It was a decision they clearly didn’t want to make – but said they had to anyway.
In a 5-0 vote, the members of San Diego County School Board last week denied the request of Escondido’s Epiphany Prep Charter School (725 Escondido Blvd.) for a two-year renewal of its operation, one board member saying the denial was forced by state rulemaking but “horrible.”
The decision came in an appeal of the denial of both a five-year renewal and a two-year renewal for Epiphany by the Escondido Union School District (EUSD) last February, also in a 5-0 vote. Staff of both EUSD and the county school board had recommended against the renewals.
A key issue was the use and interpretation of data, Epiphany Prep emphasizing a variety of test scores indicating strong academic “growth,” in comparison to other schools in the EUSD district. But based on state test statistics Epiphany falls in the “low performing” category, thus requiring denial if no clear indicators of future improvement.
Presentation of Epiphany’s request was preceded by 20 minutes of public comment, staff and students of the school praising the academic and social support the school provides to students.
Also speaking was EUSD Superintendent Dr. Luis Rankins-Ibarra, who said that assuming the denial, there would be a “smooth transition” of Epiphany’s students to other EUSD schools and that Epiphany’s teachers would be considered to fill open positions in the new school year.
Opened in 2016, Epiphany Prep describes its mission as serving a population of children facing “the greatest obstacles to succeeding in school,” including a large number of those non-English speaking and special ed students.
The school has an enrollment of 700 students, and David Rivera, President of Epiphany said he was concerned that with closure of the school its students will be transferred to the other EUSD campuses which have shown lower performance than at Epiphany.
Dr. Greg Robinson, vice president of the county board – who said the necessity of denying the school’s appeal was “horrible” – expressed concern about the “need” to serve the types of students enrolled at Epiphany and the difficulties created by the pandemic. But he said that board members “had to go with the data” and that in considering the appeal, staff of the county board had been “particularly accommodating” and not “conspiring against Epiphany.”
Other concerns expressed by board members included some of the school’s statistics suggesting problems with absenteeism, suspensions and the academic plan for those with disabilities. One board member questioned the necessity of a $3.5 million balloon bond issue, with Rivera saying this was contingent on gaining the two-year renewal.
Epiphany’s authorization to operate expires June 30, 2021, but it can still go to the state board of education to appeal the county board’s denial.