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The Davis Enterprise (CA)
Family's school transfer appeal upheld
Jeff Hudson/Enterprise staff writer
Published: October 5, 1999

WOODLAND -- The Yolo County Board of Education sustained an appeal Monday by Cynthia Adams and Michael Delacorte, telling the Davis school district that it must admit the couple's son, a seventh-grader.

The decision -- which came at the end of a marathon five-hour hearing -- was made on the basis of the hardship that the family would experience if the boy could not continue his education in Davis.

The family lives on County Road 103 northeast of Davis. Their home falls within the boundaries of the Woodland school district, but is significantly closer to Davis than to Woodland. Michael Delacorte works in Davis, the family shops and socializes in Davis, and the family's children have attended school in Davis.

However, on Sept. 16, the Davis Board of Education turned down two interdistrict requests from the Adams/Delacorte family -- along with about 40 other requests -- citing overcrowded conditions in the Davis schools.

The family took an appeal to the Yolo County Board of Education on behalf of both their children, but the case involving the younger son was settled over the weekend when the Davis district offered a spot in a first-grade class at Patwin Elementary School.

Monday's hearing concerned the older son. The parents, along with lawyer Michelle Ball of Sacramento, laid out their case:

The boy has been a student in the GATE program at Valley Oak Elementary; no equivalent GATE program exists in Woodland. The school bus that would carry him to Douglass Junior High in Woodland takes 90 minutes to reach the school.

The family has not been able to arrange for after-school child care at their rural home. And the strain of getting one son to school in Woodland and another son to school in Davis would interfere with the parents' work schedule.

The Davis school district, represented by Superintendent David Murphy and Jan Damesyn, a lawyer and a former Davis school board member, outlined their side:

The self-contained GATE program at Holmes Junior High has a waiting list, both junior high schools are overcrowded, and more students are expected from within Davis as new homes are completed and sold in the Evergreen, Wildhorse, Mace Ranch and Warmington subdivisions.

When all was said and done, the Yolo County Board of Education came down unanimously on the side of the Adams/Delacorte family.

''I see this as fundamentally different than the appeal that was before us last week,'' said Nancy Lea, president of the Yolo County Board of Education. That appeal was made by the Novinsky family of West Sacramento. Neither parent in that family works in Davis.

''I look at the map, and it's obvious to me that the Adams/Delacorte family is connected to Davis,'' Lea said. ''The school district boundaries probably are not where they ought to be ... and they're clearly in the Davis planning area.

''I see tremendous problems for this family (if the appeal is denied) ... you can't drop off a 13-year-old (at home after school) and assume he's OK. More and more families get into trouble when they assume a 13-year-old doesn't need child care.''

Another board member, Dan Corrigan, agreed that there's a problem with crowding in the Davis schools, but likewise was swayed by the family's situation. But he added that such appeals are ''something we will have to face every year until our schools have sufficient surplus capacity. ... In Davis, that may be far into the future.''

Board member Adriana Simmons, who made the motion to sustain the appeal, acknowledged that the decision will not end the issue. ''We're going to be here again next year... this is not going to go away,'' she said.

Corrigan closed the proceedings by recommending that the Adams/Delacorte family ''figure out how to move into the Davis school district'' so that an inter-district transfer would not be necessary.

Davis Board of Education member Ruth Asmundson, who attended the hearing, said afterwards ''this was like a decision that Solomon would have made. ... It was very clear that the county board made the decision based on the individual needs of the parents.

''I'm glad they did not really question the district's policy and procedure. They acknowledged that we are very impacted (by overcrowding).''

David Murphy, the Davis superintendent, took the decision gracefully.

''I regret we are so overcrowded, but appreciate the compliment to our district that so many people, including this family, want to be in our schools,'' he said.

''I respect our democratic process,'' Murphy continued, ''and the very unique circumstances of this family, which caused the County Board of Education to feel an exception needed to be made for this family on the basis of their hardship,'' Murphy said.
The boy is expected to be placed at Emerson Junior High, and probably will start classes there in the next few days.

Tuesday, Oct. 5, 1999
Copyright, 1999, The Davis Enterprise. All Rights Reserved.

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Dan Ross- Staff Reporter
The Gridley Herald, circa spring 2000

Citing a pair of legal technicalities, the Butte County Board of Education has overturned a pair of expulsion cases from Gridley [Gridley High School].

The Gridley school board members expelled three Gridley High students in January for an alleged drug-related offense.

Gridley’s board members suspended the expulsion of one student and sent him back to the high school.

The other two students had their expulsions suspended and they were sent to the district’s community day school rather than back to the high school.

Families of these two students took their complaints to the county office of education, where an appeals hearing was held last Friday on the cases.

The county board members cited two technical violations of the Education Code and ordered the Gridley school district to admit the students back to Gridley High.

“The expulsions would have been upheld had it not been for technicality issues,” said Jerry McGuire, Butte County’s superintendent of schools.

“This was in no way condoning their actions,” added McGuire.

McGuire said the county Board of Education members act as an appeals board in expulsion cases, not hearing the entire case over again, but reviewing the case to make certain proper guidelines were followed.

