Woodland Star seeks charter renewal
Woodland Star Charter School took the first step in having its charter renewed by the Sonoma Valley Unified School District during an informational session at the Jan. 15 school board meeting.
The next – and final – step takes place when the item returns to the school board for its approval at the February meeting.
The charter renewal would be for five years.
Sheila Reilly, Woodland Star’s administrator, told the board the school currently has room for 225 students, but hopes to be adding another 20 slots for a transitional kindergarten for children who are described as “young-5s,” those born in October, November and December who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to get into kindergarten until the following fall. She said the school would have started its transitional kindergarten this year, but the state was late in setting funding and rules.
Reilly said the school, which is open to any child in the district, picks its students by a lottery, and that there’s usually a waiting list to get in the school.
“Typically, the waiting list is for kindergarten, first and second grades,” she said. “That’s when we like to bring them in.”
An early start is preferred because Woodland Star is a Waldorf-based education system, based in part on the teachings of the Austrian philosopher, educator and social reformer Rudolf Steiner.
According to the Woodland Star parents’ handbook, “Waldorf methods nurture a sense of wonder and delight, and foster the reverence for nature and humanity inherent in the young child.
“The Waldorf curriculum develops the child’s active will, creative imagination and clear, independent thinking. Children emerge as life-long learners with the self-confidence to impart direction and purpose to their lives and leadership to their community.”
The school, located at 17811 Arnold Drive, adjacent to Altimira Middle School, receives state money, based on average daily attendance, categorical block grants and lottery funds.
Reilly said state funding cuts in the past few years have had an impact on the school. “We’ve lost $1,000 to $1,200 a student in ADA over the past five years.”
She said the school is also trying to attract more English-language learners and more students whose demographic more closely matches that of the school district, such as students whose parents didn’t attend college.
School board member Nicole Abate Duccaroz said she is glad there’s a Waldorf school available in the district. “It’s one more choice,” she said.
Board member Helen Marsh said the school is becoming more like the demographic of the community. “I like the lottery idea,” she said. “And I’m excited about the transitional kindergarten.”
The charter renewal, which would be effective July 1, will come back to the school board next month for a vote.
In other business, the school board recognized Andrew Akre and Kayla Alcorcha as Prestwood Elementary School’s students of the year.
The board also received updates from the AVANCE program, received a Schools of Hope update and a presentation by the high school’s Future Farmers of America.
The board also heard an update on some of the problems associated with the district’s solar energy system that some Adele Harrison Middle School neighbors have complained about.
Deputy Superintendent Justin Frese told the board the district has made improvements to the solar installation’s retention pond to keep it from flooding people along Woodworth Lane that backs up to the school.
“We increased the size of the basin; we increased the size of the bank; we put in a v-ditch that runs to the soccer field and we put a rip-rap berm in at the soccer field,” he said.
Frese said there was flooding after a December rain incident, but said it was because there was a silt fence in the drain that was clogged.
Tim Simonson, a Woodworth Lane neighbors, told the board there was flooding in December and that the pond overflows “on a regular basis. Twice in the last year.” When Simonson said he didn’t receive some of the documents from the district, board President Dan Gustafson said he’d personally deliver any missing documents or emails.