San Carlos Charter Learning Center
The Longest Running Charter School in America
750 Dartmouth Ave., San Carlos, CA 94070 voice: 650-508-7343 fax: 650-508-7341

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Home Community The Director's Cut

The Director's Cut

Washington Post Compares Two Charter School Studies from Stanford

Thanks to a CLC Board Member, I was made aware of an interesting article in today's Washington Post that analyzed two reports out of Stanford University that looked at the success of charter schools around the country.  In summary, both reports essentially contradicted each other and like most research in the field of Education, we are left with a huge question mark as to which report to believe.  I urge everyone to read this article as there are links to the actual research the people can review for themselves. 

For CLC, the importance of this article is that it again states how much money there is available for charter schools.  We are in an unprecedented time in charter school history with regard to the how much grant money we have access to.  Unfortunately, we are unable to apply for this money as we are considered a dependent charter of the school district.  I think for our community, this is an important issue that we should start talking about.

Last Updated ( Monday, 30 November 2009 23:13 )

Class Sizes Increase Across the State Due to Budget Cuts


November 27, 2009


Splashed across today's Front Page of the San Mateo County Times is an article that reports on how class sizes are going up across the state.  According to the article, "California Watch surveyed the thirty largest K-12 schools districts in the state and found that many schools are pushing class sizes to 24 in some or all of the early grades (K-3).  Other district have raised class sizes to 30 students--reverting to levels not seen in more than a decade." 

When you dig deeper on this issue, it becomes quite clear that class sizes are going up because California is not funding schools adequately to maintain class sizes of 20 students in K-3.  And, debate is heating up around the contention that class sizes of twenty does help to increase student achievement.  The current research does not seem to bear this out. 

This is one of those "dirty little secrets" that people in education do not want discussed.  The fact is that research around small class sizes is completely mixed.  For every research report cited in favor of class size reduction, there is another one that comes to the conclusion that class size reduction has no discernible effect on student achievement.  A good summary of the research that California used to decide to implement class size reduction in the 1990's can be found here.

In 2001, there was follow up research supported by the Rand Corporation that concluded that California's class size reduction program did not result in improved student achievement.  And, the cost for this program is estimated at MORE THAN TWO BILLION DOLLARS.  That is a heck of a lot of money for a program that has delivered questionable results. 

Class sizes of twenty do have some impacts to our education system.  First, parents love the program because it does allow teachers to really get to know each of the kids.  I do believe this is a very important, and often ignored, important result of having smaller class sizes.  The second impact is a huge (and recurring) financial cost because it creates many more teaching positions.   This reason is very important to the California Teachers Association leadership.  

I think an important question that needs to be discussed openly is this:  Given the current state budget mess, can California afford such a costly program that has yet to deliver on student achievement? 

My personal opinion is that small class sizes are beneficial.  Though CLC has had to slightly increase class sizes in grades 1-3 last year, we were able to reduce class sizes in Kindergarten to 18.  In addition, we also reduced class sizes in grade 4 from 30 to 24.  And, let's not forget our middle school children.  This group is often ignored and at CLC we have strived to keep class sizes below 30.  So far, we have been successful.  Our class sizes here at CLC are far from ideal, but necessary in the current financial environment.  We do work hard to make sure each child feels connected to an adult staff member.  

It is clear that the State of California does not value class sizes since it will not guarantee minimum funding to have class sizes of 20.  Costs continue to rise and revenue continues to be cut.  Is it no WONDER that school districts are in such dire financial straits? 


Last Updated ( Friday, 27 November 2009 20:02 )

Proposed Boundary Changes to San Carlos School District

November 24, 2009


It looks like the SCSD is proposing to change boundaries for district schools within San Carlos.  Here are the proposed changes within the specific neighborhoods:

  • Between Howard St. and Brittan Ave and between Cedar and El Camino would move from White Oaks to Brittan Acres
  • The east side, north of Bransten would move from Brittan Acres Schools to Arundel School
  • The canyon area west of Devonshire/Exeter/Madera would move from Arundel to Heather

The purpose of this change (see attached Boundary Map) is to create greater balance in terms of school enrollment numbers and maximize the current space available within the San Carlos School District.  What is interesting is that San Carlos is pretty much an "all charter" school district.  All of the schools that are charter schools (other than CLC), are what is called "Conversion Charters".  As conversion charters, those schools are still required to keep their original neighborhoods as the "first preference" for that particular school.  In order for this change to happen, the San Carlos School District will need a get a waiver from the State of California.  Given the current enrollment crunch in certain schools, this plan is a very good idea for SCSD.  As a SCSD community member, I certainly support it.

