Thursday, April 14, 2011

Edison Gets One More Chance --Charter Renewal Board Hearing April 26

I had earlier reported that the SFUSD Board had denied Edison's charter renewal and that the matter was now with state Department of Education authorities. Well, I was wrong. Edison has resubmitted its charter renewal petition giving the Board another chance to vote on it April 26, 2011. In its new proposal, Edison has sought to cure whatever deficiencies were in its earlier application. In my view, this gives the Board a chance to do the right thing and renew Edison's charter. Edison is a K through 8 situated on Dolores Street in Noe Valley. A little more than a year ago, a new group of managers, led by Adrienne Morrell, broke free from the for-profit Edison Charter school system and have been trying to turn Edison into a neighborhood charter school. I toured the school this past Fall looking for a smaller-grade middle school alternative for my special ed son Ben. And I found her and the staff to be welcoming of my son. Indeed, and I hope I'm not disclosing anything too personal, Ms. Morrell herself has had family members who had learning disabilities and thus educating all students -- regardless of learning disability -- is a personal passion for her. And it shows in Edison's test scores -- the school is now achieving a "10" in testing when comparing its demographics to other schools. That's notable. Honestly, we don't have many public schools in the city at that level. It also is a small-grade middle school, and the Gateway situation I described below shows that many public school parents want a small-grade middle school option like Edison. Furthermore, the school has expanded arts offering and is now offering Spanish-language instruction (starting this year at the K level) that will eventually expand throughout the school. Indeed, for K parents upset at their Round I lottery choice, this is an alternative that should not be missed. In short, in my view, this is a school that should be given another chance.

67 comments:

  1. My understanding of the last vote was not that they were outright rejecting Edison, but that the idea of applying for a "renewal," when the school has really been remade and has broken away from the Edison for profit model, was not really applicable. The board had suggested they apply, not for a renewal, but for an initial Charter School application. There seemed to be a lot of Board members who were sympathetic to the school getting its feet off the ground, but they wanted it to proceed through the proper route for approval.

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  2. Edison Charter Academy is not chartered by SFUSD -- it's chartered by the state Board of Ed. So it couldn't be trying to apply for a renewal. Rather, is Edison now trying to BECOME an SFUSD charter? It was an SFUSD charter until 2001, and has been an SBOE charter since then -- under, as you say, its former for-profit management.

    The experience with Edison in 2000-2001 (again, under different management) was so unbelievably hellish and harmful to our district that I think it resulted in SFUSD's becoming one of the less charter-friendly districts around. So even though it was different management, one can imagine why SFUSD might not be exactly welcoming. If I hadn't known it was a different operator, my jaw would be on the floor at the notion that they'd even ask.

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  3. I'm not defending the Edison of old, but if every SFUSD school had to come before the board to apply for renewal, Edison would be just one among many unhappy stories.

    For-profit should be held to a higher standard. But it is also true that not-for-profit public schools that fail to improve year after year still have to be paid for. Profit is a dirty word for many, but let's remember there are many ways to profit, both from success in the private sector and through failure when government is funded regardless of outcome or benefit.

    There is nothing wrong with holding schools accountable for improvement within an appropriate context. Not to do so is simply a way to perpetuate the status quo. There has to be incentive for hard work and innovation.

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  4. I got the story about the Edison application. Edison wants to have its charter renewed, and its charter is from the California state Board of Ed (again, it's strictly a rent-paying tenant in an SFUSD site). But the law requires it to go before the SFUSD BOE and be turned down before it can apply for a charter with the SBOE. But just to be clear, it's not a current SFUSD charter applying for a renewal of the SFUSD charter.

    It's no longer a for-profit, Don. I was involved in a crusade to get the truth out about its FORMER operator, Edison Schools Inc., but it's no longer part of what remains of Edison Schools Inc.

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  5. I run a youth nonprofit and was impressed with the principal who gave me a call about one of their students that was to be traveling with our program back in December. She was extremely attentive, knowledgable about the program and concerned about the kid.

    Our program, and this one in particular, work with among the most disadvantaged kids in San Francisco who attend some of the most disadvantaged SFUSD schools. I was impressed that she took the inititative and time to contact me.

    SF can use more of these kinds of principals and schools. I hope it goes through and can stay

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  9. Because all his sock puppets have been banned and he has nobody to talk to?

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  10. "Stick to the topic, please, Don -- why gratuitously try to provoke me?"

    And was the topic what happened with Edison ten years ago? That Edison is only the same in name didn't stop you from raising that specter in the context of an entirely unrelated charter application.

