Local News

Montessori charter petition rejected, backlogged maintenance addressed

By From page A4 | May 04, 2014

A proposal to create a Montessori Charter School of Davis was unanimously rejected Thursday by the Davis school board after school district administrators and legal counsel raised questions about educational and financial issues.

The board also told the school district’s business office to start preparing a $20 million, three-year financing plan to tackle backlogged maintenance projects around the district.

Backers of the Montessori Charter School of Davis had submitted a petition on March 6, with plans to open a school serving up to 120 students by August. The board held the state-mandated public hearing to take public comment on the petition on April 7.

Then  on Thursday, trustees heard from the attorney they had consulted in the matter — Fermin Villegas of the law firm Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud and Romo — who recommended that the charter petition be turned down.

Villegas cited several grounds for his recommendation, including the number of instructional minutes and the school calendar described in the petition, and the lack of specificity about where the school would be located.

Associate Superintendent Bruce Colby also raised a number of questions about the school’s financial viability, saying “in my professional opinion, there are more chances of it failing than chances of succeeding at this time.”

Jonathan Feagle, speaking on behalf of the Montessori petitioners, asked the board to enter into a dialog with the group to work out some of the issues.

“Let’s negotiate, we’ll open in 2015,” Feagle suggested. “There are a lot of things we could do.”

But trustees were not inclined to grant a charter now and work out any remaining issues later, voting 4-0 to deny the petition.

Charter school supporters intend to appeal the decision to the Yolo County Board of Education, Feagle said after the meeting. In April, he had indicated that backers were prepared to take their petition to the State Board of Education on appeal if they are turned down by the Yolo County board.

Elsewhere on the agenda, Davis school trustees considered a proposed financing plan for funding some $20 million in backlogged maintenance projects around the school district. The plan calls for the district to issue a Certificate of Participation (COP), borrowing on anticipated revenues from Community Facilities District No. 1 and CFD No. 2 over a 10-year period. The CFD revenues can be used for facilities work, but cannot be used in most other areas of the school district’s budget.

The Certificate of Participation would cost about $24 million. Colby said that with today’s low interest rates, and with the district close to paying off earlier COPs, the issuance of a new COP is the district’s best option to fund badly needed roof repairs and other high-priority maintenance work.

Mike Adell, the district’s director of facilities,outlined the broad scope of the needed maintenance work in March. Work would start this summer and continue into 2016. The project categories include $8 million in roof repairs, $6.5 million in portable classroom replacements, $3.3 million in work on heating/cooling systems, $2.9 million in parking lot surfacing, $2.2 million in interior/exterior painting and stucco work and $1.5 million in phone system work.

Two big-ticket items are not on the list: the long-discussed modernization of Emerson Junior High, which opened in 1979, and replacement of the multipurpose room at Davis High School, which was demolished after black mold was discovered there.

The board voted unanimously to give the business office staff clearance to draw up the documents relating to issuance of a Certificate of Participation. A detailed list of maintenance projects and timeline will come before the school board at a future meeting.


Jeff Hudson

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