Also, speaking as a resident in one of the affected neighborhoods noted above,  I am not at all concerned with the redistricting.  Each of the district schools are great options for our kids.  So, on that score, I am not worried at all.

The new Superintendent, Craig Baker, will be hosting a town hall meeting on Monday, November 30th at the San Carlos Library at 7:30 pm to answer questions and respond to any comments.  Please note that currently enrolled students in grades 3 and 4 will not be affected by this.

Please also note that current and future CLC families are NOT AFFECTED by this as we have a completely different enrollment policy.





FileDescriptionFile sizeLast Modified
Boundary-Map1.pdf 1733 Kb24/11/09 18:17

Is Gifted Education Getting Shortchanged? Not at CLC

A recent national study on gifted education illustrates just how far public education has swung away from the brightest students in our school.  As this report indicates, both presidents on both sides of the aisle have tries to eliminate funding for gifted and talented programs in the federal budget only to have the money replaced during congressional negotiations 

In San Carlos, as in the much of the rest of the state, Gifted and Talented programs have been virtually eliminated as a formal "add-on" enrichment kind of program.  Here at CLC, this is something that we, as educators are certainly grappling with. In the face of higher class sizes, how do we best meet the needs of our brightest children?  And, more importantly, should their needs be subordinated in order to focus more resources on lower achieving kids? 

At CLC, we have tried a couple of new strategies to better meet the needs of our truly gifted and talented students.  One approach is to look at how online learning programs can be accessed in order to challenge and engage our learners.  EPGY out of Stanford University, and the ALEKS program in Southern California are two such online programs that we are working with. In addition, we have parent volunteers who step up and engage some of our students with enrichment clubs like MathCounts.

In our middle school, Inga Davis, our math teacher, has begun to implement the math program from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.  Phillips Exeter is recognized as one of the top independent schools in the United States. The "Exeter Math Program" is an all word problem based, comprehensive math program for students taking Algebra and higher.  It is one of the most successful math programs in the country and Inga is using it for our students here at CLC.  And, we are seeing fantastic results and high achievement for our kids.  The link to the Exeter math program is here:  All the materials are free for anyone to use.

For our learners who may be gifted writers, we are also looking at ways in which we can offer more challenging writing projects nor only in class but also as an after school enrichment opportunity.

I think we would all agree that we can do more for our kids in this area.  At CLC, I do feel that we are meeting our kids' academic needs better and more often than other schools. I think it is in the nature and structure of our program that allows us to succeed in this area.  We work to deliver instruction in small group settings.  We strive individualize educational programs whenever we can. We look for the most innovative and challenging programs for our kids. As a charter school, we are not restricted by state mandated curriculum.

While most schools (public and private) are struggling with meeting the needs of gifted children, this is one area where I feel CLC can say it has made some real strides over the last few years and we will continue to be committed to the success of not only our struggling learners, but also our most gifted learners.


2009 CLC State of The Community



The State of the CLC Community – 2009


Dear CLC Community Members:


