Teachers with Seaside School District 10 took the opportunity to stand and speak against a proposed charter school in Cannon Beach during a public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 15. In a reversal of the Aug. 18 hearing, the majority of those who testified, including parents, opposed the school.
“It isn’t an ‘us vs. them,’” parent Michelle Wunderlich said. “I’m not against the charter school. I’m just very much for a strong district for everyone.”
She said the charter would take away financially from the district. “It’s affecting the whole pie too much for such a small piece,” Wunderlich added.
Chuck Albright, a third-grade teacher at Gearhart Elementary School, echoed Wunderlich’s sentiments. He said all students need an “excellent education” and the wants of 75 students should not be placed ahead of the needs of 1,500.
He added that there’d be diminished quality in the district regardless of the teachers’ skills.
Without incentives, Gearhart fourth-grade teacher Sena Bergquist said she doesn’t see how Cannon Beach Academy would attract the same high caliber teachers. And with the loss of up to 85 students, she’s also concerned about how funding cuts would “negatively affect” the other schools.
Cannon Beach Academy Board of Directors President Ryan Hull said he sees a reduction in class sizes as a benefit for Seaside schools.
After the meeting he said the district would receive 20 percent of what the charter would get per student from the state if it sponsors the academy.
Seaside Union President John Meyer handed over a list of 11 points against the charter school signed by a dozen people, the majority of whom were district teachers.Meyer said he is not comfortable with the academy’s curriculum and would only be OK with a school in Cannon Beach if it managed by the district.
A sense of belonging
Hull said Cannon Beach Academy wants to be a part of the district. If the school district supports the academy rather than the state, he added, there would be “set checks and balances.” The academy would have to give annual reports and could be closed if it doesn’t meet measurable goals.
“We’re part of the district still,” he said. “We’re not an outside entity, but we are different.”
The academy would have its own curriculum which, Hull admitted, wouldn’t be for everyone. But it would provide options that would benefit many students, he added.
Seaside’s Kevin Widener joined Hull in speaking on behalf of the academy. He said Cannon Beach residents pay a “great deal of taxes” and deserve their own school, one he thinks will work for students.
Cannon Beach Elementary was closed in 2013 for financial reasons and fears for student safety. The building lies in the tsunami inundation zone. The charter school has already been denied twice by the district, citing lack of an adequate location and secure start-up funds.
Hull addressed those concerns on Aug. 18. The school has a conditional use permit from the Cannon Beach Planning Commission allowing it to modify and occupy a ground-floor portion of the former Athletic Club at 171 Sunset Blvd., and the academy has collected donations and created a balanced three-year budget.
Meyer read through the charter’s proposal and said “the numbers just don’t match,” adding he doesn’t think the academy would even be able to receive bank financing.
Cannon Beach Academy officials would like to meet with district officials to work through such concerns, Hull said.
Thirty day review
Under ORS 338.055, the school district has 30 days to ensure a charter’s application is complete, which it did on June 22. It then has 60 days to hold public hearing, which occurred on Aug. 18, and 30 days after that to render a decision. Hull argued that the continued hearing on Sept. 15 went over that alloted timeframe. Under that statute, he said, a decision concerning the charter school’s fate should have been issued by Sept. 17.
Despite feeling the school district went over the legal timeframe, Hull added that the academy’s board has voted to work with Seaside 10 over the next 30 days.
“At the end of the day, my goal is focused on getting a public charter school for Cannon Beach,” he said. “If that means 30 days more, we’ll take it.”
Under state law, the State Board of Education may also grant an extension of the timeline “if the district has good cause for requesting the extension.”
Superintendent Doug Dougherty said both parties agreed to the extension.
At the end of day, what matters is that the district can trust the academy to be safe with the kids, financially stable and educational strong, Hull said. If Cannon Beach Academy meets that criteria, the school should be approved, he added.
Dougherty said the school board will look to state criteria for its decision making.
The board has 30 days to issue a decision. If it says no for a third time, Cannon Beach Academy could again appeal to the State Board of Education.
The next school board meeting is Oct. 18.