Updated at 9 p.m. Feb. 3, 2012
The superintendent of the Grossmont Union High School District says only “a small group of people” are behind an effort to study charter status for Grossmont High School.
In a telephone interview from his office on that campus, Superintendent Ralf Swenson on Friday questioned “the weight” given coverage of the charter exploration group, saying its strength was misrepresented.
“You don’t know how many teachers were there,” he said. “You don’t know what actually occurred in determining the consensus of the group. You don’t know what small percentage of the whole [staff] that amounts to.”
On Thursday, a teacher involved in the study group told Patch that a day earlier “the staff of Grossmont High School … voted nearly unanimously to explore the option of becoming a charter school.”
Friday night, in response to Swenson’s comments, the same teacher said: “A charter is only possible with a grass roots movement by the majority of the staff at a school. If it becomes the case where it is only a minority of teachers who are interested in charter, then the discussion ends.”
The teacher, who asked not to be identified, declined to answer questions on how many Grossmont teachers supported and opposed the charter study. The teacher further said via email:
At this point we stand by our previous statement:
We have no timeline currently to make the move to a charter school. We will be conducting extensive research on what it will take to become a charter school.
We plan to contact existing charter schools around the state of California to explore the pros and cons of a charter school. Each step in the process will be brought to our staff for approval. Currently, we are compiling a list of instructional goals we want to focus on through out the process.
Swenson, hired in July 2010 as chief of the 11-high school district, said he was concerned that Patch reports gave the impression that “the entire Grossmont faculty wants to go to charter school.”
While noting that he wasn’t present for Wednesday’s vote—which a teacher said found overwhelmingly in favor of a charter study—Swenson said he had talked to some people on the Grossmont campus.
“I’m not confident about the … exact numbers [of those attending the vote],” he said—while mentioning that Grossmont staff has considered a charter school at least twice in the past.
He said he’s trying to find “someone who was in the room” to meet with. “I’m interested in hearing more about it from any of the staff.”
Swenson also stressed that two upcoming parent information meetings on attendance boundaries will be a serious attempt to gather concerns and suggestions.
“We will proceed with an open attitude and with the complete possibility that one of the outcomes from the conversations with these parents would be that we may need to make some amendments or small revisions to the plan the board recently adopted,” he said.
In response to a letter from Gregory Kerrebrock—a parent leading a petition drive against the new attendance boundaries—Swenson denied that he was “stalling” the process.
“I’m not stalling anything,” he said. “I’m fascinated by some people’s willingness to simply disregard sincere discussions, that I took the time to have with people.”
Swenson vowed to do “serious business in a serious way—and take the people who come to meetings seriously, and I’m not wasting their time or mine. I’m not wasting anybody’s time.”
He said he hoped for good input Tuesday and Wednesday at Hillsdale and Parkway middle schools.
“We are bringing the resources that we can to the process,” Swenson said. “We will take that information and seriously examine what might be an appropriate response.”