May 9, 2013
Misty Volaski, firstname.lastname@example.org
Valley Oak Charter School is working on a proposal to offer 11th and 12th grade curriculum, which would expand its current offering of kindergarten through 10th grade. Established in 2002, the home-based independent study program is part of Ojai’s public school system, described as a “parent cooperative learning center.”
Tuesday night, Valley Oak director Laura Fulmer made a presentation to the Ojai Unified School District board of education which included, in part, a request to revise its OUSD charter so that it can offer a full K-12 program.
Boardmembers had several questions for Fulmer, but it was emphasized that Valley Oak will be further discussed at the June 4 meeting, and that no decision was being made that night.
Fulmer said Thursday she is eager to work with OUSD staff to develop an 11th- and 12th-grade program that will provide students a viable track to earning a diploma. Right now, once they reach 10th grade, Valley Oak students can either transfer to another school or take the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHPSE), which is similar to a GED (General Educational Development) test. A change in the charter — and proper accreditation — would allow Valley Oak students to stay at the school and still get an actual high school diploma.
“We want to ensure that children in that program (11th- and 12th-grade) would have an equivalent education to what they would get at Nordhoff (High School). But we know the program will look different,” Fulmer said. “We are a home school charter, and we’re not looking to provide the rigid structure kids would get in a traditional classroom. That’s why they’re here in the first place, because (that structure) didn’t work for that child.”
But if it is to offer its high school students a path to a diploma, Valley Oak will have to do more than just create an 11th- and 12-grade program on paper and get it approved by the OUSD board. It will also need to get that curriculum accredited through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
“WASC comes into a school and reviews the program … in order to certify that its programs are consistent with the expectation of the state,” explained OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser. The difficulty is that, in order for WASC to determine whether Valley Oak offers a viable 11th- and 12-grade program, that program must already be in place — and that program cannot exist without the go-ahead from the OUSD board.
“It’s a little bit like the cart before the horse,” admitted Bangser. But both Bangser and Fulmer underlined their commitment to work together to develop the program. OUSD staff and its board, Bangser said, “will not be looking for a replica of all the courses at Nordhoff High School. But we need to be shown that there’s a program, that parents who want to work with their children in a homeschool environment — if they follow this program, that it will provide a viable educational experience for juniors and seniors.”
Also discussed at this week’s board meeting was the state of the OUSD budget, which elicited cautious optimism from those present. The budget gap from 2012-13 to 2013-14 has been narrowed from a high of $1.4 million earlier this year to just under $400,000 as of press time. And, based on information coming out of Sacramento, said Dannielle Pusatere, the OUSD’s assistant superintendent of business and administration services, that gap should narrow even further once Governor Jerry Brown’s May budget revision comes next week.
“I would say we are moderately optimistic that the $400,000 gap remaining will be eliminated through better funding,” Bangser said.
Visit www.ojai.k12.ca.us for more information.
The next OUSD board meeting will be June 4 at 5:30 p.m., in the board room at 414 E. Ojai Ave.