The Cotati-Rohnert Park School Board is proceeding with the revocation of Credo High School's charter, but it has agreed to give backers of the Waldorf-inspired school more time to address fiscal and administrative issues.
The 4-1 vote to issue the official notice of revocation keeps the process — started in June when the school board issued a notice of charter violation — moving forward. But it is likely to, if both sides agree, give the school 45 days to remedy issues raised in the district's complaint.
“We are sympathetic,” Board President Marc Orloff said. “We are not trying to revoke the charter, necessarily, but we have certain things we have to do and certain timelines to follow.”
The Monday night vote came after more than three hours of impassioned testimony from Credo supporters who have contended that officials from Sonoma County's third-largest school district want to put the third-year charter school out of business before it has a chance to increase enrollment and stabilize its finances.
The high school currently serves about 100 ninth-, 10th- and 11th-graders, putting a premium on low-technology and art-heavy curriculum. It stands out academically — posting the third highest state test scores of any high school in Sonoma County in its first two years.
“Playing nice has gotten us nowhere,” said Credo director Chip Romer of negotiations with the district.
“Their spoken concerns are being liable for Credo's liabilities — but the law, our charter and our (memorandum of understanding) are really clear that this is not the case,” he said.
In response to district demands that the charter school come up with $100,000 in cash to pay off immediate debt — including between $44,000 and $50,000 owed to the district — Credo backers showed up at Monday's meeting with what backers said were checks for total of $64,000.
“I think that really got the attention of trustees,” Romer said of money that will be put into an escrow account and returned if the school closes.
The school has about $268,500 in debt, including a $172,000 state charter school loan, Romer said.
Superintendent Rob Haley said a key component to Credo's success must be ongoing financial viability.
“The more long-term question is to balance revenues and expenditures to get to the point where they get a reserve,” he said. “That is their challenge.”
District officials have long had issue with the school's lack of accreditation. A site visit by an accreditation official is scheduled for Wednesday.
Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@press democrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.