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Santa Barbara School Board Renews Peabody Charter

Parents and students praise the school's course offerings and educational approach

Parents, teachers and students applauded wildly Tuesday night as the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously to renew Peabody’s school charter.

For another five years, the school may continue with its operations mostly independent from the district, managed by the governance board. The school has autonomy in managing administration, curriculum development, staff development and instruction.

Parents and students praised the school at Tuesday’s meeting, saying its unique charter status enabled it to offer programs that other schools couldn’t.

Charter schools are often less funded than other public schools, but with statewide cuts it has mostly evened out, according to Meg Jette, the district’s assistant superintendent of business services.

Allowing teachers to play a role in choosing academic models is empowering, and the education at Peabody is aimed at the whole child, not just math, English and science, said John Wilcox, a parent, 11-year teacher and Peabody Education Foundation president. He said teachers didn’t choose the profession to be wealthy or famous, but it’s great to work somewhere that allows for such incredible input.

“Speaking for my wife and myself, thank you for allowing that to happen,” he said, his voice breaking.

Former governance board member Glenn Miller thanked Superintendent Dave Cash for making the charter renewal process a positive experience. He said his youngest child will graduate from Peabody this year, and it’s been a “glorious, glorious ride.”

“I can tell you that Disneyland has nothing on Peabody Charter School as ‘the Happiest Place on Earth,’” Miller said.

Joe Andrulaitis, a local architect and parent of two Peabody Panthers, asked the board to let them continue the successful venture as a charter school, which has put up high achievement scores and offers students art, physical education and music classes.

Two students said Peabody was “a lot better than regular public school” and “every kid has a talent” that otherwise might be lost without those P.E. or arts classes.

As for the core classes, Pablo Romero said his daughters were proficient in English just 2½ years after moving from Mexico, thanks to the dedication of Peabody’s teachers. It immerses his children in a “vast array of learning and artistic opportunities,” helped by the strong parent involvement and fundraising, he said.

SBUSD board members gladly renewed the charter but had some concerns for the governance board.

They asked Miller specifically about ethnic diversity of enrollment — which he said was similar to the district schools — and the decision to have board members appoint rather than elect its members.

Miller said skills such as financial planning and human resources are important to have since the board manages the school’s multimillion-dollar budget. He added that research shows that a stable board comes from electing members with those special skills and not turning the process into a popularity contest that special interests could take over.

Board members still encouraged Peabody’s board to look into a hybrid model, with a number of both elected and appointed seats, since so many complaints come in regarding that issue.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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