The Lompoc Unified School District board of education on Tuesday denied a pair of charter requests that were submitted to the district by two local charter schools.
The board went along with staff recommendations by denying the petitions from Olive Grove and Trivium charter schools, both of which had supporters present at the meeting. The board voted 3-1 to deny the petitions, with member Bill Heath providing the lone vote against denial and member Richard King absent.
Although the petitions were denied, the schools can still appeal to the Santa Barbara County Education Office and then, if necessary, to the California Department of Education.
District staff provided a 12-page report outlining its recommended denial for Olive Grove and a 13-page report for its recommendation of denial for Trivium.
Among the reasons given in the recommended denial for Olive Grove was that it has a poorly performing educational program, its petition lacks specificity in describing the educational program, and “serious governance issues” at the school.
For Trivium, district staff cited an “unsound educational program,” a lack of qualifications by executive leadership, an inadequate professional development plan, a deficient budget and a lack of a reasonably comprehensive description of the way in which the school will achieve racial and ethnic balance.
Both schools, which offer independent study programs, made the requests to LUSD after a 2016 court ruling held that state education code does not permit a charter school to operate more than one resource center outside of the boundaries of the school district in which the charter school is authorized.
Both Trivium and Olive Grove operate campuses within LUSD boundaries and beyond. It’s because of that court ruling last year that both schools are now approaching LUSD for charter approval.
Olive Grove, which had a charter petition denied by LUSD in April, is currently operating under a state charter that runs through the 2020-21 school year. The school offers resource centers in New Cuyama, Orcutt, Lompoc, Santa Barbara, Buellton and San Luis Obispo.
Laura Mudge, the executive director for Olive Grove, provided a 12-page letter addressed to LUSD Superintendent Trevor McDonald outlining why she felt the district’s staff report “does not constitute legal grounds to deny” the school’s charter petition.
In response to the district’s claim that the school’s educational programs are poorly performing, Mudge claimed that the charter petition was for a new school and therefore shouldn’t have any test scores considered as a basis for denial. She responded to each of the other claims made in the district staff report before concluding, “We find the report to contain factual inaccuracies, misrepresentations and the misapplication of law, all of which appear designed to support a predetermined denial. …”
“Nevertheless,” her letter continued, “(Olive Grove Charter School) is committed to being a partner with the district and believes that many of the issues or concerns identified (by) staff can be resolved through supplemental information, good-faith discussion,” or amendments to the charter.
Trivium, which was founded in 2011, is operating under a charter from the Santa Maria-based Blochman Union School District. The school operates three learning centers in Santa Barbara County — in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Lompoc — and two more in San Luis Obispo County.
It is expected that both schools will appeal the petitions at the county and state levels, if necessary.
The next regular meeting of the LUSD board of education is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 9.