PLEASANT HILL -- After months of debate over the possible conversion of Clayton Valley High to a charter school, the Contra Costa County Board of Education may give it a green light.

The Mt. Diablo school board denied the petition 4-1 in November, saying it didn't meet financial requirements. But county staff disagrees, and recommends approval of the appeal Wednesday, with conditions.

Since the governor's budget did not slash school funding as much as originally anticipated, the school's financial plan is sufficient, according to the county staff report. It says the charter "presents a sound educational program, the budget is balanced, the financial and operational plan is realistic and the petition contains reasonably comprehensive descriptions of the legally required elements."

This is welcome news to Clayton Councilman David Shuey and other charter supporters who have expressed ongoing frustration with more than 50 conditions imposed by the district, many of which they said seemed onerous.

"I am thrilled the county staff reviewed our petition reasonably and without an agenda," Shuey said in an e-mail. "This is an excellent petition that combines all the best aspects of successful charters throughout the state, and my belief is that this staff was able to see this fact and review it accordingly."

Mt. Diablo trustee Gary Eberhart said he would be shocked if the county board did not follow its staff recommendation, so he does not plan to oppose it. However, he said the district may need to make budget cuts to offset the reduced student revenues that will result from the charter.

"We will deal with the outcomes as far as the financial losses for the school district as a whole and we will hopefully work hand in hand with the charter school to ensure that the matriculation between middle school and high school is strong and supports students and the families," he said Tuesday. "We're going to continue to operate as we need to."

If county trustees overturn Mt. Diablo's denial, Clayton Valley would be the first large public high school in Northern California to convert to a charter based on a teacher-led petition. Most opposition has come from parents and staff at other district schools, who fear the charter would take money away from their students because the district would have to pay the school more money than it receives per student from the state.

Financial impact, however, is not a legal grounds for denying the charter. Although district officials estimate the charter could cost the district $1.8 million to $4.2 million, it has reserves to cover this loss in the near future, but may need to make budget cuts in the next three years.

IF YOU GO:

The Contra Costa County Board of Education will vote on the Clayton Valley High charter petition at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Pleasant Hill Elementary School, 2097 Oak Park Blvd. in Pleasant Hill. Information is available by calling 925-942-3380 or by visiting www.cccoe.k12.ca.us. Click on "School Board."
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