An effort described as honorable but rushed was voted down last week by Santa Barbara Unified School District’s Board of Education as a group of parents and educators attempting to resurrect Open Alternative School (OAS) as a state-funded charter school failed to submit a persuasive petition. Citing financial and enrollment concerns, the district shut down the original OAS last year during a tearful board meeting that brought out many of the school’s founders, teachers, and alumni, who fought unsuccessfully to keep it open as a whole-child institute of pioneering educational approaches. The effort since then to rebrand and relocate OAS — renamed Open Academic School — came to a head on July 24 with the board’s unanimous vote of no confidence.
“This petition is so lacking in an instructional core plan,” Superintendent Cary Matsuoka said. “[I see] a lot of noble effort and great activities but hardly anything about what kids are going to learn.” Boardmembers concurred, adding that the petition missed two deadlines and proposed to open the new OAS this coming school year on undeveloped Hidden Valley acreage owned by the district, even though the property doesn’t have potable water or a paved road. “If we’re going to do justice to the memory of OAS, I don’t want an effort that’s half-baked,” said Boardmember Ismael Paredes Ulloa. “This [petition] bummed me out.” Boardmember Kate Parker added that the for-profit model proposed by the new OAS petition is “very unpopular,” and she would support efforts to ban them statewide. She said the board would be “grossly negligent” to approve the petition.
Supporters, including OAS alum Anthony Jackson, told the board that more than 100 families were ready to enroll and the new school’s executive staff was willing to reduce or suspend their salaries in order to get the doors open. Calls for comment were not returned before print deadline, but according to the OAS Facebook page, the effort “took a few hits but we’re READY for round 2!”