Summit High pushing hard for charter extension 

Summit Preparatory High School successfully forced the Sequoia High School District Board into hearing its case for afive-year charter extension Wednesday, but the fate of that petition remains in question.

Summit Executive Director Diane Tavenner said at Wednesday’s public hearing that the school needed an extension of its current two-year extension in order to continue recruiting students.

"As a school of choice, we must actively recruit, and it’s difficult to do that when parents hear the school is only chartered for two years," Tavenner said. "Many people won’t take that risk."

The Sequoia board expects to take action on the extension request at its Feb. 21 meeting, according to board President Olivia Martinez.

Summit operated in downtown Redwood City for three years under a charter from the Summerville Union High School District in Tuolomne County. However, changes in California education law forced charter schools to become chartered with districts where they operate and require those districts to provide campuses for the schools they adopt.

Sequoia granted Summit’s charter last April under the agreement that Summit would maintain a student population whose demographics matched that of the larger district. When Summit first requested an extension last September, Superintendent Pat Gemma said the request was premature, in part because the district needed a year’s worth of enrollment data to be sure Summit was holding up its end of the agreement.

After Tavenner threatened legal action, however, board members this week visited Summit classrooms and met with its leaders, who have since supplied a good deal of enrollment data, according to Martinez.

"When we learned how strongly they felt, we wanted to be responsive," Martinez said, adding that she hopes the extension is granted. "Now, we recognize each other’s positions and are anxious to move forward."

According to California charter-school law, Sequoia should have held the petition hearing within 30 days of the initial request and then continued to monitor Summit’s operations to make sure they are in line with the charter agreement between the two agencies, said Greg Geating, consultant to the charter-school department of the California Department of Education.

Meanwhile, Sequoia continues to move forward with plans to create a permanent campus for Summit at the Redwood City Baptist Church site at 414 Fourth Ave. Summit is housed in 20 portables on the Sequoia High School campus.

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