    SFUSD is just going through the motions because Brown in now Governor. They feel that they must at least appear to be even-handed.

    Ignore the troll.

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  11. Aronoid, Anonymous,Anon, Moggy or whatever you currently call yourself,
    When are you going to understand that I am not Floyd, Mariah, Cedric JeffScalini or anyone other than myself? When are you going to stop accusing me and apologize for spreading untruths? It is you that is hijacking threads, sockpuppeting and being uncivil. You have been asked to desist from engaging in this destructive behavior. Please heed the better angels of your nature.

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  12. No, I was correcting the description of Edison's current situation -- it is not accurate that it's a current SFUSD charter requesting a renewal.

    SFUSD is required by law to "go through the motions."

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  13. Caroline,

    I think you are getting into a fine line that does not resonate with the average person. Most people couldn't care less who provides the charter, SFUSD or the SBE. That like's being incorporated in Nevada or Delaware.I understand your point and it is not a complicated issue, but these procedural issues are of no consequence to anyone other than a devotee. But you were nice to provide a context for what's happening. I don't think the Board's re-review is motivated out of genuine concern that the community may be passing up an opportunity in Edison.

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  14. Right; I was just correcting the inaccuracy in the original post, especially because some other commenter had asked about it on one of these two threads. It isn't of great consequence.

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  15. The school district wants to kill the competition.

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  16. 9:10, that's the issue with charter schools -- they do drain resources from school districts -- from non-charter schools and the students in them. So there's quite a rational and totally responsible reason for wanting "to kill the competition." I'm a charter critic for that reason, but small independently run charters aren't the target.

    In this case, SFUSD is just going through the legally required motions, since the future of Edison Charter Academy is in the hands of the state Board of Ed.

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  17. But Caroline I don't understand why it is in the hands of the state board. It is sfusd that votes on it April 26. I hope you are not suggesting the Board has already made up it's mind against Edison. That would be very unfair.

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  18. Caroline can you explain how charters drain funds from other schools?

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  19. Anon, the school is currently chartered by the state Board of Ed and is not an SFUSD charter school. It wants to renew its charter. The law requires it to go before the district board first. So the district would have to decide to take on a new charter (which is a resource drain, as noted). But it appears that Edison simply wants to continue the current situation, which would mean that the district simply pro forma denies the application.

    Don, because charters suck students out of the public schools, and with them the ADA funding. Charters are also the beneficiary of an endless amount of hype from the mainstream media and promotion by the powerful right-wing think tanks, which gives them a (free) marketing boost that public schools can't hope to match.

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  20. Also, Anon, our district went through unbelievable hell with Edison Charter Academy under its previous dishonest and sleazy management. (And it was hell that cost a lot of money and other resources, at the expense of all the other schools and the children in those schools.) It would be ironic, to say the least, if they just cheerfully decided to approve the school as an SFUSD charter again after that, even though it's under different management.

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  21. "charters suck students out of the public schools, and with them the ADA funding."

    Should SFUSD decide to open anther traditional public school, it too would drain out ADA funding. It doesn't seem to me to be the issue. If the school provides a public benefit the ADA funding is well spent, if not then ADA is poorly spent as is true with other schools that have been in Program Improvement year after year.

    As for Edison, I know nothing of it as present. But it sounds as if it has nothing to do with the old Edison.

    Can you tell me if a state charter has advantages or disadvantages over a district charter, either for the applicant, the state or the district. Do state charters has greater access to funding infrastructure and does a district charter leave the LEA holding the bag for providing a site?

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  22. If SFUSD decides to open a new school, it's based on district officials' assessment of the need for a new school in the overall picture. If a charter opens, it's not based on the big picture of the district's needs. So that puts sucking the resources out of other schools at the expense of the other schools and the children in them in a different light.

    I don't know what all the advantages and disadvantages are of a state vs. a district charter. The state BOE under Schwarzenegger was stacked with charter industry insiders, so whatever advantages could be sent in charters' direction presumably were being sent.

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  23. Caroline, if the SFUSD denies the charter on April 26, the state board will not take up a renewal of Edison's charter until July. July is terribly late for the 540 families that go to that school -- what are they supposed to do if, in July, the state board also denies Edison its charter? Frankly, how would SFUSD deal with that situation -- is SFUSD prepared to absorb 540 K through 8 graders into its system within less than a month?

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  24. Whether charters get more $ per student than regular district schools I cannot say but Caroline probably knows. I would assume it's the same per-student amount, and if they take special needs kids (which I gather they are not required to do), they whatever resources are needed to meet the "free appropriate public education" standard.

