CORRECTION (Published 6/20/2012)
A story in the Local news section about the West Contra Costa school district board's decision to deny renewing a local school's charter misspelled the last name of board member Madeline Kronenberg.

The West Contra Costa school board voted unanimously Wednesday to deny renewing a local school's charter.

West County Community High School, a 123-student charter school based in the Richmond Annex neighborhood since 2007, has the right to appeal the decision, which will leave it without a charter when its current five-year term expires June 30.

"The reality is that this is something that hasn't worked," said school board President Charles Ramsey. "We need to put this to bed."

The decision followed a presentation that included impassioned pleas from more than 20 administrators, teachers, parents and students of the school. Supporters said the school played a crucial role in the community, particularly for students who struggled at the city's larger public campuses and preferred the smaller classes and nurturing environment of West County Community High School.

"In public school, I saw daily fights and didn't get enough attention from teachers who didn't have enough time," said Alejandro Cruz, a 17-year-old senior who previously attended John F. Kennedy High School in Richmond. "Our school has different races and different people coming together in a peaceful environment. ... Keep my school open, please," Cruz told the board.

But board members noted that a staff report found the school was hampered by "unsound" educational programming and recommended that the renewal be denied based on "substantive deficiencies in the renewal petition as well as significant concerns with the charter school's educational, operational and financial performance."

"I can't vote with just my heart," said board member Tony Thurmond. "I need to be able to vote with my heart and my mind."

Board member Madeline Kronenberg said that on visits to the school, she was struck by the "emotionally safe culture," but that she could not ignore mediocre academic performance and the lack of a coherent plan to improve it.

"The problem is the children aren't succeeding the way you originally said they would," Kronenberg said. "You're in a little over your head."

The staff recommendation followed The California Charter Schools Association recommendation in December that the charter for West County Community High should not be renewed. The association recommended similar measures for nine other schools, less than 1 percent of the 982 charter schools operating statewide.

To meet the association's minimum performance standard, schools must have an Academic Performance Index score of at least 700 in the most recent year, a three-year average API growth of at least 50 points, or be in the range of meeting statewide student performance for at least two of three years. The association noted that although West County Community High met its API targets last year, it did not meet the requirements the two years prior nor in the aggregate of the last three years.

The school's supporters said standardized tests are not the best way to evaluate small schools that cater to students with special educational needs.

An attorney for the school, Michelle Ruskofsky, said the school would remain open for the upcoming academic year pending appeal to the Contra Costa County Board of Education.

Francis Spruit, West County Community High's board president, said he was disappointed in the decision but was optimistic about the school's prospects in an appeal.

"The decision to not renew our charter was made before this hearing took place," Spruit said. "I would have liked to see a more open dialogue with the school board, but this process was flawed and unfair."