Rocklin mulls online charter school petition

By: Jon Brines The Placer Herald Correspondent
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The Rocklin Unified School District is now considering a petition from a Southern California nonprofit organization to operate an online K-12 charter school in Rocklin despite some resistance from board members and a lack of public comments at the school board meeting held last week. Charter School Development Systems in association with Global Tides Inc. uses online courses and follow-up appointments with locally employed teachers to teach students at home or with assistance from the school district. It’s designed to help students underserved by school districts including potential dropouts, special needs and English learners, according to charter documents. “It’s amazing,” said CSDS representative Blaise Subbiondo. “The mothers call me and the schools have tried everything with their kid and they can’t learn. Then they try our program and it works.” Former school board president and current member Steve Paul voiced his concern for the specialized education program during the Oct. 7 public hearing, which failed to solicit comments from the public or teachers. “I don’t see this as a target way to help kids,” Paul said. “It is just a way to get a charter school out there and run it. I don’t think we’re in the business to help write charter school petitions. We’re here to serve our students.” Board member Greg Daley said he would prefer the charter school take their petition to the county school board instead. Subbiondo said the school board’s lack of support has more to do with a larger problem. “They don’t know what I’m talking about,” Subbiondo said. “There is a huge disconnect in education. The teachers are book people and the students are computer people.“ Subbiondo said teachers need to embrace the video game generation by capitalizing on how they learn. “The students we’re trying to help are strong visual people,” Subbiondo said. “People who are dyslexic when they read on the computer it seems to minimize that problem.” Superintendent Kevin Brown voiced his doubts for success. “It seems a bit daunting and challenging,” Brown said. “How are children who have not been successful in a brick and mortar school, everyday with a teacher, suddenly somehow teach themselves with a computer what instructors couldn’t do?” Subbiondo said parents, the student and the school all sign a contract for success. “It’s the parents’ responsibility,” Subbiondo said. “You have to have a buy-in commitment.” Rocklin High School senior Brittany Klang attended the board meeting and was interested in the charter program. “I honestly don’t think Rocklin has prepared me for college,” Klang said. Klang’s sister attends, Rocklin Academy, a charter school located on the campus of RUSD’s Ruhkala Elementary. “Charter students have a better experience with learning,” Klang said. “I think my sister learns more than I’m learning at Rocklin High School. She has an advantage over me.” For Superintendent Brown another charter school in Rocklin represents a fiscal challenge the school system doesn’t need right now. “The charter receives the district’s revenue for each student they enroll,” Brown said. “Charter schools have a significant impact on district’s financial abilities to meet their expenses when they enroll students.” Subbiondo has a different opinion on the funding debate. “We’re targeting the students who are not attending RUSD,” he said. The four year derived dropout rate for Rocklin Unified for 2007-2008 was 3.7 percent, according to the California Department of Education. “Do you want them to wind up in prison?” Subbiondo asked. “Seventy percent of people in prison don’t have high school diplomas.” CSDS is applying for charters in 14 counties across the state. If RUSD approves their petition to operate the online charter school in Rocklin, it would also allow them to operate in the rest of Placer County and the surrounding counties. “The school board shouldn’t be denying the parents that opportunity,” Subbiondo said. “Parents should have that choice.” RUSD is in the process of gathering more information and will issue their findings and a recommendation to deny or approve the charter petition at the Nov. 4 board meeting. The public is allowed to comment.