Concord's Clayton Valley Charter High School revises board
By Lou Fancher
Although it isn't official until the Contra Costa County Board of Education signs off on it, the Clayton Valley Charter High School board of trustees will, in the future, disallow all "interested employees" from board membership.
Voting unanimously on Sept. 9 to revise the charter school's bylaws to reflect the new policy, trustees and school officials hope to eliminate what has been a thorny issue.
Complaints of conflict of interest from the general public and objections by employee board members at having to recuse themselves from board discussions caused distrust and discord during the past year.
"It created a problematic board," said vice chairwoman Megan Krommer, a parent member trustee.
She said recusals meant that a part of the board that was meant to provide perspective was not effective. "I've lived through what's happened to see the dysfunction," she added.
Board chairman Ted Meriam, a community-at-large member, said the decision to diverge from legal counsel's advice four years ago when the conversion charter formed was intended to allow all stakeholders a voice in the process. He said the board intends to continue "in that path" of open dialogue and the revisions are meant to alleviate a structure that created bias and put individuals in positions that impacted the culture of the campus.
For example, Meriam said actions or positions on school policies taken by teacher board members were sometimes perceived of as political or at the very least, ambiguous.
In the sole public comment on the subject, Kevin King said corporations, charter schools, and other organizations are moving to independent boards.
An extended discussion of the board's appointment versus election policies centered on the ability to mirror the demographic of the school community. Seeking a board that is not "fully self-perpetuated" by retaining some elected positions, the board decided on a mix, with two elected parent members, two appointed community members, and one appointed retired teacher.
The decisions, subject to county board approval, revealed another alteration: establishing the total number of trustees at five members.
With the county board allowed to appoint its own member (a move that would bring the total to an even number and the possibility of "tie" votes), trustees reserved a measure that allows them to appoint a seventh member.
Election season for the board begins this month with the formation of an election committee and a call for applicants to fill open positions.
After reviewing and introducing applicants to the public, an election to seat new board members will be held in December.
Meriam said the difficulty going forward will be to make clear to the community that the decision to eliminate employee board members has been made, but until the county approves it, the board will honor the current bylaws.
In other business, executive director Dave Linzey heralded the "healthy unaudited actuals" presented by the school's financial counsel, but said meeting the national average in the math portion of the new Common Core test results wasn't good enough and work must be done to improve math scores.
New Principal Jeff Eben said he'd read media reports upon his arrival about the "fog" still hanging over the school, but was pleased to have found students with pride in their school.
"In my 30 years, I defy myself to find one (school start) smoother than this has been." Claiming the school had the "it factor," Eben said the charter school is strong, proud, open and growing.