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Lease denial frustrates families, teachers

• Superintendent assures charter families they'll have a place to go • Families wish they had more notice, options • Administrators criticized for leadership


More than 100 people filled Corbett Schools’ multipurpose room Wednesday night for yet another tempestuous school board meeting.

The meeting led off with emotional public comment following the board’s 5-2 vote last week against renewing Corbett Charter School’s lease.

Families and teachers from the charter and Corbett schools begged the board to reconsider its decision, allowing families more time to figure out their next steps.

Charter parent Olivia Hipes asked the board members to imagine if the shoe was on the other foot and they were blindsided with the news that their school was being dismantled.

“Do you expect there would be no hesitation, no second thought about how you might be welcomed to a school where district residents only months earlier were telling you they wouldn’t pass a bond to remodel a school you attend?

“Isn’t the best option for these students ... to give their school one more year to secure a secondary building to operate from, so they will have the opportunity again to make the best informed decision for their education going forward?”

Hipes and other charter parents rallied together through a Facebook group, PCCS - Parents of Corbett Charter Students.

Another parent, Mary Stephens, expressed empathy for both charter families and those frustrated with the charter school and its director. She said she wished there had been more communication earlier to discuss district issues and propose possible solutions.

She also described the lengthy process many charter parents go through to select their children’s school and how the board’s decision left families little time to figure out next year’s plan.

“Allowing these issues to escalate to this point without any public notification or public process was a disservice to the teachers and the community,” Stephens said. “We need true leadership now to resolve this issue in a way that serves all of those invested in this combined community you voted to create five years ago, and reaffirmed only a few weeks ago.

“The children in this school will be the ones that pay the ultimate price for a hurried, unplanned dissolution of this once positive relationship. I know that we can all do better for each other and our children, and I hope that each person involved will re-examine other options for making this work for one year (nine months).”

Also during public comments, charter school teachers such as Lauren Ogden spoke candidly about their reaction to the non-renewal of the charter’s lease. Lily Hammers and Lauren Sinclair presented signed letters from all 18 of the charter school teachers.

Superintendent Randy Trani responded to the concern by saying Corbett School District intended to offer a full complement classes it has always offered.

“I have no concerns we will be solvent,” Trani said. “We offer a product people want.”

A Feb. 12 post on Corbett School District’s website states the board “intends to provide for the continuity of each student’s educational opportunities in Corbett School District.”

It states the charter school may find another venue within the district from which to operate and families would have the choice to attend school at the new venue. The board also will describe the process by which nonresident families can continue their student’s education on the main campus.

Reactions to last week’s decision turned to criticism of district administration.

One citizen, Kathryn Green, asked the board to consider requesting Trani’s resignation before directors evaluated his performance in an executive session later in the meeting.

Though she was standing by herself, Green told the board she was not alone in her request.

Green said she didn’t believe the schools were being run with smart, fair, sound business practices, and that the superintendent was not upholding the code of ethics for governing education bodies.

“Corbett School District is suffering from self-inflicted wounds in these areas and others and the condition is having very real, negative effects on our teachers, our students and our community,” she said.

“Please consider giving us the opportunity for a fresh start at running this school district with honesty, integrity, intelligence and a healthy sense of community.”

After public comment, the board discussed a proposed application through Oregon Department of Education STEM (science technology engineering and math) school for 2014-15.

The board decided to table the resolution until a later board meeting.

Director Mark Hyzer said he didn’t want to repeat the process of how the charter school started without giving the public an opportunity to comment.

“I want everyone to understand what we’re doing and why,” Hyzer said.

Following an executive session, the meeting concluded after 11 p.m. with the board announcing the results of Trani’s superintendent evaluation.

The directors’ consensus was a 3.5 out of 5 after the hour-long executive session. A three meant Trani met expectations and a 4 meant he exceeded expectations.

Trani’s score was based on these criteria: fostering intellectual development, maintaining and planning for adequate facilities, developing plans for safety and transportation during the school day, operating the district in a fiscally responsible manner and building trust in district communication among Corbett School District communities.




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