Sanger CA Hallmark Charter will merge with Taft Academy
Two Sanger Unified school programs will merge next year, despite outcry from some parents who have asked the school board to reconsider.
But the merger of Hallmark Charter School and Taft Academy is not a decision of the board of trustees, district officials said. The school board will decide whether Hallmark remains a charter school or drops that status.
“The start of Hallmark Academy – and the transition of Taft Academy – continues to move forward and evolve,” said Sanger Unified Assistant Superintendent Eduardo Martinez. “And this evolution or transformation does not depend on the dissolution of the charter. Hallmark Academy will evolve independently and transform Taft Academy into Hallmark Academy.
Frustrated with the process, parents and teachers at Hallmark Charter School continue to question district leaders about quick action to drop the school’s charter when the programs merge.
Taft’s parents are eager to merge, so their kids can enjoy the benefits of what Hallmark has to offer while still being under the online learning platform they need from Taft. The refusal of Hallmark families opposed to dropping the school’s charter status as part of the merger is what frustrates Taft’s parents.
“‘Every child, every day,'” Justin Mesloh said, citing the Sanger Unified motto during the May 24 board meeting. “You instilled that in me. I still believe that with our Taft Academy students. That exact phrase is why I believe the only way our Taft Academy students, including my daughters, can benefit from extracurricular activities go through this merger.
Sanger management has proposed dropping Hallmark’s charter status beginning in 2023, which would free up its funds for the Sanger Unified district as a whole.
“As a community, parents, students and staff, we wouldn’t be here if district officials did their due diligence before presenting the proposed merger of Hallmark Charter and Taft Academy to the board,” said Auriette Larbi, parent of Hallmark Charter. “We are here because our leaders made a crucial and important decision without involving the stakeholders.
“We ask our leaders: take the time, engage the community and be transparent about the issues…”
The board will vote on dropping charter status — which parents are frustrated about — not on merging Hallmark and Taft to become Hallmark Academy, district leaders said.
Superintendent Adela Jones said the district administration can scale the programs “so that all of our parents can access them.”
“We don’t need board approval for this,” Jones said of Hallmark Academy’s evolution.
Taft parent perspective
Mesloh said her kids need the hands-on learning experiences that Hallmark offers, but they should remain students of Taft.
Hallmark offers music, art, enrichment classes, tutorials, and lab science programs.
One of his children was distracted while attending in-person classes, which is why he and his wife chose Taft’s online platform, where she grew and thrived, exceeding the expectations of the school level.
That’s why they want to keep her at Taft. But keeping her at Taft also means she doesn’t have access to extracurricular activities, like the optional on-campus activities offered by Hallmark.
“As parents, her mom and I would love to have the ability for her to receive some parts of STEM, art, music,” Mesloh said. “It became clear that the only way for that to happen is with this merger.”
Their second daughter would also benefit from the Hallmark Academy merger, as she needs hands-on activities and a home-based learning environment as she would be entering school for the first time as a kindergartener. . The Taft e-learning platform with Hallmark opportunities is what they consider best for her.
What Hallmark Parents Keep Saying
Larbi and Hallmark Charter teacher Angela Ballew asked the board to take the time to review their actions to drop charter status.
There are several reasons behind the decision to dissolve the charter, Jones previously told the Ed Lab. These include declining charter school enrollment for several years; streamline business operations for both programs because the charter school Local Control Accountability Program Dollars would become part of district funding to support SUSD initiatives at Hallmark Academy; and allow more equity and access to both programs.
This school year, Hallmark Charter School planned to spend more than $3.9 million, of which $216,670 was related to LCAP services, according to the local control funding formula budget overview accessible on the Hallmark website.
Hallmark Charter was created 22 years ago for enrollment as a home learning model, just as it operates today, but that was back when there weren’t many charter schools to compete with, Jones said. Sanger Unified charter schools are joining more than 1,300 starting in the 2021-22 school year, according to the California Department of Education website.
“You have this charter; you worked hard to get it,” Ballew said. “We worked hard to keep it and make it something beautiful and special.”
Like most programs, Hallmark Charter may need to evolve to better educate children, she said, but teachers need time to do so.
Without charter status, out-of-district families must register through an inter-district transfer, which Sanger and the other district must approve, which leaves parents wary.
“I can speak from my experience,” Ballew said of the success of students who were able to “just come” across the Central Valley. “They just come. And they find their way.
Approximately 102 students from 10 other districts will need to use interdistrict transfers after Hallmark’s charter status was removed.
According to Associate Superintendent Tim Lopez and Jones, at least 24 of those families have completed the interdistrict transfers, which must be completed annually.
The district contacted each of the other 10 districts about the transfers and provided the links to the one-page transfer forms, Lopez said.
Currently, 491 students are transferring out of Sanger, 220 are transferring between districts, and approximately 300 are transferring within districts, all of which require approval from students in the district leaving and entering.
Some districts require board approval or district office approval, Lopez said.
What the administration says
The district wants parents to have a “school of choice” with access to opportunities rather than Hallmark Charter’s homeschool model with after-school opportunities or Taft Academy’s virtual program without opportunities.
“The choice is having two platforms under one school of choice,” Jones said.
Of Hallmark’s 252 students and Taft’s nearly 500, 455 have expressed their intention to enroll in the merged school. Some plan to continue Hallmark’s homeschooling model, some plan to continue Taft’s virtual platform, and some have transitioned to the other learning model from their current learning style, a said Associate Superintendent Tim Lopez.
As Hallmark Academy, the merged school will still have:
- Hallmark’s Traditional Homeschooling with 1-Hour Counseling
- Hallmark’s Hybrid Program with Split Classes and One-Hour Counseling
- On-Campus Enrichment Classes and Hallmark On-Campus Tutorial
- Taft’s Virtual Instruction via Zoom for K-8 Students
- Taft’s independent study with in-person guidance and tutorials
- Hallmark’s homeschooling, rigorous curriculum, music, art, enrichment classes, tutorials, and lab science programs will continue, but Taft students will have access.
Families would choose between Hallmark’s homeschool option and Taft’s virtual scheduling that connects to classes at scheduled times throughout the day.
“Hallmark’s program isn’t going away,” Jones repeated the two times she spoke with the Education Lab.
There are informational flyers — which Hallmark Charter parents say began being distributed around the time the merger proposal was first presented to the board on May 10. – about Hallmark Academy.
Which council will decide
What’s left for the board to decide is whether to dissolve Hallmark’s charter status.
The board’s vote on the status of the charter will take place at a future board meeting, Jones said, and the district is “moving forward” with enrolling students in the new school of choice. is becoming Hallmark Academy.
For Larbi, the district ignored the school board.
Parents like Larbi and Sara Florez and teachers like 22-year-old educator Shannon Anderson view the district’s actions as an endorsement of the board.
Larbi told the board that the community trusts them to do what is best for students, families and the community.
“You have a voice,” Florez repeated on the board. “No matter what the district has said about how they’re going to bypass you or bypass you, you have a voice. And your voice is supposed to be our voice, isn’t it? You represent everyone in the community, not just the Sanger Unified School District (but) everyone in the community.
“You can speak for us.”
The Education Lab is a grassroots journalism initiative that highlights education issues critical to the advancement of the San Joaquin Valley. It is funded by donors. Learn more about The Bee’s Education Lab on its website.