If NUSD is created, the Eagle Peak school would be in the territory of NUSD, and the options for the school are fairly clear: 1) They could keep their charter with MDUSD and move to a location within the boundaries of MDUSD; 2) They could ask the new district to move their charter to NUSD, making NUSD their chartering authorizer and allowing them to remain where they are; or 3) They could move their charter to the County, making the County Office of Education their charter authorizer, allowing them to locate anywhere in Contra Costa County, including remaining in their current location.
This is an unusual situation, because new school districts are rarely created in CA, especially with an existing charter school in the new territory. But the three choices still apply. Since the school has a good facility currently that seems to meet their needs, it is logical that they would want to stay. That means options 2 or 3 would be more likely.
The school head and others questioned whether NUSD would accept their charter, saying that Northgate CAPS has no legal authority to promise that result, which is true. But charter schools seeking authorization most often encounters hurdles when they are new — with no operating record, no financial history, no track record of achievement for the prospective students, and often, no teaching staff or facilities. Charter authorizers, whether at the district, county or state level, look at a charter’s plans for all of those factors to see if the total plan seems feasible.
Eagle Peak would not face ANY of those factors. They have a solid 16-year track record of operating a school, teaching students, and managing the school’s affairs. They are a popular school with a sizable waiting list of students who would like to attend. No charter authorizer in the state would have any legal basis for denying a charter to an established school like Eagle Peak. If NUSD tried to deny Eagle Peak’s charter, it would quickly be approved by the County Office of Education. They have approved many charters on much less of a basis than Eagle Peak.
Certain Eagle Peak families have expressed concern that a new charter to allow them to remain at their current location would impede the school’s efforts to increase its diversity. (It was 50.8% white/non-Hispanic in the 2015-16 school year.) Charters schools in California are allowed to draw their students from anywhere in the state. Some district-authorized charters have agreements with their authorizing district giving district residents priority in lotteries for student admission, but we do not believe NUSD would have any incentive to seek such a concession, and in any case, Eagle Peak would be under no obligation to accept it. Which means the school could continue to accept students from more diverse neighborhoods to continue to improve overall diversity at the school.
So given the relative ease with which concerns of Eagle Peak families and administration can be addressed, we have to ask, why have the leaders of Eagle Peak made such an issue of this, which has frightened so many of their parents? Do they have any examples, from anywhere in California, of a charter school with Eagle Peak’s track record being denied the opportunity to continue operating or being constrained in any of the ways that they say they fear?
What is particularly puzzling for us is that all of the families with students in Eagle Peak who live within MDUSD have chosen that fine school over the traditional MDUSD neighborhood schools that their children could have attended. They chose an education for their child that was different than what MDUSD could provide. That is exactly the choice that the residents of the proposed NUSD are also seeking.