LATHROP- The Banta School Board meeting was above normal capacity this past Tuesday forcing the attendees to move from the library into the auditorium. Accolades and support for one of Banta’s charter schools and its administration prompted the overflow crowd.
Next Generation STEAM Academy Charter school has come a long way since a group of families, educators,administrators and developers founded the charter 5 years ago. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math or STEM based schools or programs have been developing to meet the needs that our overcrowded and underfunded public schools have not. What makes Next Generation STEAM Academy unique is that it adds the extra component of the arts, another area our schools have recently begun to drop because of funding issues. This particular school is what is considered a public charter that unlike traditional charters still has to function under the jurisdiction of the public school system or in this case Banta School District.
The support from the parents and students for Next Gen and its already displaced administration was not spontaneous in this case. The parents and students approached the board with pleas of consideration. Parents without any prior notification or explanation had to abruptly change their children’s uniforms mid year. They began to notice the school no longer being addressed as Next Generation and its founding and beloved principal, Leslie Pombo and other staff, were pulled from their school and placed at Banta Elementary. No explanation to the parents has been offered as of yet.
Letters were then sent to the parents notifying them that their children were no longer guaranteed a spot for the next academic school year and the sibling enrollment preference promised by previous administration was no longer available. The families packed the school board meeting to plead for the future of their children’s academic home offering multiple solutions all focused on preventing the displacement. Parents spoke about their commitment to commute to the school from as far away as Patterson and others spoke about their child no longer having the option to attend the school under the new district rules since they are not within Banta School district.
The school is located in Lathrop in the River Island development. The parents are now being told that their child is not within the school boundaries when in fact they live in Lathrop directly in front of the school, but not in the new River Island housing development. At this school board meeting it was clearly stated that the students on the waiting list will have to hope they get their number called in the lottery being held at the end of this month. In that same paragraph the same school board member also said they the charter school campus in question was struggling with low enrollment.
There are still many unanswered questions looming and many students are facing uncertainty. Many are now questioning who is to benefit from stripping these students of their educational home? Certainly not the non existing students breaking down the door to sit in seats of these displaced students. Who they do suspect are powerful developers.
How much control should housing developers have over the education of students whose education they seem to be so willing to interrupt? The fact of the matter is this, Banta Unified School district is absorbing the public charter school completely and well on its way to dismantling Next Generation STEAM Academy. They have deemed it ok to abandon their own student population that they once agreed and took an oath to serve and are now more than willing to rezone them out of their educational home and school family.
If history and investigative work tells us anything then we simply have to follow the money and political aspirations of the school board members on this one. Who is funding what and who is running for what? There is a lot of money to be made in rezoning and redistricting.