Tuesday night became Wednesday morning before the Santa Barbara School Board finished talking about the Cesar Ch¡vez Charter School this week. It was easily the most-attended school board meeting in years-many of the attendees arriving in a pro- Cesar Ch¡vez march-as boardmembers dove into the debate about whether or not to renew the school’s expired charter. Tasked with deciding if Cesar Ch¡vez satisfies any of the four performance criteria mandated by the state for renewing a school’s charter, the board heard lengthy presentations from Principal Eva Neuer and governance committee president Lee Fleming, who crunched numbers in favor of renewal. The board was also given a detailed presentation from Superintendant Brian Sarvis and Davis Hayden, the district’s director of Research and Evaluation, who explained the many ways in which the school falls short of the state standards. “No one wants to close this school,” explained Sarvis, “But on measure after measure they do not qualify for renewal.”
In the end, after boardmember Ed Heron pointed out a stipulation in the school’s charter that outlines a deliberate mediation process for disputes betwixt the school and district on such matters, the board decided to hold off on making a final decision and have two boardmembers-Heron and board president Kate Parker-sit down in the coming week with Neuer, Sarvis, and two governance committee members in hopes of reaching common ground on interpretations of the school’s chronically underperforming standardized test results and, more importantly, finding statistical evidence that allows for renewal-something that all boardmembers expressed a strong desire to discover. However, according to Sarvis, the California Department of Education has given the district until December 15 to resolve the charter debate, at which time the school faces the possibility of a state-enforced mid-year closure.