Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/21/2010 05:18:48 PM PDT

Tension was high among employees of the San Bernardino City Unified School District on Wednesday, a day after trustees voted to overhaul 11 struggling schools and increase scrutiny of teachers.

By dramatically overhauling the schools in time for the coming school year, the San Bernardino City Unified School District becomes eligible for up to $22million in state money to improve the campuses.

But while many local educators supported the plan to turn six of the campuses into district-sponsored charter schools and replace half the teaching staffs at the other five, many expressed fear and misgivings about the future.

“It’s a different world right now, with a lot of uncertainties and questions, and that makes teachers nervous and apprehensive,” said Rebecca Harper, president of the San Bernardino Teachers Association.

At its regular meeting, the school board decided to turn Pacific High School, Shandin Hills Middle School and Rio Vista, Wilson, Davidson and Hunt elementary schools into district charters.

Components of this include financial management by the district, starting new in the program improvement cycle and creating an executive board for the charter.

According to the California Department of Education, the schools will be expected to open under the new management on the first day of the 2010-11 school year.

The first day of school for the district’s traditional schools is Aug. 3.

Parents picking up students from Rio Vista on Wednesday said they were unsure of what it all means.

“I’m mostly a little scared about the changes, because I have three children who go here and I want the best for them,” said Maria Sanchez.

The transformation intervention, where principals are replaced and rewards given to staff that improve student achievement, will be instituted at Barton and Marshall elementary schools, Serrano Middle School and Arroyo Valley and San Gorgonio high schools.

The change also includes increasing community engagement and removing underperforming staff.

Schools making this choice are expected to implement several key elements by the start of the next school year, including replacing the principal and increasing instructional time.

That option is also the closest to the improvement plans already under way in the district, said Superintendent Arturo Delgado.

The 11 San Bernardino schools were among 188 on a list of lowest achieving schools released by the California Department of Education last month.

To turn around the schools, the state asked for interventions that included closing the school, replacing the principal and half the staff, turning the school into a charter or replacing the principal and making other reforms.

Closing the school was never an option, according to district officials. At Tuesday’s meeting, the option of replacing the principal and half the staff was also taken off the menu.

The district has until June 1 to apply for federal School Improvement Grants, which can mean between $50,000 and $2 million for each campus.

To get the money, the districts must agree to make the changes in time for the next school year.

Reforms are also coming to Fontana’s A.B. Miller High School, which also made the state’s worst list.

Fontana Unified Superintendent Cali Olsen-Binks presented a list of options at Wednesday’s school board meeting.

“Everything from the budget and layoffs to this short process is coming together to create fear for teachers across the state,” she said. “The only positive thing that comes out of this is we are taking a more critical look at student achievement.”

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