By Yvette tenBerge
On Tuesday, May 14, the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) school board voted 3-2 to reject Sherman Elementary School’s proposal to convert to a science and technology-focused charter school.
After unanimously approving The Albert Einstein Academy’s proposal to start a dual-immersion education program in German and Spanish, and the Promise Charter School’s proposal to operate a “dawn to dusk” school that will serve the disadvantaged, inner-city youth in and around the Logan Heights area, the district told a crowd of Sherman Heights residents that their charter petition was denied.
Since the Sherman petition was submitted on March 5, community support has been divided. Proponents of the charter support the charter’s plan to turn the low-scoring school into a science and technology-based center whose curriculum and textbooks are based on the rigorous California State Standards. The opponents of the proposal, led by Principal Valerie Voss and her two vice principals, believe that going charter would deprive area children from the benefits promised by Superintendent Bersin, whose pricey Blueprint for Student Success has yet to produce noticeably positive results on state tests.
Although it was obvious that many of Sherman’s parents were confused as to the basic facts surrounding a charter school, President Ron Ottinger, the representative for the Sherman Heights area, did not step forward to offer assistance over the two-month period that the charter was being considered. Backed by board Vice-President Ed Lopez and Trustee Sue Braun, Mr. Ottinger voted the proposal down. The three also voted against an amendment proposed by Trustee John de Beck that would have allowed the existing district-run school and the proposed charter school to operate side-by-side on the Sherman Elementary campus.
The Sherman charter plan is the second to be rejected out of the more than 20 charter proposals passed by the district. The first was revoked over management problems. The board cited faults with the proposed budget, community opposition and weak curriculum as the grounds for rejecting the petition. Experts in the community, including a lawyer who advises the majority of charter school in San Diego County, countered the district’s claims.