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Charter schools are the most revolutionary model available

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Posted: Monday, March 15, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 11:33 am, Thu Jul 22, 2010.

Saturday, I was talking about problems with poor achievement at Lawrence School, whose students are mostly poor and poor English speakers.

Test scores there and at Sutherland School in Stockton have been so low so long that state and federal governments are requiring Lodi Unified School District to make revolutionary changes.

It's going to be a highly planned revolution, however, with as much as $2 million in federal funds available and four options, or "models," the district must choose from in order to meet the requirements placed on it. The models are Turnaround, Restart, Closure and Transformation.

"Turnaround" means firing the principal, making at least half the staff reapply for their jobs and changing the way the school is governed. We'll learn what that means if district administrators recommend this option to the Lodi Unified School District board.

"Transformation" also means firing the principal plus increasing classroom hours and "a series of required school improvement strategies." Again, we'll know the specifics if the staff recommends the Transformation route.

The option of closing Lawrence or Sutherland are not under consideration, and that's fine with me.

I'll get to the other option — charter schools — in a moment, but Assistant Superintendent Catherine Pennington said Turnaround and Transformation are most likely.

And both require the principals to be fired.

At Lawrence, the school I'm most familiar with, the idea of firing the principal is too ironic to be a joke. The principalship at Lawrence school has been a merry-go-round for a number of years.

When Rob, my oldest son, left Lawrence in 2000, Cheryl Nilmeyer was beginning a fairly long run as principal. She had a great staff, and test scores were improving. It's a story for another day why she and most of the teachers left, but I suspect that was the real beginning of the present drama at Lawrence.

The next principal lasted two years; the next two lasted a year each.

Today Linda Kopic, a "guest administrator," and Patty Cuenin, a full-time vice principal, are running the show. When I met them, they seem encouraged and focused, but Kopic is retired and will have to leave soon. Cuenin is a new administrator and may not have enough seniority to remain at Lawrence after the layoffs that are coming with LUSD's budget crisis.

"They really need strong leadership at the top," former high school principal Dutch Williams told me.

Assistant Superintendent Catherine Pennington agrees: "Establishing a consistent administrative team is part of where we're going with this."

Given the tradition of honoring seniority in the district, that's going to be a challenge, but I wish her and the board good luck.

So back to charter schools — what about them?

Pennington did not include charter schools in her top priorities.

But Williams and some others talked encouragingly about the advantages of charter schools.

Sometimes a school district sets up a charter school, like Lodi Unified did with the bilingual Joe Serna School. The district was able to negotiate an accommodation with the teacher's union to assure that only teachers with bilingual certificates are assigned there.

But when an outside organization starts a charter school, it begins without a union contract. The administration does not have to go by seniority when hiring and promoting teachers. That's a boat-rocker, but many charter schools have stable staffs and show good results, even working with disadvantaged students.

Don Shalvey, a former LUSD leader who left the district in the 1990s to pioneer charter schools, says parents who want to start a charter school have to get help from a charter school organization with a good track record.

"I would look to proven organizations and work with … school district leaders … Superintendents and school boards can develop important partnerships with parents and charter school operators to serve youth well," said Shalvey.

He is a co-founder of Aspire Pubic Schools which operates University Public School, River Oaks Charter School and Ben Holt College Preparatory Academy — three successful charter schools in LUSD.

In addition, Shalvey said parents who want to find a charter school partner might consider Lighthouse Charter in Oakland, Summit Prep in Redwood City, High Tech High in San Diego and the Alliance for College Ready Schools in Los Angeles.

Aspire Public Schools has its headquartered at 1001 22nd Avenue, Oakland, CA 94606; (510) 434-5000. Its Web site is

Parents can find more information on charter schools at and the California Charter Schools Association, 1107 Ninth St., Suite 700, Sacramento, CA 95814; (916) 448-0995;

If the district is going to take advantage of the funds available now, it will have to have a plan in place by July — not nearly enough time to launch a charter school.

But down the road, parents could push for a charter school — the most revolutionary model available.

Marty Weybret is publisher of the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • posted at 3:52 am on Fri, Mar 19, 2010.


    Most kids are about as smart as their parents so don't blame the teachers union or the school board it's in the genes.

  • posted at 1:41 pm on Thu, Mar 18, 2010.


    tlc: Without a union, I am capable of deciding yea or nea whether I will accept an offered salary.without a union, I'm capable of defending myself in a legal matter, very effectively.I don't need a union, thank you.

