District releases billing figures related to charter report

Kindergartner Sarah Reyes, 5, works on a language arts computer program as she rotates through four stations during class in February at the Gilroy Prep School.

The Hollister School District had been billed $19,200 through October from its contracted legal firm that developed a report detailing “deficiencies” in a charter school petition, according to figures released to the Free Lance.

The district in October circulated a 31-page report detailing “deficiencies” in the charter petition put forth by Gilroy Prep School, now considered part of the newly named Navigator Schools. The charter petition was submitted in late August. After the petitioners received the deficiency report from the district, they revised the application and resubmitted it. The school board Nov. 27 approved the petition in a 3-2 vote, and the charter school expects to open for the 2013-14 year.

District officials initially did not have the billing information available from the law firm hired to do the report – Monterey-based Lazano Smith.

Superintendent Gary McIntire, though, recently released the figure through October and noted that the district had not received billing from Nov. 1 through the petition’s approval Nov. 27. He said the two sides are now working on a facilities agreement and that once it is finished, the “lion’s share” of the legal consulting will be done, too.

McIntire pointed out that the state provided the district $151,000 this year for what are deemed as mandated costs. The state does not require such a report detailing charter petition deficiencies, but the district considered the effort as due diligence before considering an approval.

The superintendent said this is either the first or second year in which the district has received the mandated cost funding from the state. In past years, he said, the state has requested logs for mandated costs but had not paid out the money.

As for the consent on the legal work itself, McIntire said the report falls under a previously OK’d contract and did not need trustees’ approval.

“I’m pretty much the only person to be calling them,” he said, also confirming there is no ceiling for the total cost charged by the law firm each year.

McIntire pointed out that with a 60-day process for charter petitions – the two sides in this case agreed to extend that initial time frame – there is a lot of work “crammed into a short window.”

He said Lazano Smith has been with the district as general legal counsel since at least early 2011 and that the firm specializes in advisement on charter school petitions.

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