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Author Topic: Eviction of Corbett Charter School?  (Read 20501 times)
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« on: February 09, 2014, 12:02:52 PM »

The below emails are from Bob Dunton and are in order of receipt starting yesterday morning before noon. He sent three yesterday to his staff/parent list and then Randy Trani posted to the school blog in response to these emails. Then Bob Dunton responded with the last email (below) about that this morning.

From: Bob Dunton <>
Date: February 8, 2014 11:49:38 AM PST
To: Bob Dunton <>, Charter Staff <>, Charterboard <>
Subject: Eviction of Corbett Charter School?

Dear Friends,

This is a note that I hoped never to send.  I know that word of conflict is upsetting to some, but I have held off as long as is prudent and you have a right to be informed about issues threatening your children's education.  I have been working behind the scenes to head this off for some time, and perhaps to no avail.  It's time to go public.

The Corbett School District Administration and Board have been discussing for some time now the eviction of Corbett Charter School from their campus. It sounds ruthless, but there it is. There are those who don't care about the ethics of the plan so long as it is technically within the scope of the law and benefits them.

The "open" portion of the plan is simple and has been rumored for months:

1.  Eliminate Corbett Charter School by not allowing it to rent space on campus.  (Because $30,000.00 per year per classroom wasn't enough?!)

2.  Since Charter families won't have any choice if they don't want to go back to the previous schools, recruit all CCS students through open enrollment.

3.   Since they won't have jobs and therefor no real choice if they want to keep working with their kids, hire whatever of the charter teachers don't have names ending with Dunton Wink

4.  Tell everyone, teachers and parents alike, that nothing will change and that Corbett School District cares about all of 'their' students.

5.  Have more money!!!

The unpublished part of the plan is a little more complicated:

1.  Lay off some of the newly 'hired' charter teachers.  Because the District has hired too many people for the number of students that it 'serves', three or four of the newly 'hired' charter teachers will likely be laid off.  This saves the district the embarrassment of laying off teachers that they just hired this past year and allows them to keep unnecessary but cherished people on the payroll.

2.  Pile more and more open enrollment kids into the high school (they have already overloaded the lower grades, making this inevitable), where the district's 9th grade classes have already been so large as to foment a minor teacher rebellion. Look for average class sizes of 35 to 38 next year, headed toward forty over the next two years if they have their way.

Cloak and Dagger?

I have been working behind the scenes to negotiate the fair treatment of Corbett Charter School, and just a few days ago I reached an agreement with the Board Chair and the Superintendent in accordance with which they would make every effort to give us at least a full year's notice to be able to make plans to survive as a school.  They were going to work to convince the Board which, according to them, had already decided to evict us prior to voting the renew the charter agreement!   We shook hands and exchanged commitments.

A day or two later the Board Chair attended a special meeting at the home of an influential  member of the teachers' union.  Only selected teachers were invited, while other Corbett School teachers who were known to support the charter school were excluded. I don't know how many board members were in attendance.

Following this private meeting (so private that most Corbett teachers were never even told that it had happened!) the Board Chair called me, revoked the commitment made just a few days prior, and told me that he didn't see any way that Corbett Charter School would be allowed to stay on campus next year.  (I'd be curious to know who is really making decisions regarding the educational options available to your students.)

Next came a Corbett School Board meeting with a marathon Executive Session (out of view for well over two hours!) in which I suspect their lawyer pointed out some flaws in their plan. After that meeting (and a trip to the legal woodshed compliments of their lawyer?) the District offered to inform me regarding their thoughts about a possible lease agreement. They called it a 'negotiation', but my role was clearly prescribed as a multiple choice exercise on their schedule with a total of four days to complete 'negotiations'.  The earliest that we can meet is Monday (on Thursday they actually offered to meet at 3:00 Friday, but we all knew what the weather was going to be at that time, and I had a prior commitment that was also weathered out!)  They intend to vote on Tuesday, which is why I don't have any choice but to communicate this to you now.

If they vote to evict us, they plan on everyone involved just going along as though nothing had happened. (That seems to be a common strategy in Corbett, as the entire school community is expected to pretend not to see what they see every day.)

What they don't plan on:

1.  I personally believe that many charter parents (and many parents in the District as well) will be disappointed by this bullying on the part of the Corbett Administration, a subgroup of the teacher's union and an unofficial subcommittee of the School Board.

2.  Many of the charter teachers still hold to old  values like loyalty, honesty, fidelity, and don't want to work for Corbett School District so long as those values are so openly trampled underfoot on a daily basis.

3.  If evicted, we intend to establish a school at  another location within the Corbett boundaries and to offer a full program there.  Among the teachers who have committed to joining us are six Corbett Charter high school teachers. There is one that I haven't had a chance to visit with yet, as things are unfolding rapidly.  Lots of you may not know which teachers are employed by which school once we get to the senior high school, since all of our students cross-enroll.  Once you leave our self-contained staff, up through Ms. Hedger, the senior high members of the Corbett Charter staff are Bob Dunton (yes, I teach six periods a day), Lauren Ogden-Easterling (Ms. O-E to her kids), Jennifer Ducey, Zach Goude, Larry Swanson, Will Robertson.  That's a pretty amazing staff, and they find the prospect of getting back to manageable class sizes pretty attractive after the past couple of years.

