May 6, 2014
It is somewhat startling that another school year is drawing to a close. It has been a good year for our schools and for Sunnyvale School District. We have made great progress with our work around the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, social-emotional learning, our One-to-One Technology Initiative and refining acceleration opportunities for middle school math. All are significant efforts for improved opportunities for student learning. We also passed a bond measure that will provide funding for modernization, expansion, maintenance and improved technology in our schools. Yes, 2013-2014 has been a very good year!
Unfortunately, even good years are not without some degree of controversy. This year’s controversy has been around a charter school initiative. The District received a petition from Spark Charter School on October 1, 2013 and held a public hearing later that month to hear from Spark supporters. After careful review my staff and I found various deficiencies contained in the petition. Nevertheless, even though deficiencies were identified we believed that given an extension of time Spark could correct the deficiencies. Therefore rather than denying the petition the Board of Education passed a conditional approval subject to Spark’s compliance with the conditions prescribed by the Board by April 1, 2014.
I want to acknowledge the hard work, dedication and commitment of the Spark Charter Board and Founders. When the Sunnyvale School District Board of Education gave its conditional approval in November it identified prescriptive conditions that, if met, would have resulted in approval. Since taxpayer money and public facilities are involved to support Spark Charter, we felt obligated to set conditions to ensure that Spark Charter School provide a viable financial and operational plan as well as a sound educational plan for all of its students. It was my view that more work was needed on the charter petition for the Board of Education to ensure Spark Charter School provides a successful option for students in Sunnyvale. According to the Board’s November Resolution, if Spark failed to meet all of the conditions by April 1, 2014, the Board’s conditional approval must be rescinded and that was the basis for my recommendation to rescind approval.
Sunnyvale School District has set a climate of high expectations for all of its schools and we applied those same high expectations to the approval process. While this may have disappointed the Spark Board and Founders it is my sincere belief that more planning will increase the likelihood of success for Spark in the future. After all we all want what is best for the students of Sunnyvale.
Let’s close out these last weeks of the 2013-2014 in winning form for our students.
Benjamin H. Picard, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools