POMONA - The leadership of Chino-based Oxford Preparatory Academy has proposed opening a K-12 charter school in the Pomona Unified School District.

A team consisting of Oxford's founders and top administrators presented information to district officials about their program at the Chino and Mission Viejo campuses, emphasizing their high scores on the state's Academic Performance Index.

The Chino campus scored 972 out of 1,000 in this year's API and the Mission Viejo campus scored 993.

Oxford's Chief Executive Officer Sue Roche told school board members the charter school program "wishes to be an option" for district families and would like to "enter into a strong partnership with Pomona Unified School District."

At the core of its program is the theory of multiple intelligence which says each student has a different way of learning, and Oxford offers and array of courses, beyond core subjects, that fuel student learning.

The proposed Academy of Oxford Prep-Pomona, would be a college preparatory program primarily serving Pomona Unified students, Roche said Friday.

The proposed K-12 program would start with 700 to 800 students in grades K-8 and add a grade level every year, said Adam Bailey, vice president of school development.

Once the program reaches full capacity the Pomona campus would have about 1,700 students, he said.

School board members listened to the Oxford representatives presentation but took no action.

The board is expected to decide upon Oxford's application at its Jan. 22 meeting, said Pomona Unified Superintendent Richard Martinez.

Oxford submitted its petition Oct. 12.

Although public hearings on petition proposals are to be conducted within 30 days of being submitted, Oxford agreed to postpone the public hearing in order for all five school board members to be present for their presentation, Martinez said.

Between now and the Jan. 22 meeting, school district administrators, with the assistance of a consultant, will review and evaluate the petition.

"We will present our findings then," Martinez said after the meeting.

About a dozen people, mostly parents of children enrolled at the Chino campus along with Oxford teachers and administrators, spoke in support of the charter school's petition.

Pomona resident Maria Ramirez said she is the mother of two young children and has heard about Oxford's work through friends who have children enrolled there.

Ramirez said she was "really encouraged and excited" to hear Oxford is interested in opening a campus in Pomona and urged school board members to approve the petition.

One Chino parent said Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, had endorsed Oxford's petition. The comment, however, drew muffled groans from some in the audience.

Also endorsing the petitions was former state Sen. Gloria Romero and Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, the parent said.

About 15 Pomona residents with children in Pomona Unified schools also spoke at the meeting, including Vicente Ibarra.

Ibarra, a parent at Kellogg Polytechnic Elementary, said he is active at the school but never heard about an Oxford meeting to discuss the proposal.

"Nobody contacted us," he said. "I didn't hear anybody from (Oxford) came to our city."

"The most important persons you need to contact is the parents of students," he said.

Associated Pomona Teachers president Tyra Weis and Karla Quezada, president of the Pomona chapter of the California School Employees Association, also addressed the board with their concerns about Oxford.

Teacher Pat Borchard said Pomona Unified is already experiencing a decline in enrollment and if the charter is approved it would draw students away, leading to less funding for Pomona schools and increase the chances some teachers will face layoffs.

Other teachers expressed concerns about the charter schools' ethnic and racial makeup and whether the Pomona school would reflect that of Pomona Unified and meet the needs of special education students. 

Weis said her group would have liked to have an opportunity to speak with Oxford representatives just as parents and district employees would have liked to hear their proposal.

Teachers would have liked a chance to ask questions about topic such as the recent denial of petitions by Carlsbad Unified.

"At best it's a tremendous oversight, at worst it's a sign of disrespect," Weis said Thursday.

Roche said Oxford's petition was denied in Carlsbad but that it's preparing to appeal that decision. She added Oxford has had petitions approved in other districts but approvals don't always come at the first try.

"In Chino Valley (Unified) they did not approve us the first time," she said.

As for the ethnic makeup Roche said Oxford comes close to that of the districts where the schools are located.

"I think what's important here is do we go out and recruit," Roche said.

If the school's petition is approved then Oxford will conduct a full-scale campaign including steps such as walking neighborhoods, conducting information meetings and literature distribution so parents will know they have a new option to consider for their children's education, she said. .

Bailey said efforts were made to let parents know Oxford is seeking to establish a campus in the district and held a meeting last weekend at the Chino campus attended by about 60 interested Pomona residents.

Steps are being taken to arrange meetings after Jan. 1 so parents can learn about the proposal, he said.

In the weeks leading up to the Jan. 22 meeting, Oxford personnel will have to overcome a number of challenges such as the response they received at the recent school board meeting, Bailey said.

"It was really unfortunate," he said "We were shocked and we were saddened."

Another challenge is getting the word out about Oxford's proposal to parents and introducing them to it's schools.

The proximity to Chino may help.

"We have a great school in the city of Chino. Come and visit the school. Ask us tough questions," he said.

School Board President Roberta Perlman said she has read Oxford's petition and listened to its presentation along with the comments of Pomona Unified parents.

She plans to go through the petition again and then talk to Pomona residents.

"I'm going to feel people out and see how the community feels about it," she said.

Perlman said she also plans to speak with Chino residents and ask questions.

"How do the parents in Chino feel about (the school)? How does the community perceive it?" Perlman said.

Pomona Unified parents have choices, she said.

Some residents of Pomona Unified have chosen to enroll their children in schools within the district that are not their neighborhood schools and some have chosen to send their children to neighboring school districts, Perlman said.


Reach Monica via email, follow her on Twitter @PomonaNow, or call her at 909-483-9336.