The only reasonable choice for GUSD trustees: Close El Portal

The vote should be unanimous given the facts of the matter
Gilroy Unified School District trustees need to do the right thing right now. There is no other choice that stands any test of reason or good intention for Gilroy students. The charter the district authorized for El Portal Academy should be unequivocally revoked, and it should be a unanimous 7-0 vote.

Anything short of that would send a mixed message not only about academic standards under the GUSD umbrella, but about ethics and financial mismanagement which certainly appears to be criminal.

The closure at El Portal will be directly attributable to a failure in leadership at the top of the Mexican American Community Services Agency.

While MACSA clearly was not prepared to successfully operate an educational institution, there is no excuse for the decision to use funds designated for employee retirement accounts for operational purposes.

Santa Clara County District Attorney Dolores Carr is currently awaiting the results from an investigation being overseen by the County Office of Education. It’s difficult to imagine that criminal charges will not result.

That’s another good reason for GUSD to pull the plug on this well-intentioned but failed experiment. Getting the district further embroiled in a legal mess that involves MACSA’s misuse of funds would represent the epitome of burying one’s head in the sand.

But the most important reason to move forward now is for the benefit of the students at El Portal who are not being prepared to compete in the real world. The district will have to pay close attention to the 100-plus students who will be reassigned. Perhaps a specific person at the district office should be assigned to assist those students and outline the options available to them.

The tendency following this years-long mess may be to reject any charter school notion. But trustees should keep an open mind. There are wonderful examples of success out there and a proposal for Gilroy might be forthcoming that deserves a clean look.

Yet the lessons regarding El Portal should be duly considered. Running a school takes vision, support, dedication and knowledge. The plan and the people behind it have to be solid.

The district took a chance on MACSA. It did not work out. It’s time to cut the losses and get back to improving education for all the students in Gilroy – something GUSD now has an established track record for doing.

El Portal students have good options – a California Distinguished School in Gilroy High, and the new Christopher High opening in the fall. It’s time GUSD plays to its strengths.

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