School board examines law governing charter schools


Since the Menlo Park City School District board was presented with a petition to authorize a Mandarin immersion charter school in the district six weeks ago, board members have participating in their own cram school course on charter school law.

District staff, teachers and parents have also been immersing themselves in the complex regulations that govern charter schools in California.

While the state's laws governing public education, known as the "ed code," are notoriously labyrinthine, charter school regulations may be even more so.

The district is working with an attorney specializing in charter school law, John Yeh, from the Mountain View offices of Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP.

On Monday night, Oct. 27, Mr. Yeh spent several hours briefing the board and an audience of about 25 people, through the process and criteria the board must use to guide its decision on the charter.

The board is scheduled to make its final vote on authorizing the charter on Wednesday, Nov. 12. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Encinal School Multi-Use Building at 195 Encinal Ave. in Atherton.

Mr. Yeh told the board that the law states: "The governing board of the school district shall grant a charter ... if it is satisfied that granting the charter is consistent with sound educational practice."

To deny the charter, the board must, he told them, use one or more of the following reasons:

● Find it proposes an "unsound educational program."

● Find the petitioners are "demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program."

● Find that the there are not the required number of signatures on the petition.

● Find the charter does not contain "reasonably comprehensive descriptions" in 16 required areas.

Mr. Yeh said member of the district's leadership team are examining the 218-page charter petition, its 118 pages of appendices and its signatures to see how they line up with charter school law requirements. A report on the results of that scrutiny should be available to the board and the public sometime during the week before the Nov. 12 vote, he said.

If the charter is not approved by the district, the backers can appeal to the county school board, and if the county board turns it down, to the state board of education.

Supporters of the Menlo Mandarin Immersion Charter School asked the district on Sept. 12 to authorize a 5-year charter for a kindergarten to eighth-grade school. The school would start next school year with 100 students in two classes of kindergarteners and two classes of first-graders with plans to expand by one grade each year until eventually including kindergarten through eighth grades and 450 students.

A charter school is a public school that cannot charge tuition to its students, but it can be run by a nonprofit corporation, and does not have to follow many of the laws governing other public schools.

In a language-immersion program, many of the classes are taught in the target language, with more classes taught in English as the students move through the grades. The Menlo Park district now has a popular Spanish immersion program.

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9 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2014 at 12:45 pm

pearl is a registered user.

I think the MPCSD has other things they should be spending their money on, such as teacher salaries, school books, school supplies and equipment, school programs and things that would benefit ALL students in the District. If people want to learn Mandarin, there are many resources in the community that can provide this service.

See reader comments and resource information in the 10/27 online edition of the Almanac News: Web Link

1 person likes this
Posted by Options Available today
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 8, 2014 at 3:57 pm

To all MMIC parents and proponents:

If you would like your K-8 student to learn Mandarin or experience Mandarin immersion TODAY and cannot wait for MPCSD to properly evaluate a Mandarin Immersion program, I want to make sure you are aware of many Options available in and around the Bay Area:

Global Montessori International School K-5 -
2314 Bancroft Way Berkeley, CA 94704

Shu Ren International School Pre-K-8 -
1333 University Avenue Berkeley, CA 94702-1710

Pacific Rim International School K-12 San Mateo - Web Link
54 Peninsula Ave.San Mateo, CA 94401

Chinese American International School K-8 - Web Link
140 Oak Street San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 865-6000

There are also many public school immersion programs available in Palo Alto, (and now redwood city!), the wider San Mateo County, San Francisco and the East Bay if you choose to move there. Many parents move to a city specifically to have access to the schools, so this seems a reasonable option for a family that would like their children to experience Mandarin Immersion.

The MPCSD is too small to support multiple Immersion programs at this time. The class makeup of MMIC is not going to be representative of our District. We have limited facilities to educate our own exploding district student population, much less additional out-of district students that we are not reimbursed for. Our schools have a number of other high priority programs to administer - including a review of our relatively new Spanish Immersion program.

And while it is not required to start a charter school in Califonia, the original intent of charter schools was to provide choice in low-performing districts (Does this sound like MPCSD?) and "meet the needs of low achieving students." (Will the MMIC serve these students?)

Like this comment
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2014 at 6:04 pm

pearl is a registered user.

@Options Available Today: Thank you for taking the time to post the information about Bay Area options for learning Mandarin and the Mandarin immersion experience. I hope the MPCSD Board Members and Superintendent see your information.

For anyone wanting to contact the MPCSD Board Members and Superintendent, their individual email addresses are as follows:



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