We have come a long way from this time last year. In November 2008, we were talking about dire financial conditions, the possible closure of our school, and our main focus was on keeping doors open rather than on our core mission: educating our children. Yet, we persevered. We buckled in and forged ahead for what we knew then was going to be several years of challenging financial conditions. I remember one member of our community strongly recommending to me that CLC, “cut back on enrollment, reduce the number of teachers, batten down the hatches and try to ride this out and hope for the best!” I certainly agree we will need to ride out this financial storm, but I have always believed you take challenges like this head on—restructure and reorganize—and look for ways to make our organization stronger and more versatile. And, we did just that. With the blessing of the district, we embarked on an enrollment growth strategy to help build our revenue base. We cut back significantly wherever we could. All of the staff accepted a three day furlough to help make ends meet—a reduction in salary. The classroom organizational structure was modified to better serve our core mission and vision. It allowed us to accept more students within the same teaching space. Educare looked to build and expand in order to improve the quality of its program and identify additional revenue sources. Some positions were eliminated and others radically restructured. Through all of these changes we experienced one of the lowest rates of employee attrition in several years. By July, 2009, it became apparent that we not only succeeded in weathering the storm, but are more prepared than ever address the continuing financial crisis that batters California.


Highlighted Accomplishments for 2008-09:

  1. State measurements to assess student learning (as defined by the State) jumped significantly compared to a year ago.
  2. California Charter School Association identified CLC as being the most consistent high performing charter school in California in terms of student achievement.
  3. We have two more CLC educators pursuing their National Board Certification
  4. We initiated a 1:1 laptop program in grades seven and eight. Stacy Emory, our Director of Curriculum, reviewed this program and has concluded that the material gains and benefits for student achievement in grades 7 and 8 are significant and it is a program worth continuing and possible expanding.
  5. We significantly enhanced the quality, reliability, and speed of our internet access thanks to the tireless efforts of the entire tech team.   In addition, we have also greatly reduced our costs in this area as well.
  6. Elysha Passeggi and Fran Dickinson successfully launched a school wide math initiative and both Elysha and Fran were videotaped for a “best practices” segment as teachers of mathematics. The filming of their lessons will be used by other math educators to help them to improve their skills in this area.
  7. We successfully leveraged our position as the oldest charter school in California to raise public awareness about the importance of charter schools in the education movement in California.
  8. Thanks to a group of dedicated parents, we continue to have one of the more dedicated and successful math teams in the Bay Area.
  9. We implemented a new Milestone trip at the middle school level where the students in grades 7 and 8 go camping and whitewater rafting for four days.
  10. The dedicated educators at the K-2 level, under the guidance of Stacy Emory, are working on enhancing the experience for their children through a critical reflection and recording of the academic program, its projects, and the expected student outcomes.
  11. Educare, under the leadership of Jenn Leydecker, has strived to improve its overall quality while, at the same time expanding its offerings to provide more options for our parents. In addition, Jen was successful in bringing back a longtime Educare favorite, David Burgess.
  12. We have expanded the ways in which community members can get together. We started a new tradition with our Wild Wild West party in the Fall as well as monthly restaurant socials.
  13. Our Green Committee has stepped up its efforts and we have expanded into weekly bottle redemption and recycling. In addition, we know have composting along with a more comprehensive recycling program.
  14. This summer brought a transformation of a some long lost space and we have created the CLC Community room by the Old Gym as well as the addition of lockers for our middle school students. Special thanks again to John Rohrer for his help.
  15. We generated both local and national exposure for our efforts to not only raise money for CLC but also to raise awareness to the larger community about the plight of public education in California.
  16. Our annual Run4FUNds will continue to inspire and excite our community not only as a fundraiser but also as a way to help us to continue to advocate at both the state and national level about the importance of Charter School Education.


The Importance of Fundraising for CLC


During the 2008-09 academic year, CLC made a conscious decision, with the support of the Governance Council, to increase our development and fundraising efforts. As California’s first and oldest charter school, we recognize our position as a leader in the charter school movement at both the state and national levels. Charter Schools provide parents in cities and towns around the country with a valuable choice for how they want to educate their children. San Carlos, California is at the very center of the California Charter Schools movement.


In August, 2008, CLC’s Governance Council recognized that the amount of money that the state and federal government provides for education was inadequate to meet the needs of our students. Given that CLC receives less per student compared to other schools (almost $600 less per child), it is now necessary to help fund the difference through secondary revenue streams.


