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Office of education served with legal challenge to charter school

Teacher’s union says the charter is illegal
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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A local teachers union served the Placer County Office of Education with a legal challenge to its petition to open a new charter school. The Placer Associated Certified Educators say the office of education doesn’t have a legal right to open the Placer County Pathways Charter School because the programs it will offer already exist. Office of education officials counter that the school will better serve high-risk students, especially those who aren’t legally allowed to participate in some classroom programs. Debbie Bennett, president of the union and a 49er ROP teacher, said about 11 alternative education teachers would lose their collective bargaining agreements and current union representation if the charter passes. “The rest of the teachers are all going to be let go, with the intention that they will be rehired when the charter opens,” Bennett said. “But they lose their rights that they had and their seniority rating.” Bennett said even more troubling to the union is the fact that many of the programs offered at the charter school already exist. “We believe it is violating the law No. 1,” Bennett said. “It is their role to support the districts and they take away from the school districts. We were not told about that. We did not find out about it until a couple of days before last month’s meeting.” Gayle Garbolino-Mojica, superintendent of the Placer County Office of Education, said revisions to the charter were made to clarify the students it would be serving and ensure it wouldn’t take away from other programs. Those revisions will be presented at a special session meeting March 26, the board called to respond to the union’s legal challenge. “Their legal counsel presented us with a legal letter challenging our process. Unfortunately, it only gave us 18 hours to adequately respond,” Garbolino-Mojica said. “We need more than 24 hour of time to address and adequately respond to that. We feel 100 percent confident that the petition we put forth is a very legal and complaint, in addition to (being an) educationally sound and research-based petition.” She said central to the issue is probably the union’s concerns over the collective bargaining agreements with alternative education teachers. “I suspected that since we are talking about our charter’s position to not bring over our collective bargaining agreement, negotiated through PACE, so I am not surprised,” Garbolino-Mojica said. “If they choose to organize we would start a new process. I think the county office serves a very different set of students than regular schools. This charter is geared toward those students.” Major changes to the charter include the elimination of an independent study program for 9 through 12th graders, which the iLearn Academy already serves. The revised charter also includes clarification about the career and technical program to help ensure it is targeted only to students who aren’t able to participate in the 49er ROP program. Garbalino-Mojica said the changes would be presented at the upcoming meetings, along with the board’s response to the union’s legal challenge. “We made some changes that address many of the concerns community members have,” Garbolino-Mojica said. “Not all of them, but a large portion of them.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.