  • posted at 8:33 am on Thu, Mar 18, 2010.


    WTF- Yes I agree! Its not "about the kids"...but it is ALWAYS about the ESC. We have so many swollen heads and bruised egos at the ESC. It makes one wonder how they ever manage to fit their heads through a door? Big heads---big egos. We need to start trimming at the top!

  • posted at 1:17 pm on Wed, Mar 17, 2010.


    So the decisions of the yahoos at the top has a very DETRIMENTAL real world effect.

  • posted at 1:16 pm on Wed, Mar 17, 2010.


    I still say we should just GET RID of the District Office. Period. Here's why: I've been b*tching that I'm not getting my mail; the mail I DO get is not to my E. Oak address; it's to an E. Locust address or a W.Oak address...yet I haven't received the monthly reminder for my car payment...good thing I wrote it down and already know other words, don't rely on the reminder; but I do wonder who's getting my car payment reminder. My friend pointed out to me as I was venting one day, that this is what happens when it's decided that retaining "Administrators" is more important than retaining Teachers.

  • posted at 5:34 am on Wed, Mar 17, 2010.


    pam t- Of course! I was trying to remind Marty that he has to have someone review editorials as well as news stories before submitting them to print. Oops?

  • posted at 4:54 am on Wed, Mar 17, 2010.


    It is Kapic, Linda Kapic, and she is marvelous!! Unfortunately, she is also retired and not staying permanently. Lawrence has had a history of amazing principals, Joan Morrison and Cheryl Nilmeyer to name a couple, and made improvements during their time. Lawrence has great potential, it just needs the right staff at the helm.

  • posted at 3:40 am on Wed, Mar 17, 2010.


    LNS "...but Kopic is retired and will have to leave soon..." Weybret 3/15"It's devastating to the staff," said Linda Kapic, guest administrator at Lawrence Elementary School. Quoted by Bonnet LNS on 3/10.The question is: Who is editing? Is it Kopic or Kapic? Don't blame spell check on a proper noun. These require verification by reading the text.

  • Marty Weybret posted at 12:40 pm on Tue, Mar 16, 2010.

    Marty Weybret Posts: 3 Staff

    Thanks for the overture, Mr. Stanfield. I didn't spot your number in the book. Feel free to call me at 369-2761 or e-mail: . I know Don Shalvey had his critics. I might point out that right now he's working for the Gates Foundation on educational issues ... Gates has his detractors, too.

  • posted at 10:37 am on Tue, Mar 16, 2010.


    wtf, great idea.

  • posted at 5:27 pm on Mon, Mar 15, 2010.


    If I could have a wish come true, it would be to fire the Superintendent...heck just get rid of the ENTIRE District Office; it's not needed. KEEP the Principals; make all schools charter schools and make 'em compete....a little healthy competition goes a long way.

  • posted at 3:45 pm on Mon, Mar 15, 2010.


    There is a lot of good and bad in these arguments....but gawd almighty do not hold the post-human "don shalvey" as an example for anything. The Lusd survived him, but I dont think any one else will. Marty, give me a call and I will tell you more.

  • posted at 9:37 am on Mon, Mar 15, 2010.


    I have written this before but here it goes again. In 10-20 years Schools as we know themWill no longer exist.. They will be replaced by Private and Charter schools.. In both types of schools 100% parent involvement is mandatory and not just once and a while. Teacherswork on a year to year basis, poor performance you toast. Pay will be much better than what is paid now.. Students will be challenged to the maximum.. Goof offs will not betolerated and poor performers will be dropped. That in itself is not new private schoolswill drop a student for misbehavior and failing grades and a lot of charter schools do theSame. Not everyone is college material and that is what Technical Schools are for. ThisCountry needs skilled craftsmen and the shortage in those fields is hurting America inA big way….

  • posted at 8:18 am on Mon, Mar 15, 2010.


    Unions are in place to protect workers from the employers. In this case what do you think the employer (Superintendent & Her Cabinet) would do to the workers (Teachers). They would cut their pay and keep what they have. Then you would have a bunch of low payed teachers with no real experience in the classroom. I could see the test scores now. The unions are not to blame, the union is trying to negotiate, but FAT CATS in the district office do not.

  • posted at 5:33 am on Mon, Mar 15, 2010.


    The same answers to problems from the district office. Why not hold district office personal and the teachers union responsible for letting these schools to get out of hand. I do not hear about them loosing their jobs. Every solution requires the union approval? Who is really running the district...


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