The decrease in state and federal aid, combined with unexpected revenue losses during the economic crash of 2008 pushed CLC precariously close to fiscal insolvency. CLC’s need to protect its fiscal condition is expected to continue through at least 2012 because of California’s declining tax base. At one point in 2008, the CLC community was faced with the possibility of having to close its doors over lack of funding. Thankfully, the community stepped up and made a conscious choice not to let that happen.


CLC has begun to implement a long term plan to improve its current fiscal condition and provide the necessary foundation to sustain itself for the long term. Our Fundraising Team does not fundraise for Salaries or Staff. Every fundraising dollar goes to supplies, reimbursements for parent led enrichment programs, Milestone support and to build the reserve. In order to meet our long term needs for fiscal sustainability, CLC will need to continue to build and replenish its reserves each year. Historically, CLC has maintained a reserve of at least 10% or about $350,000.


What is the Outlook for 2009 and Beyond?


For 2009-10, the public education revenue situation continues to worsen. We started the year with the State of California passing a state budget that immediately slashed funding beyond even our worst expectations. Even though we restructured our program, slashed costs to the bone, and prepared to maintain these cuts, Sacramento has reduced funding again by an additional $105,000. In addition, we expect the state of California to cut our revenue for the year by an additional $50,000 - $60,000 at some point between now and January when the Governor’s Budget is presented. This will be the result of lower than expected state tax revenues—and less revenue for schools like CLC.  


CLC’s current goal for this year is to raise $250,000. This money is needed to support the following aspects of our program:

  1. Maintain and expand the state required financial reserves for CLC: $150,000
  2. Fund the Enrichment program for Art, Music, FAB, and Seminars: $35,000-$40,000
  3. Support the 1:1 laptop program, maintain technology and the purchase of needed classroom projectors and document cameras across grade levels: $45,000
  4. Educator Funds and support for Milestone trips, field trips, scholarship support, Library, and Garden: $15,000-$20,000

The fundraising that we do at CLC helps to bridge a gap in funding—a gap that grows ever wider with each passing year.


In What Ways are CLC’s Funding Needs Unique?


Because CLC receives less money per student compared to other area schools, it is necessary to commit a greater percentage of our federal and state dollars towards salaries and benefits. For example:


  • The SCSD  spent about $14 million on teacher salaries and benefits compared to Federal, State and Parcel Tax Revenue of about $21.5 million. That is equal to about 65% of revenue.
  • CLC spent about $1.4 million on teacher salaries and benefits compared to Federal, State and Parcel Tax Revenue of about $1.76 million. That is equal to about 79% of revenue.


This leaves CLC with far less to spend on other essential items and program support services. Other ways that illustrate how CLC’s funding needs are different:


  • The SCSD  spends about 4% on books and supplies compared to 1.5% for CLC
  • The SCSD receives about 83% of all revenue from the state compared to only 70.5% for CLC


As the Director of CLC, in collaboration with the GC, it is our fiduciary responsibility to do what is best for our learners, our educators and our community members. We are much more than just a school. What we have created over the years is an ethos, a sense of how things ought to be done when it comes to teaching and learning. Our educators are highly qualified. Our children are eager to learn and we encourage them to be active members in this process. There is no greater joy than to see a child learn to read, or to understand a math problem, or even just to laugh. We have created this community because we want our children to learn and to develop that love of learning that seems to escape most children in today’s society. When I talk with our kids, I know that we are doing something right. Our children are good people, eager to learn, and they genuinely enjoy spending time together. Perhaps the best testimony to our success here at CLC is that our alumni regularly come back to visit us. And, we genuinely love and appreciate having them on campus with us when they do.


I look forward to another exciting year ahead. There will be lots of excitement around our MOU negotiations and what the future holds in terms of our relationship with the district. We have a strong GC Board; we have amazing parents; we have the best kids around; and our teachers are as good as it gets. When you have a combination like this—it makes me confident that we can meet any challenge that awaits.


Many thanks for a tremendous start to this school year and, as we enter the holiday season, please remember that each one of us plays a critical role in the success and happiness of our children at CLC. Without you, none of this is possible.





Christopher Mahoney

Director, CLC

This Oldest and Most Respected Charter School in California

Last Updated ( Thursday, 19 November 2009 18:00 )
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