Piru Elementary School Files Petition To Become Charter School

Nine teachers from Piru Elementary School, working with their former principal Richard Durborow, mailed a charter school petition this week to Fillmore Unified School District (FUSD) Superintendent Jeff Sweeney and Board Members beginning the process to obtain charter status for Piru Elementary School. Piru Charter School (PCS) plans to open their doors beginning in the 2010-2011 school year. The charter petition is a result of collaboration which began last spring during a District reorganization planning process, and which continued despite the efforts of the FUSD administration to halt it.

Charter schools are public schools that are responsive to students’ needs and are held accountable for improved student achievement. They are open to the public, are tuitionfree, participate in state tests, employ credentialed teachers to teach core subjects, and can offer innovative curriculum and teaching strategies designed to improve student learning. For more information on charter schools, visit the website of the California Charter Schools Association at - myschool.org.

Under current state law, and with the full support of Governor Schwarzenger and President Obama, public schools can be converted to charter status when the majority of the teaching staff file a charter petition addressing sixteen specific elements regarding school vision, curriculum, governance, and budget. The FUSD Board now has
30 days to hold a hearing. Should they not agree to approve the petition, then the County of Ventura Board of Education or the State of California Board of Education will have the opportunity to authorize the charter. In any event, FUSD can’t stop the charter approval process from moving forward.

The goal of the charter petition is to use state and federal monies to best benefit Piru community students and other students who choose to attend the charter school. Under Charter regulations money that normally filters through district offices of education goes directly to the charter school. Piru Charter School founders believe they can better use school funds to improve student learning by; reducing class size to 24 students in grades 4 through 6, regain the flexibility to purchase curriculum and programs that best suit the particular needs of their students, and maintain the viability of the 100-plus years old Piru Elementary School, which had been recently threatened by declining enrollment. Under California Charter School Law, elementary students from the local area will receive first-admission priority to the charter school. Students from neighboring communities will be welcomed and bus service from Fillmore to Piru will be provided.

Under the three-year leadership of Richard Durborow, Piru Elementary raised API scores an amazing ninety-four points…making it one of the most improved elementary schools in Ventura County. Much of this work was done with the assistance of an Underperforming Schools Grant, which has recently been absorbed into other state funding by FUSD. In the 2007-2008 school year Piru Elementary just missed making both AYP and API goals. This year they achieved both! With increased staff and community input into school decision making and the flexibility that is key to charter status, Piru Charter School will continue to “Educate the Whole Child” in a small school,
rural atmosphere.

In a letter to Superintendent Jeff Sweeney, Yvette King-Berg, Vice President of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), called the Piru teachers and parents supporting the charter petition an “exemplary petitioning group,” and “strongly recommended” the petition of Piru Charter School. She went on to say that the CCSA, which supports the state’s 750 charter schools serving approximately 276,000 students, was “confident that the school will offer a high-quality choice to families in the underserved communities within the Fillmore Unified School District and the surrounding areas.”

During the summer the Charter School founders worked extensively with ExED, the premier non-profit provider of charter school business management services in Southern California, to develop a five year budget and business plan. Piru Charter School is working closely with leaders of the local chapter of the California Teacher’s Association, with CTA staff, and with leaders of Friends of Piru.

For further information on Piru Charter School, contact the Piru Charter School Founding Group, which can be reached at pirucharterschool@earthlink.net.