Friday, January 10, 2014

Charter school extravaganza coming to MPUSD

On Tuesday, trustees with the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District will consider two charter school proposals. For starters, they will have a hearing to gauge support for the Monterey Global Vision Charter School proposed by Vadim Nazarenko.

Last August, Nazarenko proposed the California Classical Language Academy Charter School, which was soundly rejected. Judging by preliminary review of the latest proposal, it's likely the Global Vision Charter will meet the same fate of the Classical Language.

Trustees will also decide whether to accept staff recommendations and give the go-ahead to the creation of the Monterey Academy of Oceanographic Studies charter. In other words, they'll decide whether to allow the successful program to split from Monterey High and go its own way.

It will be interesting to see if the board sticks to its independence streak, or if they go with administrator's recommendation.

I've been thinking a lot about what the split would mean for Monterey, but I think my fears are best expressed by a letter I received a couple of days ago from a reader, a MAOS parent. I get the concerns from MAOS parents who want to make sure their children get the classes they need, but what about the other high school students?

Edward Johnson, a Monterey High Alumn, put it better than I ever could. He wrote this to the trustees.

Up until recently, I was strongly against MAOS becoming a dependent charter school. But after hearing the impassioned speeches of those in favor of it, I have softened my opinion. However, I am still unsettled about what it means for those “left behind”.

What do I mean? I am talking about those MHS students that are good students but maybe not up to MAOS caliber. I am talking about those students waiting to blossom. Will there be no top tier students in their classes to aspire to be like or to engage in an intellectual debate? Will there be no elite level teachers because they have left to teach the best and brightest in the MAOS dependent charter? Will there be a paucity of interested/educated MHS parents to push what is best for their kids.

Again, I believe that a dependent charter would be beneficial for the clearly identified gifted students in MAOS. The more pressing question for MPUSD/society is how to educate the MHS student body as a whole. Daily intellectual exchange between students is important. Quality teaching is important. Stimulating course work is important. Why? There are future scientists, doctors, lawyers and teachers in the mainstream student body waiting to be discovered, motivated and challenged. Additionally, the mainstream students will form the backbone of the workforce and society. They must be well educated.

I was a late bloomer in high school would not have been selected for MAOS as a 9th grader. But I was fortunate to have teachers like Mr. Steve Clark (eventual MAOS founder) and be in classes that had “smart” kids mixed in with mainstream students. At that time, there was no MAOS. I became inspired by the study of biology and made my way to college and beyond.

I can support a MAOS dependent charter school. However, we must also ensure a rich and challenging educational experience for all MHS students. As additional charter schools seek approval, the MPUSD Board cannot leave behind the interests of the mainstream students. Almost 60 years ago, Brown v. Board of Education found that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”. We must take care not to create separate facilities (schools) that lead to inequality.

These issues are complex and do not lend themselves to easy answers. I trust that the MPUSD Board will research, ponder and do what is best--morally and fiscally.


Edward Johnson, MD
MHS Class of 1978
Current MAOS Parent

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