Agreement Reached to Keep Doyle Park Elementary School Open

By: Ja'Mein Beale - Tue, 15 May 2012 15:38:38 -0800

SANTA ROSA (BCN)--The Santa Rosa Board of Education has agreed to keep the K-6 Doyle  Park Elementary School open for the 2012-2013 school year.
A settlement of a lawsuit filed in Sonoma County Superior Court on  behalf of parents and community members objecting to the closure was reached  Monday, said Jeffrey Hoffman, directing attorney of California Rural Legal  Assistance.
The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay  Area and the California Rural Legal Assistance challenged the school board's  decision in March to close the school. 
The school board cited declining enrollment and low academic  performance test scores for the closure, which would have saved the school  district $400,000. More than 200 Doyle Park students would have attended  three other area schools. 
The school board in March approved using the Doyle Park school for  a French-American Charter School. 
The lawsuit said the closure decision was tainted by school board  member Tad Wakefield's announcement he intended to enroll his children in the  French-American Charter School. 
Wakefield voted to close the school after he was informed by legal  counsel he did not have to recuse himself from voting on the closure.
The French-American Charter School will open at the Doyle Park  school in the fall and will share the campus with Doyle Park Elementary  School students, according to the agreement.
The suit against the school board also alleged the closure would  have a negative and disproportionate impact on Hispanic students, who  comprise 75 percent of the student body, and would violate  anti-discrimination laws.
The next hearing on the lawsuit was scheduled for June 7, Hoffman  said. Negotiations between the school board and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit  took place last week and a tentative agreement was reached Friday.
The settlement agreement will now be sent to Sonoma County  Superior Court Judge Mark Tansil, Hoffman said.
"We are delighted that we were able to reach an agreement that  best serves the needs of all families impacted by the board's original  decision," Hoffman said. 
"It is unfortunate that it took a lawsuit to protect the  democratic process," said Edie Sussman, a Santa Rosa attorney who also  represented the plaintiffs. 
"However, it was a necessary step to ensure that the Doyle Park  community will have a say in the future of their school," Sussman said.
Hoffman said the school board also agreed to "fast-track" the  possibility of establishing a Spanish language dual immersion school in the  district.
Community activist Michaele Morales said he hopes to see a dual  Spanish language dual immersion school at Doyle Park in the fall of 2013.
The school board's attorney Robert Henry and the district  Superintendent Sharon Liddell were not immediately available for comment.
(Copyright 2012, Bay City News. All Rights Reserved.)  
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