If we leave the Corbett campus, taking with us whatever students are interested in continuing to pursue their studies with the Charter staff, the current Corbett High School will become unrecognizable in very short order. Why?  First because teacher's aren't interchangeable.  Second, because applications for new students wanting to get into grades 10 through 12 are fairly sparse.  (Of 335 new applications received by Corbett Charter School this year, 8 were for grades 10 through 12).  So every student who left Corbett High in favor of Corbett Charter High School would put something of a hole in the District's financial plan.  If 150 of them join us (along, I suspect, with many of the best students who reside in Corbett and who have anticipated since middle school taking classes from the Charter teachers) Corbett School District could be left $1,000,000.00 or more short of its revenue projections.  That would be disastrous.  It would put the District right back in the situation from which Corbett Charter School rescued it five years ago.

Our preference, as we have said again and again, is to maintain our operation on the Corbett School District campus in collaboration with Corbett School.  We made an offer to increase our payments to the district by about a quarter million dollars next year (30% across the board!).  They have refused even to acknowledge that they received the offer.  We aren't done trying.  But rather than be pillaged, we will respond decisively when the time comes. And we have a history of success even when those around us insist that we must fail.

If all of this sounds like a bad fever dream, welcome to my world.

If the District has really become so cynical as to carry out this scheduled eviction, then one of the decisive votes is scheduled to occur on Tuesday night, the 11th of February, 7:00 in the East Cafeteria at yet another Special Board Meeting.  This one does have the merit of being announced ahead-of-time!

I apologize for the unsavory content of this communication.  I never thought I would be writing such a thing.  It feels like I am filing some sort of gruesome accident report.  I hate the details, but that's what happened.

But if the Board stays the course and I haven't given you some sort of notice, I will feel as if I had betrayed your trust. To me, that still matters.

Many of you will have very detailed questions regarding your specific circumstances.  I won't have anything like to time to address them, and I won't be able to answer any specific questions until we see what the District does.

This communication is pretty much a first draft in one sitting.  Please excuse any clerical shortcomings.  No Communications Director here!

The next email will contain guidance regarding Open Enrollment should the District execute step 1 above and move on the step 2.

From: Bob Dunton <>
Date: February 8, 2014 12:08:30 PM PST
To: Charterboard <>
Subject: Open Enrollment in Corbett School

If Corbett School offers open enrollment to several hundred students after announcing the eviction of Corbett Charter School, what should you do?

APPLY!  Be first!  Use up every single slot.  Then enjoy your summer!

Why?  The best strategy for supporting Corbett Charter School while we mount our legal challenge is for the Corbett  Charter Community to occupy every single Open Enrollment Slot. If you occupy every slot, then you as a group have a tremendous bargaining position. Remember that application and even enrollment don't legally commit you to anything.  You could stay on their rosters all the way to September of 2014 and then, entirely at your discretion, make whatever decision you see fit regarding where to go to school.  This gives you some power in what is otherwise a very lopsided relationship.

So applying immediately does two things.  It secures for your family your unquestioned right to attend school in Corbett, and it gives you tremendous power to determine where the District goes...perhaps even to demand that Corbett Charter School's legal right to rent be honored.

When someone hands you the power, take it.  Apply! 

From: Bob Dunton <>
Date: February 8, 2014 3:38:23 PM PST
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Action?

Several people have asked what they can do.
I can't tell anyone else what to do, but here are some things that I have thought about.

1.  Write or call the Corbett Board or District office and let them know how you feel before the Tuesday meeting.

2.  Attend the Tuesday meeting, and either speak or just let them know that they are calling into question the rights of real, live people to be allowed to follow through on the educational choices that they have made. (Oh, and that them having more money is less important than the quality of your children's education.)

3.  Let them know that you don't think it's at all cute to make a big show of renewing the charter school only to turn around and try to kill it.

4.  I already told my dear friend and Charter Board member Brenda Fundak awhile back that if Corbett Charter has permission to operate on campus next year, I'm buying a table at the Red and Black Auction.  If Corbett School District follows through and eliminates us, then I'm not.  Corbett Charter parents put an incredible amount of 'sweat equity' into Corbett Boosters, PTA, all of the things that we do together with the District.  If we aren't together, then they need to experience the natural consequences of being a neighborhood bully.

5.  Submit a public records request asking for a signed copy of the current 'rental agreement' and for the minutes of the meeting in which it was approved.

6.  Request the names of the Board members and unions members who attended the secret meeting at a union member's home in Corbett.

