Will Children Lose in Morgan Hill Charter School Battle?

It’s sad to see some of the data on how poor and minority children perform in school in San Jose and the greater Silicon Valley. The results of longitudinal student test data have long indicated a sizeable achievement gap—a gap that threatens our region’s long-term economic viability. We can and must do better, especially in a district like Morgan Hill Unified.

Cooperation on what we know works for increasing student achievement is imperative. Unfortunately, our leaders and region continue to spend enormous amounts of energy, money and time on fighting one another over what some consider intruders in the public school system. The traditional public and charter school battles have heated up once again and the children, many times the neediest, lose. So does the region.

Community leaders and elected officials working together across political divides to promote policies that enhance quality of life for all citizens is essential for us to survive. Society benefits when leaders from all sides of the political spectrum put partisanship aside for the greater public good. Charter schools and public schools in some regions of this country are already collaborating in the name of improving learning results for children.

The SCCOE board meeting Tuesday night was originally scheduled to include two charter school expansion votes for the City of Morgan Hill. Both votes were being brought to our board on appeal after being denied authorization to operate schools in the 2014-15 school year by the Morgan Hill Unified School District.

Sadly, the adults in positions of power decided to muster the forces to quash the effort in Morgan Hill. On Jan. 8, Rocketship withdrew their appeal to our board.

“We continue to believe we made a strong case for a Morgan Hill campus, but after careful internal consideration and deliberation with our partners and the staff and Board of Trustees at the SCCOE, Rocketship’s Board of Directors has decided that we can make that case even stronger if we invest additional time and energy in both our charter petition and our partnership with the Morgan Hill Community, MHUSD and the SCCOE,” Rocketship’s David Kuizenga said.

I agree with Mr. Kuizenga. I hope Rocketship comes back to the MUHSD Board with a stronger petition after building the requisite argument for its existence. Both the adults and children can lose in a hostile environment, even though the charter might have been approved on appeal. That is why collaborating across a broad cross-sector is the goal for 2014.

On Monday, SCCOE Board Vice President Darcie Green and I visited Gilroy and Hollister prep schools. We were both tremendously impressed by the rigor of instruction, student engagement and culture of high expectations for every child. Some special need students who would normally be restricted to a special day class in a traditional public school were making enormous strides fully included in a regular classroom.

The vote on appeal was scheduled to go forward last night. The new SCCOE reviewed the Navigator petition on appeal. The office found many minor deficiencies, like not using a budget based on the state’s new local control funding formula, which would actually give Navigator more money that they used in their budgeting process in the original petition.

The staff conclusion reads, in part, “…although there is no one major deficiency in the petition, the fact that there are weaknesses in multiple areas … is disconcerting … In addition, Navigator currently has the benefit of a collaborative relationship with the respective school districts where their schools are located and enjoys a unique rapport that may or may not be replicated in Morgan Hill.” Therefore, the staff recommends denial to the county board.

My brain is not able to compute that in south county two district boards, Gilroy and Hollister, can muster the political will to do right by their children by collaborating with a high level organization to support this incredibly hard work of eliminating the achievement gap and one cannot. Morgan Hill’s Board last Fall voted 6-1 to deny both Rocketship and Navigator’s petitions. In so doing, it created an environment the SCCOE staff concludes is not conducive to opening a new school in 2014-15.

The Morgan Hill children and their city have lost due to the adults who wish to continue the unsustainable status quo.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion and can be found weekly on San Jose Inside.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.


  1. My brain is not able to compute that in south county two district boards, Gilroy and Hollister…

    Actually Hollister is in the northern part of San Benito County.

    Today’s Merc says that an application for a charter school in Morgan Hill was denied by the SCCOE. According to the Merc, Hover-Smoot, Mah and Beauchman supported it. Apparently you did not.

    You are either an “enigma wrapped in a riddle surrounded by mystery”, you’re disingenuous, or you’re just plain nuts.  What’s your deal?


    • Santa Clara County, San Benito County. Who cares?
      United States, Mexico. Who cares?
      Don’t go around confusing our elected leaders with petty details about boring, elitist matters like math, science, and geography.

      C’mon Randall. These are -The Children-  we’re talking about here.

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