Sacramento New Technology High School has amassed a $650,000 deficit, triggering a recommendation to district trustees to deny charter renewal at the governing board’s Thursday night meeting.
The staff of the Sacramento City Unified School District cited the charter school’s fiscal insolvency and its inability to achieve sufficient gains in academic performance as the basis for recommending denial. The school this year has just 187 students, the smallest enrollment in its 14-year history.
The school opened in fall 2003 as one of several new charters funded in part by Carnegie and Gates Foundation grants. Its mission was to provide personal attention and innovative education approaches to a student body that could number 500.
For the school year ended last June, the charter’s fiscal shortfall exceeded $172,000, according to the staff report. District spokesman Alex Barrios said the school’s cumulative deficit has reached $650,000. The district, as fiscal agent, is responsible for that amount, Barrios said.
New Technology High School has defenders, including parents and at least two board members who hope to explore ways to keep the school operating.
“My child is doing well there,” said Candace Lawson of Elk Grove, whose 10th-grade son crosses district boundaries to attend New Technology. If New Technology closed, she said, “my son could go many places and do well. But I don’t think those places will nurture and feed him in quite the same way.”
Angela Garvie’s 10th grade son also attends and commutes from Elk Grove. “We chose New Technology for a lot of reasons,” she said. She said the school’s low test scores “don’t bother me. My son is doing well. And I think a lot of kids are doing well. I think kids are more than test scores.”
The district staff reported that New Technology High scored lower on math tests than two out of three comparable high schools and lower in science than all three comparable schools, McClatchy, Kennedy and Burbank.
Trustee Darrel Woo, whose district includes the charter at 1400 Dickson St. in Sacramento, said he planned to do his “darndest to keep it open.”
“I don’t want any school to close, and I think the fiscal side looks like it is driving the staff to recommend closure,” Woo said. “I’m scrambling to think of alternatives. This is one of the our small high schools. I can see these these children are thriving in this smaller environment, and I want to figure out how they can continue to do that.
“But I’m also facing the fiscal reality.”
Trustee Jessie Ryan said Wednesday she was saddened by the staff recommendation.
“I think it’s going to be a lively conversation,” she said of the Thursday meeting. “I am hopeful we can work out a path forward.”