A split vote by the Lodi Unified School District board means a charter school won't be allowed to open as planned, and one of the district's oldest schools won't close.
At issue is trustee Harvey Bills' indefinite voluntary leave of absence, which created tie votes among the board's remaining six members.
"I was waiting for that to happen," President Richard Jones joked following the first of two such votes Tuesday.
Rio Valley Charter School representatives came to the board meeting anticipating final approval. They have been working with the district for months to secure an agreement.
But in an 11th-hour decision, three of the six board members opted to not accept the charter's petition.
Trustee Ken Davis voted against it because of a potential loss in federal funding due to the number of students enrolled in the district.
"When we lose students, we lose ADA," he said, referring to average daily attendance figures which could ultimately affect teacher lay-offs. "I don't think bringing in charters is in the best interest of this district."
Rio Valley would have served the district's non-traditional students in an independent-style program, but was denied with a 3-3 vote. Trustees Joe Nava and Jones sided with Davis.
The decision stunned Paul Keefer, the proposed school's executive director.
"I am standing here shocked to hear it may come down to dollars and cents," he said, adding that he wished the school board would have shot down the proposal in November, but it received unanimous support at that time. "I can only implore you to think about the kids the way you did four months ago."
The board was also expected to close Clements Elementary School and move its kindergarten and first-grade students to Lockeford Elementary to save the district $92,000 annually.
Earlier this spring and following a community input meeting, it looked as if Clements' closure was imminent.
Unlike last year, when it was also discussed, parents this time around indicated to trustee Bonnie Cassel that they would be just as happy to have their students at one school, she said. She represents both Lockeford and Clements.
But at Tuesday's meeting, she made clear she did not want the closure vote to be part of her legacy as a trustee. She was joined by Jeff Thompson and Jones, who voted against shuttering the rural school.
Like the split vote on the charter school, because of the 3-3 tie, Clements will stay open — at least for now. The only way the issue can return for further discussion and a possible change in outcome is if a trustee who voted "no" chooses to place it on a future agenda.
Clements school, located along Highway 88, has been a part of the community for more than 100 years, and many of its students have parents and even grandparents who attended it. The current school was built 20 years ago on the same site as the original 1879 two-story school building, and before that the town had a different school.
"If Clements' school closes, chances are it will never open again," teacher Susan Bonnini said in her plea to keep it open. "The money it's going to save the district is going to cost the community."
As for Rio Valley Charter School, it plans to file an appeal with the county.
Bills' written announcement last month to take a leave came in the midst of budgetary plans as trustees continue work to cut $30 million from next year's budget. Without Bills, it was anticipated that the board could face split votes.
In other actionOn Tuesday, the school board also discussed:
— Approved converting both Heritage and Needham elementary schools to K-6 campuses and creating new attendance boundaries for next school year. It will cost the district $22,000 to convert Needham classrooms for kindergarteners and $21,208 for primary-size playground equipment.
— Reversed a personnel decision to allow three teacher job-sharing requests for 2010-11. The six part-time teachers will share three positions.
— Reinstated one classified position in the technology department originally set to be eliminated at the end of the school year.
— Recognized a series of student achievements, including members of both the Science Olympiad and Academic Decathlon teams, and district competitors at state SkillsUSA events.
— Heard a report on the district's migrant education services.
It is still not clear what, if anything, will happen to Bills' position since he has not stepped down and has said he does not plan to. His term ends in 2012.
Other issues still being discussed at presstime Tuesday included:
- Possibly eliminating Senior Projects as a graduation requirement, beginning with the class of 2011.
- Further discussion and public input on what to do with Lawrence and Sutherland elementary schools, both named among the persistently lowest-performing schools in the state. Among the options likely to be voted on by trustees May 4 are closing the schools and rehiring no more than 50 percent of the current teaching staff, or turning them into charter schools.
Staff has recommended the turnaround model in order to maximize opportunities in the shortest available time. If trustees choose that option, the district will have to work closely with the teachers' union regarding staffing tenure.