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August 12, 2022

Proposal takes shape for charter middle school

After almost two years of organizing to get a new independent charter middle school as part of the San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District, a final decision is expected next month.
On Feb. 7 at a regularly scheduled SLVUSD school board meeting, parents, students, teachers and administrators were invited to comment on a petition to form an “Integrative Leadership Academy” within the district.
“We believe that a partnership between Integrative Leadership Academy and SLVUSD to add another charter option to the Valley will return private and out-of-district charter school students to SLVUSD,” said Nicky Ramos-Beban, executive director of Integrative Leadership Academy. “Because the District charter programs are full with waiting lists, many parents feel they have no option except to leave the Valley for the schooling options they desire.  We are committed to recruiting from this population so that our charter school would have a net positive effect on SLVUSD district enrollment.”
As a non-profit organization based in Boulder Creek, Integrative Leadership Academy is aimed at giving kids an education that prepares them to become self-actualized, life-long learners and leaders. According to Ramos-Beban, this project brings an already-committed $1 million in philanthropy into the Valley during 2018 and over $600,000 each year thereafter.  
“I see this as an addition. I see it as giving the teachers better opportunities to have smaller classes,” said Genevieve Florea, of Boulder Creek at the meeting on Tuesday night. “We have amazing charters but I am frightened of that wait listing for my child.”
The idea for the middle school started back in the spring of 2016, after enough parent and community interest, a petition was written and submitted to the board of directors at SLVUSD. After receiving two rounds of public comments at the Feb. 7th board meeting, SLVUSD has 30 days to make a decision. The decision hearing is scheduled for March 7th’s board meeting. If SLVUSD does not authorize the charter petition, according to Ramos-Beban, the next step would be to submit a charter petition to Santa Clara County Office of Education, and if necessary to the State of California.
The room was packed for public comment at the February meeting. Several parents voiced opinions about wanting to see the charter approved because of the strong need to provide a variety of options.
Concerns were brought up by Claire Hackett, teacher at SLV Middle School, about how impact of adding a new charter school would have on the current middle school.
“SLV Middle School is a model middle school. We really focus on the emotional and mental state of the students,” Hackett said in front of the board. “I would be concerned about an independent charter and how it could possibly mean a loss of teachers.”
If approved, the middle school would be for grades six through eight and open with an initial cohort of 50 students. The location scouted for the school would be at the vacant Redwood Elementary, just north of Boulder Creek. If it is not possible to lease the facility from SLVUSD, then, according to Ramos-Beban another commercial or private facility would be looked at to lease or purchase.
SLVUSD already has one charter school, but it is considered a “dependent charter.” With this new proposal, Ramos-Beban and the Integrative Leadership Academy are seeking to become an “independent charter.” Meaning, while the charter is accountable to the district and the state the same way, the main difference is the state funds go directly to the school and then back to the district through contract for services and property leases.
“It became obvious there was a need,” said Eli Casey, of Boulder Creek. “And when I heard there was a potential for this new independent charter I had to voice my support to all the students who could benefit from this.”
For more information on the school design, see www.ilapublicschools.org and to find more information on the SLVUSD, see http://www.slvusd.org/

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