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Proponents of Mayacamas Charter Middle School file appeal with Office of Education, allege district analyses are flawed

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After the Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) unanimously vetoed a petition to open the Mayacamas Charter Middle School earlier this month, those in support of the school have filed an appeal with the Napa County Office of Education (NCOE) regarding the decision.

The Napa Foundation for Options in Education — which initially filed their petition to open the school back in September — says that despite the district’s denial, they are not halting efforts to get the school approved and are seeking additional review from the NCOE.

In the appeal, the foundation alleges that the NVUSD made “significant errors” in its petition evaluation process, claiming that the district made false and misleading conclusions regarding the financials for the proposed school.

At the meeting in which the petition was denied, the Register's Howard Yune reported that various trustees made statements about the proposed school’s budget, including David Gracia who called it a “fairy-tale budget with no basis in reality,” and told the petitioners they “have no business being in the school business.” He also predicted that the school would run out of funds not even halfway through its second year.

Similarly, Yune reported that NVUSD Superintendent Rosanna Mucetti said she recognized a “lack of professionalism and organization,” on the part of the petitioners.

The foundation, however, says the NVUSD Board of Trustees, “in following example of district staff” acted in “bad faith” with “several questionable and inappropriate actions during their vote on the December public meeting,” according to the appeal. Other actions outlined in the report include claims that the district deviated from the published agenda for the hearing, turned off the live feed of the hearing, and “pointedly and without cause,” insulted the intelligence and work ethic of lead petitioners Jolene Yee and Lauren Daley.

Most blatantly, though, the foundation alleges that the NVUSD Board of Trustees had made a “plain and documented violation of the Brown Act,” which was established in 1953 and states that all local legislative meetings must be open to the public.

“The district opposed the charter for political motivations having nothing to do with the merits of the petition, and did not hesitate to publicly disparage and disregard their own constituents in its process to deny the charter,” added Yee and Daley.

Yet, the district stands by its decision.

“NVUSD and the Board of Trustees stand by our decision after dedicating many hours to conduct a thorough, fair, and comprehensive review of the petition,” said NVUSD representative, Stacy Rollo. “Everything we did was grounded in the law, representing the collective experience and expertise of our business, finance, human resources, operations, facilities, and instructional services departments.”

The NCOE has 90 days to review the appeal, and the lead petitioners for the school are hopeful it will render different results.

“We are excited and eager for the education professionals at the Napa County Office of Education to take a fresh look at our petition,” said Yee.

“As we noted during our own presentation and in our rebuttal to NVUSD’s staff report, the MCMS petition is significantly more comprehensive than those very good, comprehensive charter petitions already approved to operate in NVUSD, [and] we are confident that a fair review that adheres to the law will result in a finding that the MCMS petition easily exceeds what is required by the state and what is needed to describe a successful school.”

Organizers hope to open a new charter middle school in Napa: Mayacamas Charter Middle School. It could occupy the former St. John the Baptist Catholic School property in downtown Napa.

Sam Jones’ most memorable Napa Valley Register stories of 2021

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You can reach Sam Jones at 707-256-2221 and sjones@napanews.com

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