    My understanding is that charters are different (I'm not saying better, just different) in the following:
    1. They have a choice whether to work with unionized teachers. If they don't work with unionized teachers, that would presumably give them more flexibility about school hours, hiring and firing.
    2. They have to cover state content standards but have more flexibility to select textbooks and approaches (e.g., they can use Singapore Math rather than Everyday Math if they want to.)
    3. Decisions can be made at the school level independently of the district.
    4. They have greater freedom to deny admission or expel students.

    Again, I'm not trying to argue charters are better. Some of what charters claim to offer appear to be happening at non-charter, regular SFUSD schools, such as arts focus (Rooftop, New Traditions) or successful test results for African-American and Latino students who statistically fare worse than Asian and white students (Moscone, ER Taylor).

    Interesting story in last week's NY Times magazine about a principal of a regular public middle school in the Bronx that's doing a lot to get better within the constraints of a highly challenged student population, restrictive teachers' union work rules, and curricular restraints of a regular public school.

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  25. Charters in California get about 69% of what conventional public schools get.

    I'm not sure I buy Caroline's idea when she says,

    "If SFUSD decides to open a new school, it's based on district officials' assessment of the need for a new school in the overall picture. If a charter opens, it's not based on the big picture of the district's needs."

    Charters have to enroll students to survive. If they can't there is no demand. Why would a charter open if there wasn't the demand for it? There's lot of work in charterization.

    I don't want to get into another charter debate redux.

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  26. Yes, SFUSD could easily absorb 540 students in July. Of course they won't get much of a "choice" of schools; they'll be left to pick from the dregs. There are several schools which are very under-enrolled.

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  27. What schools are underenrolled? What do you mean by underenrolled. Empty classrooms, small class sizes? Many schools have small class sizes to comply with QEIA. In fact, SFUSD is trying to get a waiver from the State to go over 11 students per class.

    People repeatedly assert that schools are underenrolled. Yes, if SFUSD hired more teachers, some schools could handle more students. But we don't have enough staff as it is. The idea that schools are underenrolled is a myth.

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  28. Does he argue with everybody? Just for the sake of arguing? He doesn't know what he is talking about, but that never stops him from constantly commenting on every single thread, does it?

    There are several under-enrolled schools.

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  29. I think people are perhaps confusing the term "under capacity" with "under enrolled." They are two different things.

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  30. Ok, define each.

    I say schools that have some classrooms with 17 students or less in the class are under capacity AND underenrolled. (Ones that are NOT QEIA-eligible schools).

    such as:
    Mission
    Cobb
    O'Connell
    Tenderloin

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  31. Mission is both QEIA and SIG and O'Connell is SIG. First and second decile schools are QEIA eligible, but funds have to be rationed so only some schools get it. SFUSD tries to make up for lack of QEIA with TIIBG for class size reduction at low decile schools.

    It is easy to get the impression that schools with small populations or small class sizes are underenrolled. Laws have driven down class sizes, but financial pressures are making those low sizes unmanageable.SFUSD is applying for a waiver to increase class sizes in some schools that currently have a max of 11 per class by law. They had to lower the sizes by about 5 students from previous levels to comply.

    Some schools have seen enrollment drop due to choice policies, but staffing drops accordingly. Alamo used to have 740 students and now has 530. Is it underenrolled?

    Just because a schools can fit more students doesn't mean it is underenrolled.

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  32. Here's a quote from Steve Barr, a major player in the charter world as founder of the Green Dot charter operator: "Taking a kid and $8,000 away from a school system is bare-knuckled politics." (From the book "Stray Dogs, Saints, and Saviors: Fighting for the soul of America's toughest high school" by Alexander Russo, Page 187.)

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  33. I asked above where these kids are going to go to if their school is closed down. I have yet to hear anything other than these kids are going to be dumped into poor performing public schools. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this wouldn't be happening to the school but for the fact that the school is 80% low income Latinos. They are politically unsavvy. My kids don't go there but I feel terrible for these families.

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  35. Caroline,

    You could say the same for SFUSD and the charter process. If the 540 families want Edison and the school can demonstrate that it is making good progress and is well-run, it is bare-knuckled politics not to authorize a District charter. If SFUSD was smart it would not dump those kids back into underperforming schools in a transfer process that usually bodes ills for student achievement. And you can bet they won't put them into SIG schools were the influx and class size increases would have a negative impact on their plans for school turnaround. Of course the resources at those SIG schools are exactly what underperforming students need if they are dumped back into the system.

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  36. Anon and Don, I'm not advocating closing the Edison charter school.

    My understanding is that they want to continue to be chartered by the state Board of Ed, and the pro-forma application to SFUSD is a mandatory part of that process -- it's just to keep operating as they are.