7.  Check with your own legal counsel to see what recourse you might have, individually or as a class, if the District knowingly interferes with the choices that are available to you under Oregon law.

There are a lot more things that we do cooperatively that could stop immediately, and maybe that's what it would take for Corbett School District to admit that we give an awful lot more than we take in this relationship.

They will hide behind an old shield:  Don't do anything to us!  Think about the children!  If they cared about the children, they would allow us to continue to do that which, by all accounts, we simply do better than they do and for less money. Taking action against a bully is precisely what it means to think about the children in this case.  Keeping Corbett Charter School in place is what is best for children.  Period.

What's plan B?  Those who know me best know that a half dozen plans are churning.  I am talking to a developer, a realtor, a lawyer, and my wife, who is the hardest working educator that I have ever known.  But much of what needs doing is somewhat sensitive and needs doing without the District working back channels against us.  So I'm keeping the details pretty close.  I have let it out that we will see if we can empty Corbett High School of its most committed students and (what seems to matter to the Powers That Be) their state school support, which would simply cripple the district financially.  If we do that one thing, it's 'game over'.

That's what I've got for now.  I would love to share more details.  I can't. What I will share is my commitment to do whatever I am able to take care of the educational needs of your families.

I hit retirement age on Monday.  On Tuesday they try to destroy my work. Just the birthday that everyone dreams of!!!  But here's the thing.  I'm not done.

They have a website with contact info.  Perhaps by now they've posted a denial that any of this ever happened.  Maybe they will claim that this is business as usual. 

Here's the test:

If the Corbett Charter rental agreement appears for the first time ever as a separate agenda item at their meeting on Tuesday, then everything that we fear is true. There is no such thing as a charter rental agreement and never has been.  If there was such a thing, it would be a signed document and would have been voted on in previous years. They can't produce it, because it's an addendum (and always has been) to charter agreement. Ask them to show you the minutes from the meeting where they approved it last year!  Nothing.

Check it out.


Bob's response:

From: Bob Dunton <>
Date: February 8, 2014 at 11:31:36 PM PST
To: Bob Dunton <>
Subject: District Response to Eviction Plan News

The District has, predictably, posted a new article regarding their plan to evict the Charter School.  (See how that works?  I write to you, and Randy reads it!)  I'm pleased that Randy came right out and said that this whole business is about money and about the District admitting more students than it can accommodate. His account leaves out some things, including the multiple commitments that he has made to me.  Those private commitments are only he-said-he-said, but that's not all that wants fixing.

The District has admitted nearly 200 "open enrollment" and other transfer students over the past couple of years, and now they want to claim that it is growth in 'resident' students that is causing a space crisis.  Really? What exactly does 'resident' mean?  I wonder if includes the students who gained 'resident' status through open enrollment.

This isn't the only respect in which the post isn't completely accurate.  His repeated references to such a thing as a 'charter lease agreement' and 'negotiations' are largely matters of legal posturing. There have been no negotiations. There's just been me pleading to be treated with a modicum of fairness. In fact the Board directed him for the first time to go forth and negotiate after the last board meeting.  And his antiseptic account of the executive session didn't include an explanation regarding why one board member left in tears, insisting that she 'just can't do this any more'. More going on there than has been reported to date.

We have indeed offered to create a lease agreement for the first time (not to renegotiate a nonexistent agreement.)  Any reference to our current rent was a reference to the Charter Agreement, which the District just renewed. There is a significant difference here, which is why they keep repeating their version (no doubt on the advice of nearly everyone they've ever met, judging from their list of authorities.  Funny that they didn't include the secret enclave among their advisors!)  The enclave members, by the way, were at least in part in attendance at the meeting.  It was almost as though they were expecting significant news.  It must have been a disappointing evening for them.  I wonder if they felt betrayed.

If there is a charter lease agreement somewhere, I'd love to see it.  It would be a signed document, most likely on District letterhead, backed up by approved minutes reflecting Board action.  It would include rental rates and, of course, a beginning and ending date.  One supposes the end date in this case would be June of 2014.  Does this document exist?  Have there been five such documents?  That would be a whole file full. We would certainly honor such an agreement, with our sincere apologies for having lost track of its existence.  Still waiting.

The greatest mathematical marvel, though, is the final claim that the District will 'endeavor' to take care of all of its students.  If there are too many students to accommodate, wouldn't that mean that some can't be taken care of?  Who are they?  Where do they go?  How are they chosen? Who's out if they eliminate Corbett Charter School?

One hates to go on so, but a complex ruse requires complex analysis, and subtle misinformation requires detailed corrections.

One of my kids messaged me a good one.  Although I haven't shared any of this District nonsense with students, some parents clearly have.  I have heard from several, and they are concerned.  Funniest comment of the day? "We're students, not dollar bills with book bags!"
That would make a good poster for a Tuesday Board meeting!

Be well, my friends.  And everyone else, too!

Bob Dunton, Director
Corbett Charter School

* Colors added in the original email from BD.

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