Superintendent of Schools Recommends Denial of Samoa Beach Academy Proposal; reports a conflict of interest with Danco | Lost Coast Outpost


It is likely that no one will be able to attend Samoa Beach Academy. The Vocational and Technical Charter High School – designed by a group of local merchants and business owners and backed by Danco, which hoped to build and own the Samoa-based school facilities – was again frowned upon, this time by Humboldt County Superintendent of Schools Michael Davies-Hughes.

Read the full staff report at this link.

It has been a relentless journey for the SBA petitioners, who originally submitted their proposal to the North Humboldt Union School District, which includes Samoa within its boundaries. The proposal described a school offering three CTE pathways – residential and commercial construction, patient care, and business management. After NoHum staff recommended disapproving the charter, the petitioners withdrew the proposal and resubmitted a second draft which they hoped adequately addressed the concerns raised by the district, but did not. NoHum staff again recommended denial of the charter, which the board upheld in September. In October, the SBA filed an appeal with the HCOE.

The Humboldt County School Board held a listening session for the proposed school in December, during which several community members and parents expressed their support for the SBA. The board will vote on whether to approve CTE High School at its February 9 meeting, based on the findings and recommendations made by HCOE staff. The conclusions, which are published on the HCOE website, recommends denial of the charter because of its poorly designed educational program and unsustainable budget. In addition, the petition did not provide enough signatures from genuinely interested teachers, the HCOE found. But perhaps what stands out most is the charter’s relationship with Danco, which raises budget and conflict of interest concerns for HCOE.

“The costs of the proposed facility are prohibitively high, raising concerns about the misuse of public funds, and the proposed lease runs counter to Article 1090 of the Government Code“, we read in the staff report. The proposed facilities, which would be built and owned by Danco, would cost the SBA $300,000 in rent in the first year of operation, rising to $649,459 in the fifth year. In addition to rent and utilities, the charter school would be responsible for property taxes, building insurance, and maintenance.

“These costs are excessively high for this location and the year-over-year increases are quite unusual. For example, Northern United – Humboldt Charter School leases several facilities in Humboldt County. Their most expensive lease is around $1.10 per square foot per year. This lease is also a triple net lease and includes an annual rent increase of 3% integrated into the contract. By contrast, SBA will pay $15.96 per square foot in rent only in the first year, with costs rising to $34.54 per square foot in the fifth year.“, we read in the report.

“Additionally, and importantly, counsel has identified concerns about conflict of interest requirements that likely preclude the use of this facility. in its entirety.”

The report notes that Danco owner Dan Johnson is not identified by name in the petition. Lead petitioner David Lonn later told the HCOE that Johnson was the “local businessman with extensive educational experience” mentioned as a consultant in the petition.

“This relationship violates Government Code Section 1090, which has been interpreted to apply to both consultants and companies in relationships such as this,” the staff wrote.

In other words, SBA cannot enter into the proposed lease.

In addition to this, the staff who completed the report have several concerns regarding the SBA’s educational program.

“The CTE proposal does not appear to be integrated significantly into the courses required for graduation; the proposed CTE does not seem to have been chosen according to the needs of the students; and the program is not likely to be of educational benefit to students with academic, behavioral, and/or socio-emotional deficits, students learning English, and students with disabilities,” the document summarizes.

The report says the SBA’s proposed curriculum places too high expectations on teachers, who would have to integrate all three CTE pathways into every core course — an unrealistic and pedagogically impractical assumption, staff said.

On top of that, the three broad CTE pathways – which were chosen based on examination of occupations based on the median incomes of Samoa residents – “are likely to lead to an unfocused curriculum that students cannot finish,” the report says, noting that after embarking on a path in ninth grade, it would be nearly impossible for a student to change their minds later.

Other concerns include a support system unlikely to actually help students, especially English learners and students with disabilities. The proposal completely misses the mark in terms of serving students with disabilities, who are grossly under-budgeted, staff found.

What else? The actual cost of catering services would be double what the SBA allocated. A supposed dual enrollment program with the College of the Redwoods and (what will be) Cal Poly Humboldt seems unrealistic. Plans to offer competitive sports — which would require compliance with the California Interscholastic Federation — seem like a lofty goal for this charter.

On top of all that, the program is not financially stable, staff say, citing a number of concerns in addition to the conflict of interest with Danco.

“The petitioners will not be able to successfully implement the program presented in the petition as the budget is unsustainable due to a number of inaccurate assumptions and errors; the proposed facility violates appropriate expense and conflict of interest laws; and Humboldt County has an identified deficit of accredited CTE personnel needed to adequately staff SBA.

Achieving both 150 freshman enrollment and eventual 300 enrollment — on which the budget depends — is unlikely given the history of early enrollment at local charter schools, staff predict. Moreover, a study funded by the petitioners found that at the local level, attracting so many students is “an ambitious goal”.

The budget for staffing is unrealistic, staff found, and does not account for a secretary or registrar, food service workers, paraprofessionals, or custodial and custodial staff. On top of that, there is a dire shortage of CTE teachers across the county, and HCOE staff doubt the charter will be able to attract qualified CTE teachers.

“These are often concerns with any new charter school. What makes SBA unique is the clear data that the qualified CTE staff they will need to implement their program is not available in Humboldt County,” staff say, listing examples of recruitment challenges. premises in the three CTE zones proposed by the SBA.

“Our county is facing a potential CTE-accredited teacher crisis,” the report said. Qualified CTE teachers must have three years of industry experience to qualify for CTE credentialing programs, which are not offered at HSU (with the exception of an Industrial Technology Methods course, which is not offered). is not an SBA route).

“Humboldt County has a number of CTE teachers who are close to retirement, but no group of currently fully credentialed teachers. In addition to difficulties attracting out-of-county residents to Humboldt County, it does not appear possible to staff a new CTE program in the county at this time. This is even more the case with a program like SBA, which intends to hire three separate CTE teachers.

With all of these findings in mind, Davies-Hughes recommended Samoa Beach Academy’s rejection. In her cover letter to the county school board, however, Davies-Hughes praised the petitioners’ respectful communication and dedication to their cause.

“I am confident that this petition, while flawed, highlights and elevates the importance of CTE in Humboldt County. Great CTE programs already exist, and as an educational community, we can still do more to ensure that all students have the opportunity to be prepared for the future of their choice,” Davies-Hughes wrote.

“I sincerely hope that if the Board of Education acts to dismiss this charter petition, the petitioners and supporters of this petition will engage with the schools currently offering CTE programs and apply their passions and skills to help strengthen and expand what is already in place.”

The school board will vote to approve or deny the charter on February 9, and community members will have an opportunity to comment on the matter. The agenda must be posted here before the meeting.

If the County Board of Education denies the application, the SBA may appeal to the State Board of Education. If approved, the SBE will designate a charter authority to either the Northern Humboldt Union School District or the HCOE.




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