    I don't know the benefits of being chartered by the state as opposed to the district -- one of them would be way less scrutiny, however -- but if that's what they want, why are you all complaining? There may be funding advantages, too (given that state government has been so very charter-friendly throughout the Schwarzenegger years).

    And an additional charter is a burden to the district and a drain on its management resources, so why would you advocate that?

    If Edison wants the state charter and the district wants them to have the state charter, that hideous term "win-win" applies, so why complain about it?

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  37. Rachel wrote a piece about Edison, but she did not explain what deficiencies caused the Board to deny the application.

    There's probably more going on than meets the eye. Not being in the know about the particulars I can only say that I would hope that SFUSD would look at student achievement and use that as its litmus test. It is very paradoxical for a school district with many severely underperforming schools to be a in position to scrutinize a charter school which seems to be outperforming and to deny them a chance to continue to do so. I'm inclined to think that SFUSD is almost jealous of their success, but then again, like I said, I don't know the real story. I only hope they do the right thing.

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  38. Caroline and don -- don is right that we don't know from Rachel why the sf board turned down the initial charter application in February. But I do know from Rachel's post that charter approval is no longer a slam dunk at the state level. And the process is such that, if SFUSD turns down the charter again tomorrow, the next the state authorities can possibly take up the Edison charter is July. I know this because I called up the state authorities and asked them. If they say yes, that's fine; but what if Rachel is right and they say no? Now, I don't have a bone in this, but I think it is just terrible that 540 families could be left scrambling for a new school with barely a month left before the start of school. This is particularly so because the vast majority of
    the students there are low income. Can't they get at least a one year grace period so that things can be wound down in an orderly fashion?

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  39. Caroline,

    You seem to be contradicting yourself with the two statements below. Could you explain? And could you tell us why, hypothetically speaking, a charter school is more of a burden on the district when it only gets 69% of a conventional school, and far less than some schools which get at least double the average per pupil and continue to fall short year after year in program Improvement?


    1."Anon and Don, I'm not advocating closing the Edison charter school."

    2."And an additional charter is a burden to the district and a drain on its management resources, so why would you advocate that:

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  40. Caroline, why don't you just ignore him?

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  41. "we don't know from Rachel why the sf board turned down the initial charter application in February."

    Imagine if people who commented (and who wrote the original post) actually took the time to read the Board of Education Meeting transcripts, or watched the meetings? Maybe they'd know why Edison's petition was denied. Imagine.

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  42. It doesn't appear as if any of us know why the board denied Edison except you. Can you enlighten us?

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  43. Go to the SFUSD website and listen to the February 8th BOE meeting, or read the transcript.

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  44. I just watched the video of the Edison portion of the meeting. It's about half an hour long.

    It seems that the petition was denied based on deficiencies with the budget and there is some issue with Mercy Alley as regards SFUSD's lease agreement. The petition was apparently a little too home grown for them. That's ironic because SFUSD couldn't put together a petition themselves if they had to. They hire consultants to do that for them. They have the money. Edison does not. At least the SBE will look at what is really important. And I suspect that even with the procharter lobby gone, they will see the value that Edison has, unlike SFUSD that is run by self-serving bureaucrats. In my own experience with the SBE, they are much less enthralled by their own power than SFUSD.

    Though the commissioners paid lip service to the successes of the school they all denied the petition. That is to say, they are less concerned with the education and welfare of the 540 students than they are with some technical problems of a petition. Or so it would seem. I think what's really happening is the just would prefer if Edison's charter was continued at the state level. I suspect there are good fiscal reasons for them to let the State be the authorizer. That's too bad. As usual SFUSD chooses not to lead and instead pass the buck.

    I was encouraged that at least Rachel had the foresight to see what was really important by noting that Edison is serving its community well. Too bad she didn't have the courage to vote her heart and sided with the lawyers.

    Once again SFUSD has shown its disdain for what's really important, the students and their achievement.

    SFUSD game of pretending to concern itself with the technical deficiencies of the petition is not lost on me, given that it is the single largest abuser of State Ed Code in California.

    Moggy's was right to say we should read the transcript or watch the video, though I highly doubt she did so herself, given that she didn't have anything to add herself. If she wants to be the blog pit bull that is fine, but next time why doesn't she share your vast knowledge with the rest of us? That wouldn't be so difficult, would it?

