Achievement academy to stay put at Calaveras

Fourth- and fifth-grade teacher Susan Bessette reads a book to her class, stopping along the way to ask questions, during a class at the Accelerated Achievement Academy in 2010.

The Accelerated Achievement Academy will keep its current location at Calaveras School next school year, after a failed motion for a move to Maze Middle School.
Trustee Pat Moore made the motion to move the academy during a special board meeting Tuesday, following discussions of the topic at several general and special board meetings.
The board’s consideration of the move triggered concerns from parents and school district employees because the academy’s fourth and fifth graders would share a campus with older students. Speakers during public comment also expressed concern that growth in the area might mean the academy would have to move a second time.
“We really need to think this out,” said teacher Jan Grist during public comment, as she referenced growth in the area. “Because, we’re all here for one reason: the children. And it would be lousy to move
them again.”
At the board’s request, John Teliha, the district’s director of facilities, shared the neighborhood schools of students attending the academy, in percentages; and the cost of installing two portable classrooms at Calaveras to keep the expanding program at its current site.
The total cost of adding portables to Calaveras would be about $1.2 million, according to Teliha’s PowerPoint. The portables could absorb 23 to 30 students, he said.
Possible funding sources for the work would be developer fees; state bond funding, if one is passed by voters; or Measure M—a $28.5 general obligation facilities bond—approved by local voters in November of 2014.
“But it’s not on the priority list,” Moore said.
Teliha reminded the board that trustees still had the option of a multipurpose room or six classrooms at Calaveras, which had been outlined as a priority in the district’s list of bond projects.
“Do we have enough funds in developer fees to cover the costs?” said Board President Elizabeth Martinez.
Kathy Cunnane, the district’s director of fiscal services, explained there are currently about $2.3 million in developer fees but some of that had been committed to the Hollister Dual Language Academy’s expansion.
In August 2015, trustees approved funding for the first phase of the HDLA expansion at Gabilan Hills with $1.3 million in developer fees and about $1.6 million taken from the district’s $28.5 million general obligation facilities bond, with the intent to use future developer fees to repay that amount so the bond is whole again.
Jack Bachofer, a school district employee, spoke during public comment and mentioned his experience on the citizens’ oversight committee for Gavilan College’s Measure E, a $108 million general obligation facilities bond passed by voters in 2004. He explained school districts have the ability to change their bond priorities within the guidelines of the original measure’s text.
“Yes, you have a Measure M and you had your priorities and I’m saying now your priorities may be changing, and that’s okay as long as it fits within the guidelines of the original measure,” he said.
Board President Elizabeth Martinez replied that Bachofer was correct, but added there was a local oversight committee ensuring the district spends money on the things it had committed to funding.
“Breaking the trust of our community after they supported the bond is not something that I’m just going to readily say ‘okay,’” Martinez said.
Placing a second general obligation facilities bond before voters during June or November elections was listed as an agenda item for later during the same special meeting.
Anita Sarringhaus, a district nurse and the parent of an AAA student, spoke in favor of the program. She added that her daughter had earned straight A’s but kept to herself prior to finding this school.
“The very first day she came home beaming and she said: ‘It’s so cool here. I’m not a nerd,’” Sarringhaus said. “Please keep this program and help it to succeed by not moving it temporarily.”
Sarringhaus also referenced an earlier presentation by Teliha and highlighted that R.O. Hardin was within walking distance of the AAA’s current site at Calaveras, meaning that 47 percent of the academy’s students can walk to the school’s current location.
Achievement Academy Principal Joe Rivas also spoke during public comment and called staying at Calaveras the “best decision” for students, while moving to Maze—where already existing classrooms would allow for academy expansion—would make sense financially.
Board Trustee Peter Hernandez stressed his desire to provide stability for AAA students and to help them keep their identity as a school. He praised district staff for the work done before the meeting.
“Off hand, one thing that I hadn’t heard (before this meeting)—correct me if I’m wrong—was how many kids were within walking distance,” he said.

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