Parents attending a Feb. 14 community meeting at the United Methodist Church in Chollas View were handed a simple flyer. "Please mark your calendars," it read, "to attend the school board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 5 p.m. to support Gompers Charter."
If the Valentine's Day meeting had been a day later, Michelle Evans wouldn't have had to spend the following Friday afternoon putting together mailers and making phone calls to Gompers parents. On Feb. 15, the San Diego City Schools Board of Trustees voted to move its decision on whether to approve Gompers charter-and charters for three other schools-from Feb. 22 to March 1.
Evans says she'd put in calls to board members Shelia Jackson and Mitz Lee to find out why the vote was moved. By Friday afternoon she hadn't heard back from either trustee. Jackson, who represents District E, where Gompers is located, left a message with CityBeat Saturday morning saying she tried to call Evans. Jackson said the vote was moved because of the board's schedule.
"The agenda has been so packed," she said. "We've scheduled several other dates for board meetings so we can spread things out a bit so the agenda's not so intense and folks can come and be heard."
Evans, however, wondered whether the board, four of whom have expressed opposition to the charters, moved the vote out a week to undermine plans to fill the meeting with charter supporters.
"I've been on the phone reminding parents this is just an attempt to detour from the issue," Evans said.
Gompers is one of eight district schools that failed to meet test standards set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) for the fourth year in a row. Under NCLB, parents of students at chronically poor-performing schools have the option to turn the school into a charter. In January, Gompers, along with Keiller Middle School and King Elementary submitted charter proposals to the board. The fourth school, Memorial Charter Academy plans to revise its charter.
The Gompers charter was drawn up with the help of the same UCSD faculty members who oversee the thriving Pruess charter school located on the UCSD campus. If approved by the board, the Gompers charter school would remain on Gompers' current campus, something that Evans says is important to parents who'd prefer not to bus their kids to other schools. "It's one thing to have to choose to bus your kids, but not having to make that choice is a whole other ballgame," she said.
Two weeks ago, trustees voted 4-1 to reassign Principal Vince Riveroll, Gompers' charismatic leader, who rallied parents and teachers to support the charter. At the Feb. 14 meeting, parents said Riveroll's removal was a sign of disrespect. Trustees made their decision in a closed-session meeting and aren't required to make public the reason for their vote.
A district spokeswoman said that Riveroll was a 10-year teaching veteran twice selected teacher of the year at Keiller Middle School, where he taught from 1995 to 2000. Riveroll went on to become vice principal at MacDowell Elementary, then principal at Keiller from fall of 2002 until he was assigned to Gompers last fall.
Evans said Riveroll immediately set out to fill vacant teaching positions; Gompers started the school year short 18 teachers. When he left, said Evans, Riveroll had filled 14 of those positions.
Gompers' student body is roughly 40-percent English learners, and nearly 70 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. "Kid bring issues to the classroom" that might challenge teachers, said Evans, but "these kids need stability to succeed."
Evans said that since the meeting was delayed, parents have been able to secure busses to drive charter supporters to the March 1 board meeting. Gompers' success depends on parent involvement, she said."We really want to get the whole community involved," said Evans. "We really want to make a statement that the board does not control our kids' education."