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Bridget Fuchs, with her son Johan Fuchs, 16, states her opinion as she urges members of the Contra Costa County Board of Education to vote against Dozier-Libbey Medical High School becoming an independent charter school during the board meeting at Pleasant Hill Middle School in Pleasant Hill, Calif., on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Teachers want to convert the 630-student school into a charter school separate from the Antioch Unified School District. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)

PLEASANT HILL -- The effort to convert Antioch's Dozier-Libbey Medical High School into an independent charter suffered another blow this week as Contra Costa Board of Education trustees denied a petition by the school's teachers for autonomy.

But the ultimate fate of the school remains in limbo.

After another round of emotional testimony Wednesday, trustees voted 3-1 to support staff's recommendation to deny, as the majority agreed the petition is unsound and does not satisfy elements the state Education Code requires for a charter. The Antioch school district board had previously rejected the petition, prompting the teachers to appeal to the county board.

Jeanne Stuart-Chilcote, parent of a sophomore at Dozier-Libbey Medical High School, shows her support for the school becoming an independent charter as
Jeanne Stuart-Chilcote, parent of a sophomore at Dozier-Libbey Medical High School, shows her support for the school becoming an independent charter as folks line up to share their two minutes of opinion during the Contra Costa County Board of Education meeting at Pleasant Hill Middle School in Pleasant Hill, Calif., on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Teachers want to convert the 630-student school into a charter school separate from the Antioch Unified School District. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)

"The petition is not comprehensive, it is not complete," trustee Pamela Mirabella said. "The point of charter schools is to share best practices with the district, not to divide the community."

Trustee Cynthia Ruehlig voted for the petition, saying it would provide a sound educational program, and that the same staff that made Dozier-Libbey a success in 2011, when it was named a California Distinguished School, would remain. Trustee Christine Deane was absent.

Dozier-Libbey teachers are mulling over their options. Petitioners Jeff Weber and Cynthia Soraoka said after a discussion following Wednesday's decision that they will look at appealing to the state Board of Education or working with the district to hash out differences.


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"We're going to be doing a lot of thinking and soul-searching," Soraoka said.

Antioch Unified officials indicated they would be open to compromise.

During a lengthy board question-and-answer session, trustee Richard Asadoorian asked the district whether it is willing to work out the underlying problems "without any sour feelings."

"We would be willing to address these issues. We think they are minimal, and we can find solutions that would alleviate these issues," Superintendent Donald Gill said.

After rejecting the teachers' petition, the district launched its own charter effort to keep the school under district control, but a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge halted that effort pending resolution of the teachers' appeal.

Teachers at the medical-themed magnet high school filed the petition in late February, saying the school district's actions and policies have watered down Dozier-Libbey's program.

The teachers and district disagree on whether attempts were made to communicate and resolve differences before the petition.

Close to 50 people spoke at the meeting, half for and half against the petition. Many echoed the same thoughts as a public hearing earlier this month; petition supporters credited the efforts of Dozier-Libbey teachers and Principal Nancie Castro for the school's success, while opponents countered that the district, through community involvement, has been a key.

Jane Shamieh, controller for the county education office, said an 11-member review committee thoroughly reviewed the petition, finding it did not adequately address areas such as special education and English learners. The proposed budget also showed uncertainty, she said.

The petitioners argued that each of the staff findings could be addressed and clarified, and urged the board to grant conditional approval and work with them to hash out the issues.

"Our team of teachers and staff has time and again demonstrated our steadfast dedication to doing what is right for students," teacher Stacey Wickware told trustees. "We are ready to collaborate with you to achieve approval of this petition."

Shamieh said the county is "bound by the four corners of the petition" and the new information could not be considered.

Dozier-Libbey teachers also indicated in their arguments Wednesday that if they move forward, the charter would not start until the 2015-16 school year.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

CHARTER CHATTER:
Here are some of the terms for the various types of charter schools and what they mean:
Conversion charter: Changes existing school campus from district-run to run by a nonprofit agency that could be established by the school. Requires 50 percent of the permanent status teachers currently employed at a school to submit a petition; usually presumed that converted school can remain at the current campus site. The school must also lease space.
Startup charter: A group looking to create a new school. Requires 50 percent of the estimated number of parents or guardians of students who would enroll in the school, or 50 percent of the number of teachers estimated for the first year of operation.
Independent charter: It is not a term defined in the Charter Schools Act but is usually used to explain a charter that is self-governed, manages its own budget, and hires and fires its own personnel.
Dependent charter: It is not a term defined in the Charter Schools Act but is usually used to explain a close relationship between the district and the charter's operators, including its formation, oversight, governance structure and funding.
Here are some rules governing all types of charters:
They are public schools of choice, and tuition-free.
If applications for admission exceed targeted enrollment for the school or grade, enrollment is determined by a "public random drawing" or lottery.
They have a governing board for oversight and must report to their sponsoring district or county office of education.
They are subject to state audits.
They have to be accredited for course work to be eligible for admission to University of California or California State University schools.