SANTA CRUZ ?" Pacific Collegiate School made an undisclosed offer to renew its lease with Santa Cruz City Schools on Wednesday, but officials would not publicly disclose details of the offer, even as tension from advocates for both sides boiled over during a district board meeting.
Trustees warned audience members to remain civil after some made caustic remarks about who was to blame for the nine-month controversy over the charter school's location. PCS, a school that has won national awards for its high number of advanced courses, has leased a former district elementary school site for $1 million over a five-year period that ends in June.
"You should have your teachers come to PCS to see what they're doing right," an unidentified PCS parent told trustees, saying they and some district parents were "jealous" of the school's success. "PCS put Santa Cruz on the map."
Trustee John Collins urged civility: "I think it's a mistake to beat each other up here or in the press. I don't really feel there's room for being uncivil."
PCS board members echoed that sentiment, asking speakers to keep the discourse respectful.
Of the new lease offer, Ken Cole, head of the PCS facilities committee, told trustees, "The ball is in your court."
The board discussed the offer in closed session but took no vote. Trustees scheduled another closed session meeting to discuss the matter at 7 p.m. Nov. 19 at the district office.
Superintendent Alan Pagano has declined to say what terms the district would accept, but an Oct. 31 letter to the charter school's attorney indicates the district is looking for a one-year lease extension at the rate it sought when negotiations began in February.
In the letter, which Pagano made public Wednesday, the district's attorney warned PCS that the district expected a "reasonable offer would contemplate a fee consistent with a range of $400,000-$425,000." The district has said that range is "fair market value" and rejected two previous PCS offers that were below the $275,000 the school paid this year.
Three separate parents who have a child attending PCS and another attending a district school urged trustees to quickly accept the charter school's offer to relieve anxiety among teachers and students about the future of PCS. Cole said PCS asked the parents to speak to demonstrate that the battle affects families with interest on both sides.
If the two sides don't reach an agreement, the district is legally bound to respond to a simultaneous request made by PCS under Proposition 39 for facilities and equipment for its students who live within the district's boundaries. The outcome would most certainly split the school into at least two sites, board President Cynthia Hawthorne warned PCS parents.
Two Santa Cruz parents publicly repeated long-held allegations of elitism at PCS, including that its student body, about 85 percent white, does not reflect the district's overall ethnic diversity. They also said PCS' reserve of $1.5 million, which is about half of its annual budget, shows the school can afford to pay what the district is asking.
"All of the staff time, board time, lawyers, community rift and student anxiety could have been avoided if PCS had made a reasonable offer one year ago," parent Suz Howells said.
Contact J.M. Brown at 429-2410 or firstname.lastname@example.org.