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  45. The application submitted by the new Edison Charter management team was rejected by the BOE based on staff's recommendation. The staff's analysis was that their application did not demonstrate that they could succeed fiscally. I could not find a copy of the staff recommendation or notes from the Budget Committee meeting online. Comments from the BOE hearing indicated that the application submitted was woefully incomplete, suggesting that while their curriculum plan was great they didn’t have a fiscally responsible plan for how to deliver it. The BOE commended the new Edison team for breaking away from their former charter management company. However, they need to demonstrate that the management void would be filled with competent and experienced leadership. Good intentions are not always enough. Perhaps, now that they have had more time, they have been able to fill those voids and will be more successful at the State level.

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  48. And what is SFUSD fiscally sound plan to run its schools? To take every last available penny from successful schools and give it to less successful schools.

    And then consider SFUSD's "fiscally sound management" in which it hands over millions to SIG schools and requires no documentation or proof of how the money is spent for the supplies.

    Why was it that commissioners stated over and over that there were deficiencies with the petition, not one of them asked or stated what specifically were those deficiencie? That was not just an oversight. This process stunk up the room.

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  49. Don, shut the %$#$ up.

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  50. Considering the source, I'll take that as a compliment. But can we stick to subject at hand and not engage in your tiresome personal issues?

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  51. "though I highly doubt she did so herself, given that she didn't have anything to add herself"

    is what Don writes and then states that "we should stick to the subject at hand and not engage in your tiresome personal issues"

    See, Don thinks that "engaging in tiresome personal issues" is OK for HIM to do, but it is not OK when others are sick of his incessant crap and fight back?

    What a psycho.

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  52. 9:40 am, that's the gist of it, yes.

    They also discussed how it should have been an application for a new Charter School, instead of trying to do a renewal, because, as Edison claims, it has broken ties with the for-profit Edison folks, and is now branching it off on its own, as a different kind of school.

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  53. People who hide behind anonymity do so for a reason: They are unwilling to owe up to their own behavior.

    We were having a perfectly reasonable and very civil dialogue until you came along, Moggy, with your insults, your filthy comments and your snide attitude. When you provoke people don't be surprised to get provoked in return. Ignore the troll.

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  54. Ignore Don, he drives many people away from this blog.

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  55. Without mentioning any names, some of us have gotten the picture over time. It's better to ignore her as you would any troll than to respond.

    Does anyone know what were the problems with Edison's financial management. Are they confidential? Is that the reason they were not aired at the meeting?

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  56. No one wants to discuss the real issue and that is the union is well represented on the SFUSD Board of Education. They don't want charters because, as was mentioned at the hearing, teacher wages are lower as a rule at charter schools like Edison. SFUSD can hardly come out and say it as they have a legal obligation to give charters a fair hearing. They get their hearing, but it isn't fair. If it wasn't one thing they would have found something else for which to deny it. The union has them in their pocket, though they sometimes like to pretend otherwise just for appearances.

    Mrs. Morell should have asked Carlos Garcia how much he spent of District's money to have Partners for School Innovation write the SIG application for him.

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  57. Charter schools want to steal public education though the backdoor. First they will break the unions then topple the bureaucracies. Edison, CACS, KIPP, they are all enemies of the State lying in wait.

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  58. Just the sort of uninformed opinion one expects to find these days here on sfkfiles.

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  59. Thank goodness we have intellectuals to tell us when our opinions diverge from the acceptable group-think of sophisticates such as yourself.

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  60. Joseph here -- yes, it is true that I did not watch the entire earlier Board meeting, but my quick look confirmed what Don's longer study demonstrated -- the Board did not specify the exact issues with Edison's budget plan. And I did find out that, if SFUSD denies the petition, the state board will not take the petition up until July. That means that, if they deny the petition in July, Edison parents will have only a month to find a new school -- not a very attractive option for them, to say the least! Rachel has a synopsis of the meeting last night (the 26th) on her blog. I'm glad to see that she seems inclined to give Edison a break, but apparently Edison's funding is shaky. There's going to be another discussion of Edison at a committee meeting on Thursday, so stay tuned.

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  64. Joseph again -- Yesterday (April 28th), the Examiner quoted Jill Wynns as saying that the experience with the for-profit Edison had left "a bad taste in the community" and that she was not going to support Edison's petition. Anyone at the meeting last night (Thursday) who knows how the discussion of Edison's budget deficiencies went?

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  65. The board will agree to Edison's Charter renewal.

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  66. I found the position of Wynns as it was represented in the Examiner article a couple days ago to be very irrational. She seems absolutely close-minded about Edison due to the troubles of the past. It is a new school with new management and a new focus and style. She should be looking out for the welfare of the students and voting in their best interests, whatever that might be, not making a decision on the basis of events that happened years ago and are unrelated to the present.

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