Plumas Charter School is negotiating to merge with the Redding School of the Arts, a charter school in Redding.
At the same time, Plumas Charter School is also negotiating with Plumas Unified School District to ensure that the school can leave the district with as much funding as they receive now and can locate learning centers within PUSD without opposition from the school district.
Plumas Charter School is also trying to ensure that it can return to PUSD as a charter school should partnering with Redding School of the Arts not work out in the long run.
At the Feb. 27 board meeting, Taletha Washburn, executive director; and Stephen Hall, president of the board; reported that PCS has been looking for a school to merge with for some time and has settled on Redding School of the Arts, located in Shasta County. Both schools are charter schools.
A charter school is a school that receives government funding, but operates independently of the public school system in which it is located.
Charter schools can seek to create a charter with the school district they are located within or with a school district in any adjacent county.
A small portion of Plumas County is in contact with Shasta County.
The Redding School of the Arts is located 130 miles to the northwest of Quincy.
Redding School of the Arts
Redding School of the Arts is an elementary school with 550 students.
The philosophy of the school is that the arts contain a rich body of knowledge that will help all students in understanding the world around them and enhance their learning in all academic areas.
The school also teaches a core curriculum that includes the language arts, sciences, mathematics, social sciences, and the visual and performance arts.
The Redding School of the Arts was opened in 1999 at a time when the arts were being eliminated from local schools.
The school is chartered by the Columbia Elementary School District, which is also located in Redding. The district has a preschool, an elementary school, a middle school and Redding School of the Arts.
Negotiations with Redding
Washburn has known the executive director of the Redding School of the Arts, Margaret Johnson, for 10 years.
The staff at PCS has been visiting the school over the past five months and will be meeting with the Redding school this week to work on a model for a combined budget.
Washburn said at the meeting that the boards of both the Redding School of the Arts and the Columbia Elementary School District were supportive of the partnership.
What is in it for each party?
Kest Portor asked Washburn and Hill what is in it for each party in the negotiations.
Washburn responded that Redding School of the Arts is looking to grow so that it has a larger economy of scale. This would enable the school to hire its own school nurse, school psychologist and business manager.
The Redding school is also interested in starting a high school, which PCS has experience with.
In terms of PCS, Washburn and Hill responded that what they wanted most for the school was stability.
Washburn stated that she has been with the school for 13 years and has seen shakeups when superintendents and PUSD school boards change. “Things get destabilized,” she said.
Hill added: “Stability is good for the school and stability for the school is good for the students.”
They noted that PCS would become an arm of the school in Shasta County, but will keep its autonomy and its own curriculum.
In terms of PUSD, Washburn said PCS wanted to “alleviate the financial pain felt by PUSD.”
Under the new prospective charter, PUSD would retain most of the property taxes currently going to PCS and PCS would get money from the state for being part of the Columbia Elementary School District.
This is possible because the two school districts receive the bulk of their money from different sources: PUSD from property taxes and Columbia School District from direct payments from the state.
To which Lisa Cavin, chief business manager for PUSD, responded, “In theory, it should, but does that funding actually shift?”
At the meeting, Cavin also told Washburn and Hill, “The PUSD School Board’s main concern, which it takes seriously, is doing the right thing for all Plumas County students.”
In a separate interview, Cavin said that she agreed with Washburn that, since PCS students will be staying in Plumas County and bringing in state money from Shasta County, this change of charter will actually bring more education money into Plumas County than is currently the case.
Calvin said that she thought that both PCS and PUSD would ultimately get the same thing out of the agreement — stability and the chance to focus on their own students.
She said the agreement looked good, at least in a financial sense.
Draft exit agreement
Washburn presented to the board a draft of a memo of understanding between PCS and PUSD that details the terms for PCS leaving the district.
Washburn said that PCS needs two items to be in the MOU to be guaranteed before PCS can negotiate further.
First, that PUSD pay PCS any difference in the funding it currently receives and the funding it will receive after it moves to a charter with Columbia Elementary School District or other chartering agency.
Second, that PUSD will agree that they will not challenge the locations of future PCS learning centers.
Plumas Charter School also wants to retain its current charter with PUSD while it has a charter with Columbia Elementary School District. It hopes to do this by leaving in place a program with a minimum number of students.Plumas Charter School has talked with PUSD about the agreement. The district’s lawyer is currently looking at the memo.
Cavin said the agreement looked good for PUSD in a financial sense.
Feedback from the board
Hill told board members, “Charter negotiations are moving to the next level.”
Washburn and Hill asked for feedback from the board as to whether PCS should continue its negotiations for a merger with Redding School of the Arts.
Six of 11 board members were present at the beginning of the meeting: Taletha Washburn, executive director; Steve Hill, president of the board; Sue Weber, director of Indian Valley Academy; Katie Harris, teacher representative and parent representatives Toni Hymas and Aaron Lohnt.
Aaron Lohnt had questions about the financing of PCS.
No formal vote was taken.
Current Charter with PUSD
Plumas Unified School District granted PCS a charter in 1998, which has been renewed successfully in the interim.
The current PCS charter will expire in 2018.