As local public school parents, we know our children need a great public education to thrive in life and reach their goals. However, we live within the West Contra Costa Unified School District, where too many children and families do not have access to a quality public education.
Hoping to fill this critical gap, Summit Public Schools applied to open a small college-preparatory public school for fall 2014. Summit believes every child deserves the opportunity to attend a school that prepares them for success. We agree.
In recent weeks, we have been joining with parents, neighbors and community members to support Summit and its plan to open a successful public school to the school district. Summit represents a fresh and powerful opportunity to give every child in the district access to a high-quality public school and a great education no matter their background or neighborhood.
We recognize and respect the many well-intended efforts to transform West County's public schools. But we have to face the reality that these initiatives have yet to produce any sustained meaningful change for our children, particularly for those from low-income families.
District schools continue to rank at the bottom of California's K-12 education system and we are losing, not gaining, ground. For example, in 2012-13 less than 20 percent of students at the nearby high school were eligible to attend the UC/CSU system. This is not progress. Instead, it is one of the reasons we believe it is critical to establish a Summit school in the district.
Summit Public Schools are successful, particularly for children from disadvantaged, low-income families. If we all want a thriving, high-quality school system, it makes every bit of sense to bring a successful education model into a district where few, if any, such models exist.
What's more, Summit has also proven to be a collaborative public school partner that can make its knowledge and experience available to all schools throughout the West County school district. It has done this successfully before in other school districts.
Summit's success to transform the lives of all students is remarkable. No less than 96 percent of all Summit students graduated with an acceptance to a four-year university or college. In 2011, Newsweek listed Summit as one of the "Top 10 Miracle Schools" in the country and U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks their flagship school in the top 100 public high schools in the United States. Most recently, U.S. News & World Report ranked Summit as the 11th high school in California and 82nd nationally.
This is a stark contrast to our struggling West County schools. Shouldn't this be an easy decision to welcome Summit for its excellence and its ability to transform students' lives?
While there has been substantial support, we have also heard concerns about Summit coming to our school district. These objections focus on two questions:
As we talk with other parents and families -- from El Cerrito and the Richmond hills to the Richmond flats -- time and again we hear the same message. Parents will do whatever it takes to get their children to a public school offering a great education.
Unfortunately, in the face of compelling facts and reason, the district's school board rejected Summit's charter school petition. As parents, we cannot understand why a board responsible for a long-crippled school system voted against a clear pathway to educational success for our children, particularly for children of poverty and color.
However, that vote did not end Summit's future in our school district. Summit has appealed to the Contra Costa County Board of Education, and we firmly believe the county board will demonstrate leadership, grant Summit a charter and make academic excellence available to students across our district.
We hope you will throw your support behind Summit and make sure our voices are heard at the county decision meeting Nov. 13. Together, we can make sure the county does what the district should have done -- vote to bring a Summit education to our students and help drive meaningful districtwide change for all our schools and children.
To learn more about Summit Public Schools and join our effort visit http://k2.summitps.org/co.
Michael Ray and Wendy Wisely