STANISLAUS COUNTY — Great Valley Academy teachers will get better feedback and help in airing concerns under an amended charter contract approved Tuesday by the Stanislaus County Board of Education.
The board voted unanimously for the contract after a presentation on efforts to improve uneven student achievement and address complaints. It offered a candid view into what board Chairman Luis Molina called "hiccups" in starting a public charter school.
The Stanislaus County Office of Education granted Great Valley its original charter, which gives it limited oversight authority over the independent school.
"I feel like we let (teachers) down, and I don't that that to happen again," Trustee Kim Rose said before the vote.
Concerns aired at a spring board meeting led county officials to meet with current and former GVA staff, said Assistant County Superintendent Sue Rich.
This fall, the county office hired retired administrator Linda Erickson for eight hours a month as a GVA liaison, acting as go-between for teachers and charter leaders, and the county office, Rich said.
Of the school's 33 teachers, half are first-year teachers and all are at-will employees with no system of tenure, Rich said. Some new hires came with school growth, but others replaced teachers who did not like the greater parental pressure and lower salaries common at charters, or were unhappy at GVA, surveys showed.
Erickson will help develop a leadership team to carry on without her, Rich said. "The goal is for Linda to work herself out of a job," she said.
The kindergarten-through-eighth-grade academy opened in 2008-09. It focuses on visual development as the key to student learning, with test scores varying widely year to year. In 2012, scores skyrocketed 69 points to 790 after a 20-point fall in 2011.
Last year, Great Valley opened a similar school in Manteca and this year expanded to provide home-school or independent study lessons. GVA board member Ryan Swehla said the organization has a healthy reserve and expects to end this year with a surplus.
Swehla said his board welcomes the help. The school had some growing pains, he acknowledged, and staff needs did not get enough attention. "We need a better feedback loop with staff," Swehla told the county board.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2339, and on Twitter, @NanAustin.