“With every expulsion the parent has the right to appeal to the county board,” according to McGuire.

“They (county board) look to determine whether due process has been followed or not,” added McGuire.

Michelle Ball, an attorney for one of the families, said the county school board made the right decision.

“Obviously we think this is the right resolution for the board to make,” said Ball.

Richard Garmire, Gridley’s school district superintendent, said he believed the expulsions could have been held up by the county board.

“Technical violations may not demonstrate prejudice against the students and because of that the county board had the option to uphold the expulsions and they chose to overturn the expulsions instead due to the technical violations,” according to Garmire.

“Our legal counsel advised us the county board had the authority to uphold the expulsions based on the fact neither of these (Education Code) sections demonstrated a prejudice towards the individuals,” added Garmire.

When the students were expelled, Gridley school board members issued the following statement regarding what punishment the two students would receive.

“…be expelled from the Gridley Unified School District for the remainder of the fall semester of the 1999-00 school year and the second semester of the 1999-00 school year and that the expulsion order be temporarily suspended to allow… to take semester finals under controlled conditions, that … be required to perform 100 hours of community service during the period of expulsion, receive counseling and periodic drug testing, make satisfactory progress and present no behavioral problems,” according to the minutes of the January 13 meeting.

Garmire said details of the expulsions would not be released by the district nor would the students be named.

Ball said she presented a number of arguments to the county board members and stated she was pleased they cited two Education Code violations in their decision.

“The Education Code is written with logic and reason in it,” said Ball.
McGuire said the county board cited sections 48918(b) and 48915(e)(1) of the Education Code in making its decision.

In section 48918(b), parents, according to McGuire, are supposed to receive a 10-day notice of their child being expelled before the expulsion hearing is valid.
In this instance only nine days passed rather than the required 10, so this created grounds for the expulsion to be overturned, according to McGuire.

Ball said the Education Code wording of this section is straightforward.

“They shall have 10 days notice is very clear, in that section of the Education Code, according to Ball.

The other Education Code section cited in the county board decision, 48915(e)(1), refers to a school district’s application of punishment.

“In this type of disciplinary action (an alleged drug-related offense) the code says the school board must first determine if any other means of disciplinary action is feasible or would not work,” according to McGuire.

McGuire indicated in this case the county board determined the Gridley school board considered no option other than expulsion.

Immediate expulsion without considering other options would be appropriate, according to McGuire, if the students actions presented an immediate and uncontrollable situation, but the students involved in this particular case did not meet this criteria.

McGuire, Ball and Garmire all stated the county board decision did not mean anyone was stating the students’ actions were right.

“This is not condoning the action but they could have had other means of correction with the same results,” said Ball.

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Some worried GATE lottery may force students to another school
By Amanda Dyer, Staff Writer
LODI NEWS SENTINEL, March 18, 2008

While Sonya, second from left, and her husband Keith Watts pick up their children, from left, Andrew, 14, Robert, 9, and Alisa, 10, from Lockeford Elementary on Wednesday, they talk about the Elkhorn charter school the children attend. (Brian Feulner/News-Sentinel)

A group of parents are trying to stop a lottery that could result in some current sixth-grade students being booted out of Elkhorn, the school they've attended since the fourth grade.

Lodi Unified School District officials, as well as many board members, say that having the lottery is the only plausible way the district can provide an equal opportunity to its students.

Concerned parents are trying a variety of tactics to keep their children in Elkhorn, including spending $7,000 in attorney fees to draft letters to the district and threatening lawsuits. And if they can't keep their children in Elkhorn, they're researching what it would take to start their own charter school.

"We just keep hoping and praying that we don't have to do this," said Sonya Watts, who has a fourth, fifth and eighth-grader who all attend Elkhorn.

The lottery will put all Gifted and Talented Education, or GATE, students in the district who wish to go to Elkhorn in a pool along with current Elkhorn sixth-graders. Students from that pool will be picked randomly by the district to fill the 93 seats in Elkhorn's seventh grade.

Elkhorn parents hope that only a few GATE students who don't already go to Elkhorn will elect to go to the school for seventh grade, in which case the lottery might be called off.

District officials stopped the lottery for the 2006-07 school year when they received only a few more applications than they had seats to fill.

Elkhorn parents are hoping for a similar outcome this year.

However, they are pretty certain the district will hold one next year. And they don't want that to happen.

"I'm crossing my fingers and saying my prayers that they're not going to have a lottery," Watts said.

Problems with the lottery- Watts has several problems with the district's decision to hold a lottery.

Elkhorn's lottery at a glance
• What's at stake: Which GATE-identified students will get to attend Elkhorn for seventh and eighth-grade.

• Deadline for parents to enter the lottery: Jan. 31.

• Date of the lottery that will decide which GATE students will attend Elkhorn for middle school: Feb. 4.

• Number of seats available for seventh-grade students at Elkhorn: 93.

• Number of applications the district has received to date from parents who wish to send their children to Elkhorn for middle school: 75.

– News-Sentinel staff.

