On Oct. 26, over 250 families came out for an action forum to ask public officials to support their push to bring a new KIPP charter public school to East Palo Alto.
View Highlights from the EPA Parents for Excellent Education Community Action Forum
“I am doing what I can to be an involved parent and help my son get on track for college, but I know that he also needs an excellent school that can support and challenge him,” parent leader Maria Lara told officials. “Tonight’s action is about bringing a new public school option into our community.”
East Palo Alto parents have been organizing for over a year and half and have met with dozens of local community leaders and officials. At the action, parents and students presented data and shared testimony.
At the action, parents asked for support of their efforts from public officials, including: East Palo Alto Mayor Lisa Yarbrough-Gauthier, City Councilman Ruben Abrica, Sequoia Union High School District Trustee Laura Martinez and two trustees from the San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE) and SMCOE Superintendent Anne Campbell.
Ravenswood Unified School District board members declined to attend the event.
“Unfortunately, we do not have the Ravenswood School district officials here today to ask them our questions,” said parent leader Ligia Rivera. “We are very disappointed that our elected officials who are closest to the problem — those responsible for our schools — decided to not be here and hear from the people.”
The KIPP Bay Area Schools charter school petition will first go to the Ravenswood school board for approval. If they deny it, it will go to the San Mateo County Board of Education on appeal.
SMCOE trustees Hector Camacho and Joe Ross indicated they would be supportive of a petition that came to them on appeal and met all state and county guidelines.
“Do you support what we as parents are doing to bring a new high-performing charter option for our children to East Palo Alto?” parent leader Karla Facundo asked city council members.
“Yes, I believe every child deserves a great education. That’s the only thing I can say,” answered East Palo Alto Mayor Lisa Yarbrough-Gauthier.
“In the past, I’ve supported some charter schools and not others. In this case, from what I’ve seen, the work and the discipline of the families, yes, I’m going to support you,” said Councilmember Abrica.
Sequoia Union High School District is planning to open a small, new high school in East Menlo Park. Alumni Katherine Martinez asked whether the Sequoia district will work to prioritize the needs of low-income Latino, African-American and Pacific Islander students in the school design.
Sequoia Board Member Laura Martinez said they would and that they’ll engage with parents through the process.
Currently, 1,161 students commute outside of East Palo Alto every day to attend schools in other districts through the Tinsley program, which was established through a court desegregation order in the 1980s.
Over 80 percent of students in Ravenswood School District aren’t on track in English and math, based on the latest state test scores. In 2014-15, only 17% of Ravenswood students met or exceeded standards in English and only 12% met that bar for math (CAASPP).
KIPP Bay Area Schools told those at the event that they are ready to respond to parent demand and partner with families and the district to open a high-quality school to serve East Palo Alto and Belle Haven.
“We plan to submit a petition to Ravenswood School District within the next month,” said April Chou, Chief Growth & Operating Officer for KIPP Bay Area Schools.
Learn more about school performance with this Spotlight on East Palo Alto Schools.