Clayton Valley gets ­charter ­renewal on narrow 3-2 County Board vote

Clayton Valley gets ­charter ­renewal on narrow 3-2 County Board vote
County Board of Education member Dr. Fatima Alleyne (left) spoke with Clayton Valley Charter students Alison Pamer and a tearful Andrea Mitsanas after Aleyne cast the deciding vote to approve the school’s charter renewal. County Board president Mike Maxwell talked to his CVCHS governing board counterpart Kristy Downs. (photo by Jay Bedecarré)

Clayton Valley Charter High School is in the process of hammering out a memorandum of understanding with the Contra Costa County Office of Education in order to formalize the renewal of its charter though June 30, 2025.

In a dramatic 3-2 vote last month, the Concord school received its second five-year renewal from the county after its initial approval to leave the Mt. Diablo Unified School District to operate as a public charter school in the summer of 2012.

CCCOE staff recommended the renewal following a nearly year-long process that included a forensic audit of school finances and concerns about its governance structure and portions of its bylaws. The board conditionally approved the five-year renewal Dec. 11 in the Pleasant Hill Elementary School multi-purpose room packed to overflowing with CVCHS supporters.

Following over two hours of presentations, board questions and public comment from 32 supporters of charter renewal, board vice president Vikki Chavez made a motion to approve the staff recommendation for renewal. No board member seconded the motion until president Mike Maxwell. Chavez and Maxwell both voted in favor while first-term trustees Sarah Butler and Annette Lewis voted no.

That left Dr. Fatima Alleyne to cast the deciding vote. Alleyne is the only one of the five trustees who does not represent voters within MDUSD, which operated the school from 1958 until the charter conversion in 2012. After what seemed an eternity to the overflow crowd, she voted “aye” to pass the motion, 3-2.

As he had done at the Oct. 16 CCCOE board hearing on the charter application, Clayton Valley Charter executive director Jim Scheible made a presentation presenting the school’s case for renewal prior to a bevy of questions and comments from the board and public comments by students, teachers, staff, coaches, parents and community members in support of the renewal.

It was fitting that the vote was so dramatic after over four years of controversary, primarily revolving around original executive director Dave Linzey, dating from late in the 2013-14 school year until he was fired in May 2018. Linzey’s tenure featured large improvements in test scores as well as a school having to hold a lottery every year to handle the volume of applicants.

Against that backdrop was a large turnover in faculty, dissatisfaction among a vocal segment of the community, hiring and contractual policy disputes and, most recently, concerns over the salaries Linzey and his wife earned in the latter stages of their CVCHS employment.

Scheible was hired in the summer of 2018 and has been credited with “calming the waters” during the nearly 18 months he’s been in charge and in leading the process of procuring charter renewal.

He said, “Hundreds of Clayton Valley families, students, staff and community leaders packed Pleasant Hill Elementary School to witness the County Board of Education vote. CVCHS delivered a presentation showcasing the amazing results achieved by our students and demonstrating how CVCHS has exceeded the criteria to have its charter renewed.

“The best part of the evening happened as the floor was opened for public comment. The testimony of CVCHS students, parents, teachers and staff was the highlight of the evening, as always. It is inspiring to hear about the impact Clayton Valley has had on the lives of our students.”

He adds that he’s “convinced that the positive comments from our students and parents were the difference in getting us the yes vote for renewal.”

The school held its annual lottery last week for 827 students who have applied for the 2020-21 school year. Of that number, 727 are incoming freshman and 600 of those were given tentative acceptance following the lottery. The school projects total enrollment of 2250 next year. All of the accepted applicants are in the former MDUSD enrollment feeder area for Clayton Valley High. The other applicants are on the waitlist.

The school and county staffs must develop the memorandum of understanding agreeable to the County Board. There are several “material changes” in the charter petition and three issues raised by board members during the meeting: supporting students struggling to meet the A-G requirements, revisiting CVCHS governance and resolving the dispute over facility fees with MDUSD.

The MDUSD board had the issue of the fees litigation with the charter school on its closed session agenda this week. In October, CVCHS paid the district $925,256 for the 2013-14 through 2016-17 school years.

The MOU needs board approval with the tentative time schedule setting up a potential final County Board vote in March.