At the crux of her argument is that when she, and other parents, signed their children up for Elkhorn in the fourth grade, they did so with the assumption that their children would be able to attend the school until they graduated from the eighth grade.

That assumption was based on an informational packet the district gave many parents when they initially signed their children up for the GATE program.

"People have made life-changing decisions based on that packet," Watts said.

However, the district also told parents, who elected not to put their children in Elkhorn in the fourth grade, that they would have another opportunity to enroll their child at the school in seventh-grade.

As of now, Elkhorn is the only Lodi Unified school that offers classes past the sixth grade just for GATE students.

Now, Watts said, students who expected to graduate from the eighth grade with their friends and classmates could possibly be asked to leave the school if they are not selected in the lottery.

Board members informally voted at a Nov. 20 meeting in front a crowd of more than 100 people to uphold Superintendent Bill Huyett's decision to conduct the Feb. 4 lottery.

At that meeting, Trustee Peter Johnson was the only board member to say that current Elkhorn students should not be asked to leave their school.

Johnson likened the situation to a student who applies to college for their freshmen year and then is asked to apply again for their junior year.

"My belief is we have to bite a bullet," Johnson said.

Other district officials apologized profusely for the conflicting information, but in the end agreed that the lottery was the best way to ensure all GATE students had an equal shot at Elkhorn.

"That was an error on the district's part, on my part in particular" said John Coakley, Lodi Unified's GATE coordinator since 2000, who said the conflicting information should have been taken out of the

But Coakley doesn't think the district's decision should swing on a single paragraph.

That hasn't stopped Elkhorn parents from trying to stop the lottery, though.

At nearly every board meeting since Nov. 20, at least one Elkhorn parent has spoken out against the district's decision.

"I think any parent would fight for what they think is right for their child," said Janine Raybe, who spoke at the Jan. 8 board meeting.

Raybe argued at that meeting that the district should apologize to the parents who were told they would have a chance to enter Elkhorn in the seventh grade and abide by the written agreement made to the Elkhorn parents.

Raybe's daughter, Jessica, is a sixth-grader at Elkhorn; her husband, George, is a teacher at the school.

"Imagine the emotional toll on the one or two students from the Elkhorn sixth grade class who may not be selected in a lottery and must continue for the rest of the year in a class with their friends who are all moving on together," Raybe said in the statement she read to the board.

Watts and other parents have spent more than $7,000 in attorney fees trying to get the district to do what they think is right.

One of Watts' attorneys, Michelle Ball, sent a letter to the district arguing that Elkhorn is one school with continuous grade levels that shouldn't be separated.

By pulling an already-enrolled student from his or her school, the district violates its own rules, Ball wrote in her letter.

Watts said, as of now, she has not filed a lawsuit against the district, but that could change if one of Elkhorn's sixth-graders isn't selected in the lottery and, therefore, isn't allowed to continue at the school.

"We'd really just rather not go here," Watts said of the potential lawsuit. "I can't believe this is happening."

Coakley would rather the issue wouldn't reach that point either.

"If it goes into legal action, I think that will be unfortunate," he said.

Starting another Elkhorn?

In response to their frustrations with Lodi Unified, Elkhorn parents also met with Mick Founts, deputy superintendent at the San Joaquin Office of Education, to discuss the qualifications for opening a charter school that would be similar to Elkhorn.

That process would entail first submitting a proposal to Lodi Unified. If Lodi Unified rejects their proposal, Elkhorn parents could submit the proposal to the San Joaquin Office of Education. If the county office turns it down, then parents could appeal to the state.

Founts said some groups have been able to start a charter school in as little as a year. Other groups have taken several years. It just depends on how organized the group is.

Over the years, Founts said he's talked to a lot of people who have wanted to start a charter - some capable, and others not so capable.

"I can tell you, talking to those four parents," Founts said. "They were very capable parents."

Watts said at this point, Elkhorn parents are weighing their options and have yet to make any real steps to organizing a charter.

For one, she said, by the time the charter is up and running, most of the students in jeopardy of losing their spot at Elkhorn will have already graduated.
Raybe said she sees another option.

She says that the district could solve the problem by temporarily adding seats to Elkhorn's seventh and eighth-grade classrooms, while they phase-in a rule that would tell parents up front that students have to go through a lottery process in both fourth and seventh grade.

Such a compromise, Raybe said, would accommodate all students.

District officials say that expanding Elkhorns' population for a brief period really isn't an option.

"It's a hefty price tag," Coakley said.

With upcoming budget cuts, Coakley said the district can't afford spending more money to expand Elkhorn.

Coakley also said that he doesn't think parents would let the district get away with temporarily expanding Elkhorn. He believes that the district would face an uproar similar to the one it's facing now, when it tried to scale the school back again.

He thinks the district has already reached a compromise with parents by adding the Pre-AP Pathways program, an accelerated program offered to middle schoolers.

The Pathways program is already in place at every middle school except Elkhorn and Delta Sierra Middle School. It's even possible that those schools will have the Pathways program by the beginning of next year, Coakley said.

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