The Mt. Diablo Unified school board needs to do the right thing now and give the green light to Clayton Valley High to become a charter school, without overly burdensome conditions.
Last month, the board approved the charter petition, but only if it complied with more than 50 conditions that trustees said had to be satisfied by Feb. 1, 2012.
Many of those conditions were overly detailed and difficult to follow. In effect, the district board said no by saying "yes, but ... ."
Among the many hurdles a Clayton charter school would have to clear is designating who would maintain Child Protective Services reports, who would provide vision, hearing and scoliosis screening and who would maintain court orders.
Some of the conditions are subjective. "There's really no way for the petitioners to know whether or not they've met the conditions. The potential for shifting the goal post along the way is there," said Chase Davenport, who evaluates schools for the California Charter Schools Association.
Until the charter is approved and working, some of these conditions are virtually impossible to meet. It appears that the district board understood the effect of having so many stipulations. What board members may not fully understand is that the overly detailed conditions do not seem to be consistent with the law.
The board does have an opportunity to reconsider its actions and open the way for Clayton Valley High to become the first large charter high school in Northern California.
The district should extend the charter from three to five years, modify the conditions so that they are reasonable, and fast track charter approval by Oct. 25.
Then Clayton Valley High will have time to go through the county and state appeals process so the charter takes effect for the 2012-13 school year.
The charter movement in Clayton has the overwhelming support of teachers and parents. They want to free the school from inflexible regulations so that it can make the changes necessary to improve the quality of education for its 1,900 students.
There is reason for concern. Of the Clayton Valley High juniors who took the Early Assessment Program exam last year, only 29 percent were college-ready in English and just one out of 10 met that goal in math.
Under the charter plan, Clayton Valley High would be governed by an independent board that would be advised by several committees, including parents, teachers, students and community members.
The school's governing board then would be able to change schedules, add classes and increase parental involvement without being frustrated by a district bureaucracy that too often discourages change.
If Mt. Diablo district trustees truly place the interests of students first, they will cooperate fully with the Clayton Valley High community and approve the charter without encumbering it with crippling conditions.