would start the school year not knowing if we’d get to finish it.”

Tavenner believes Sequoia’s delay violates the education code, which she said requires a hearing within 30 days on a charter petition. She said she may appeal Gemma’s response to the state.

“My guess is that the state will force them to go ahead with a hearing,” Tavenner said. State officials did not return calls for comment on Monday. Summit has promised to implement protocols that will ensure that its student demographics will match those of Sequoia’s, which is 40.6 percent Latino, 40.9 percent white, 4.9 percent African-American, 5.2 percent Asian and 3.7 percent Pacific Islander. Information about the success of those protocols will not be available until spring 2007, according to Gemma.

“The issue we’re judging is how is the institution doing in recruiting minority students — that’s what we need to see some progresson,” said Sequoia district trustee Gordon Lewin.

Meanwhile, Sequoia district officials continue to hunt for a permanent home for Summit, currently housed in portable classrooms at the high school. Before winning its charter with the Sequoia district, Summit ran classes in Redwood City while operating under a three-year charter from the Summerville Union High School District in Tuolumne County. Districts can no longer charter outside their boundaries.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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