BARSTOW • The Barstow Unified School District Board of Trustees may have approved its first ever charter school Tuesday.
Or, it may have not.
The fate of Barstow Charter Academy rested in the hands of four trustees present at Tuesday's meeting, but there are conflicting views on what decision was actually reached.
The board voted against a recommendation by the district to deny Barstow Charter Academy — a grade nine through 12 school with a focus on hands-on workplace training — its petition to open in Barstow and for BUSD to provide oversight, which is required for charter schools.
At the meeting, trustee Mary Rodriguez voted to deny BCA a charter. Trustees Barbara Rose, Ernest Vogt and Ace Acevedo voted against the resolution — meaning they're not denying the charter.
So, does not denying the charter mean that it has been approved?
According to Rose, acting president on Tuesday for board president Julie Clemmer, who was out of the country on vacation, the board needs to adopt a separate resolution to actually accept BCA's petition.
The board voted to simply not shut the door on the charter, according to Rose.
"We did not accept it," she said.
But that's not what BCA lead petitioner Jennifer Ruiz saw happen at the meeting. Three board members expressed support for the charter school and the charter was approved, Ruiz said.
Trustees Acevedo and Vogt both said Wednesday that they understood their votes to mean that the charter school had been accepted.
"It was approved [Tuesday] night," said Acevedo.
"By not denying the charter, we approved the charter would be my take on it," Vogt said.
According to Superintendent Susan Levine, the district is talking to its lawyers about what the resolution means. Levine declined to comment otherwise on the charter decision and whether it had been approved or denied Wednesday.
However at Tuesday's meeting, when Acevedo asked for clarification on what the vote meant, Levine said, "Mr. Acevedo, you're voting to charter the school tonight by voting 'no' ... This school will be chartered three to one...that would be the vote here."
And after the recommendation for denial had failed 1-3 and confusion that had arisen about the vote had subsided, Vogt, who had expressed support for the charter school's vocational education focus, quipped, "I think I'm going to set off my timer and have a cardiac arrest."
Levine added, "Me too."
Petitioners from BCA received a 30-day extension after finding out that BUSD officials were recommending denying the charter at its July 28 meeting. Ruiz said she felt the extra time was critical in BCA getting more support for the charter this time.
The revised petition included a new element — a partnership between BCA and Barstow Community College, where the high school students would also take college courses.
Ruiz said BCA plans to open in September and said BCA is looking at potential site locations, including Barstow Mall and Barstow Intermediate School.
Vogt said he voiced strong support for bringing the charter school because he felt it would net students who had already dropped out of school, and not take students away from BUSD.
A lot of kids fall through the cracks with regular school, according to Vogt.
"We don't do anything for the vast majority of kids who just want to have a good life, be good citizens and pay their bills and that's where charter schools come in," Vogt said.
"Barstow is a blue-collar town," he added.
While Rose maintained that the vote didn't officially approve the charter, she agreed that the charter would benefit students as well as the city.
"If this charter can bring what I believe it can bring, it's another asset we need in this community," she said.
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