Angry, tearful parents plan to fight San Jose charter school’s closure

    Parents, teachers and school officials at Cornerstone Academy Preparatory School — a kindergarten through eighth grade charter school in the Franklin-McKinley district — are surprised and disappointed by district board members’ recent decision to close the school.

    Roughly 150 parents filled the school’s cafeteria on Lucretia Avenue Tuesday night in search of answers and school officials attempted to comfort them while facing the possibility that, after 10 years with the district and two California Distinguished School designations under its belt, the school may fold.

    “I think parents are deeply hurt and angry by the board decision,” said Shara Hegde, chief schools officer for Alpha Public Schools, which operates four charter schools in San Jose. “Our biggest priority is giving our parents the certainty they need.”

    Parents and school officials have vowed to fight against the closure. They are writing letters to the district board members and planning to appeal the decision to the Santa Clara Board of Education, and possibly even appeal to the state, if needed.

    Peter Nguyen is a Cornerstone parent whose son and daughter are among the 550 students who attend the school.

    “We’re very disappointed with the decision,” said Nguyen, adding that he plans to fight to keep the school open. “The school is very good, it did not do anything bad.”

    Some angry Cornerstone parents are reaching out to Councilmember Johnny Khamis, who is running for a state Senate seat that would include the school for help. Khamis said he’s moved by the parents’ passion at Tuesday’s meeting.

    “A couple mothers were crying,” Khamis said. “They don’t know what to do. They were talking about pleading with the three school board members (who voted against the renewal). They were talking about writing emails and letters in support of their school.”

    Franklin-McKinley School District board members last week denied the school’s five-year renewal in a 3-2 split vote with Board President Rudy Rodriguez and board members Maimona Afzal Berta and Kerry Rosado voting against the renewal and board members George Sanchez and Thanh Tran voting for it.

    District staff recommended a renewal but the dissenting board members argued that the school should be closed because it didn’t enroll a “commensurate” percentage of Latino students as compared with other charter schools in the area. The dissenters also say the school has failed to enroll students with moderate or severe disabilities.

    “It was not typical of the district’s demographics,” Rodriguez told San José Spotlight on Wednesday.

    School officials, however, argued that Latino students do attend Cornerstone and score higher in English and math than other Latino students in the district, according the California Assessment of student performance and progress results.

    School officials also disputed the claim about disabled students and said they’ve enrolled students with a wide range of disabilities. Students with disabilities at Cornerstone also score higher on tests than other disabled students throughout the district, according to the assessment report.

    “Cornerstone enrolls and serves students with a wide range of disabilities, and these students perform significantly higher than students with disabilities in district schools,” Hedge said. “Furthermore, we believe it is an injustice that the district would shut down a school that is serving these high needs students at such a high level of quality. Where will they go?”

    Since receiving feedback about the low Latino enrollment last week, Hegde added, the school has put extra effort in getting Latino students to apply through visits to libraries and Head Start programs. “There are no barriers to entry for any family,” she said. “Everyone is very clearly welcomed.”

    Hegde says the school will submit its appeal to the Santa Clara County Board of Education in early November to request a hearing. If attempts to save the school are unsuccessful, the school will close next spring after the academic year ends.

    Contact Carina Woudenberg at [email protected] or follow @carinaew on Twitter.

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