10:28 PM PDT on Sunday, June 6, 2010

By DARRELL R. SANTSCHI
The Press-Enterprise

San Bernardino City Unified School District board members have finalized plans to remake five schools, convert six others to charter status and replace nine of the 11 principals at those low-performing schools.

Now the district awaits word from state officials on how soon to submit applications for grants of $50,000 to $2 million at each of the schools to help boost student achievement.

The 11 schools made a list of the lowest performing 5 percent of schools in California. The district was told by the state to choose from among four alternative models for remaking the schools.

San Bernardino City Unified is the eighth-largest district in California and the only Inland district with more than one school on the low-performing list.

Proposed makeover plans approved by the school board last week call for five of the schools to get new principals and for teacher evaluations to be tied to student performance. Six other schools, including Pacific High School, will be converted to charter status.

The board opted not to use the two most painful options: closing schools or replacing the principal and at least half of the teachers.

Some board members had expressed concern earlier about losing some control of the charter schools to separate boards that would govern them and, in order to save money, suggested appointing one board — with as many as three school board members on it — to oversee all six.

In the end, district Communications Director Linda Bardere said, the board decided to appoint separate oversight boards, calling them “site-based co-op groups,” at each of the schools.

The co-ops would be composed largely of employees and parents at or around the schools, she said, so the cost of running them would be minimized.

No school board members are expected to serve on the co-ops, she said, but the co-ops would report to the school board.

The school principal, two teachers, two parents and a nonteaching classified employee would be voting members on the co-op and a nonvoting community specialist would be assigned to each. In the case of a charter school with a trade-school emphasis, Bardere said, that specialist could come from a profession taught at the school.

At Pacific High, two students would be added as voting members.

Among the duties of the co-ops will be to select textbooks. While the state has halted the adoption of new textbooks at most schools this year to save money during a budget pinch, Bardere said the charter schools will be granted exceptions.

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