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September 3, 2019
Back in May, John Adams Academy, a local charter school, petitioned to the Roseville Joint Union High School District, RJUHSD, for oversight as required by California law. The education code outlines that the school board cannot deny the petition unless it finds that the charter is unsound for the students or is unlikely to successfully follow district administration. On top of that, the California Code of Regulations determined that charters could only be rightfully denied if the students show signs of physical or psychological damage, as well as an inability to perform simple tasks or equations.
Although district administration suggested the board deny the petition, after open comment from the public, the board felt obligated by the law to accept the petition and voted 4-1 on overseeing John Adams Academy. Even though the board approved the petition, there were still some concerns about the education and test scores of the charter, as well as their financials.
According to Joe Landon, RJUHSD’s assistant superintendent, the more RJUHSD dug into information, the more issues were raised.
“They seemed to have a lot of financial issues and made a lot of financial decisions that I had questions on,” Landon said.
However, this is what the oversight was intended for: to help improve their test scores and guide them towards being a better school overall.
With the role of oversight, the district will act almost as a parent, watching over their financials, test scores and guiding John Adams Academy in the decisions they make. Although they are considered part of the district, the funding and test scores between RJUHSD and John Adams Academy are not intertwined; the charter is responsible for its own funding and its own test scores. On top of that, if test scores seem to decline, the district can step in and help correct what caused the low scores.
Students at John Adams, referred to as “scholars”, come from various backgrounds and locations to attend school there. Some drive five minutes to the school, while others can drive up to two hours to make it. Overall, they have around 50 different zip codes, as well as scholars from six different counties.
Even though students and staff from schools in RJUHSD will not see impact of this oversight, some were upset the board decided to take the charter on; between the reputation and low test scores, they were afraid the charter would hinder the district later down the line.
For first year superintendent Dr. Denise Herrmann, who was still in the process of getting to know RJUHSD’s own eight schools, a petition with that many students behind it was big. However, Herrmann, as well as the rest of administration, went right to work on shifting through the full petition by meeting with administrators from John Adams Academy to work out some details.
“When the charter petition was dropped, I knew it was a big deal because it’s a large school and I knew it was going to be a big decision for the school board,” Herrmann said. “So we immediately sent word and started working with our attorneys [because] there’s a lot of legal parameters around making sure we follow the law when looking at the charter petition. So right away, we informed our attorneys and we rolled up our sleeves and just said, ‘Let’s do our due diligence.’”
At John Adams Academy, they focus on a classical education that puts emphasis on documents and primary sources rather than pictures and videos. The most common of these documents is on the founding of American and Western heritage. Troy Henke, the headmaster of secondary education, feels that focusing on those who lived before us will encourage their scholars to achieve for a higher greatness.
“Scholars can learn a lot from primary source documents. Reading the Declaration of Independence is inspiring; much more inspiring than reading about the Declaration of Independence and we want our scholars to be inspired by the great. It sets a standard and expectation for what we hope our scholars will want to achieve someday,” Henke said.
Unlike RJUHSD, John Adams Academy teaches students from kindergarten all the way to high school. One major question that was raised by opposition was how the district could help their younger scholars that make up the majority of the charter. Norman Gonzalez, the director of outreach and compliance, feels that being able to watch over scholar’s education through the years can help the school prepare them for high school and eventually college.
“One of the things I think is really important about a K-12 education like us, is that you’re looking at the development of the scholar from kindergarten all the way through graduation,” Gonzalez said. “This is an opportunity for not only working, partnering and collaborating with the high school district on our high school, but as an organization and how we prepare our elementary and middle school scholars for high school and graduation, because that’s really what that endpoint is.”
In regards to the concerns regarding the K-8 curriculum, Henke feels that the administration are, and should be able to handle students and scholars of all ages.
“One thing that I believe is a school administrator is a school administrator and are well equipped to handle all age groups. I believe we belong in the Roseville Joint Union High School District. It’s where we’re located and I look forward to being an active part of the district,” Henke said.
As John Adams Academy continues to work with the RJUHSD, the flames of the fire seen when the petition first started is seeming to die out. While the district works on bettering both itself and John Adams, it’s unsure as to what the future will hold. According to Herrmann, the only thing that can be sure is that students, both at John Adams and RJUHSD, will continue to grow and achieve the highest they can.
“One of the things that stood out to me on the comments of some of the board members is that they really look to the students who are being served at John Adams as students in our community. I do too and that’s why I take this so seriously,” Herrmann said. “Even though John Adams draws from outside our borders, if families are choosing to send their students to a school here within our boundaries, I look at that as our community providing the education for that group. So I take that responsibility seriously and I look forward to helping John Adams be the best school it can be.”