The educational mission of Kepler Neighborhood School continues.
By a 4-1 vote Thursday, the Fresno County Board of Education granted the school’s appeal to continue operations for another three years.
Last month, the Fresno Unified school board denied Kepler’s request for its charter renewal, based mainly on poor test scores.
The school appealed the decision to the county board.
Kepler improved those scores in the last year, enough to convince the county board to follow the staff’s recommendation for renewal. A review committee also said the school improved greatly under new leadership.
Despite that, Michelle Murphy, regional director of the California Charter Schools Association, spoke against Kepler. Murphy said the school didn’t meet academic standards.
Trustees Ismael Herrera, Mike Robinson, Delbert Cederquist and Allen Clyde voted in favor. Nelson Esparza cast the lone no vote.
“Given the historical underperformance in recent years, I could not justify supporting the prospect of future progress based on just a few months of very recent data,” Esparza said in a statement. “I always keep the best interest of students at the forefront of my decisions, and now that the decision has been made by the Board to keep their doors open, they have my full support in ensuring those students succeed.”
Superintendent Jim Yovino told the board this means his office will work closely with the school to achieve student success.
“We are going to be involved in that school. It’s something that we take seriously,” Yovino said before the vote. Kepler’s executive director Margaret Ameel nodded along in the crowd, appreciative of the support.
Appreciation and Relief
Parents and students crowded the board’s chamber, awaiting the vote. The decision provided great relief for Ameel.
“Our work is recognized. One of the things that I really struggled with (the decision of) Fresno Unified, is that they kept saying we don’t have the capacity to do it. You can say a lot of things about us, but we absolutely demonstrated we have the capacity to do it,” Ameel said after the meeting. “That is a little bit of vindication there.”
Susan Martin’s children danced after the vote. “We are overjoyed and totally relieved,” she said hugging two of her sons who attend Kepler.
Other Charter Decisions
In other charter school-related board action:
— The board pulled the charter decision regarding the One & Only Academy at the school’s request. Staff recommended upholding Clovis Unified’ s denial. Harmit Juneja, lead petitioner, told the board his school will utilize the extra time to return with a more compatible application for the 2019-2020 school year.
— The Augustus Academy of Creative Arts and Technology presented their case for appeal for an establishment of its charter. Central Unified denied its charter request last month. The Fresno County board could return a decision next month, just in time for the fall semester. Former county supervisor Phil Larson was among the supporters for the school focusing on special education needs