Fresno charter school proposal questioned

A Fresno Unified proposal to create a nonprofit organization to start an academically rigorous charter school was criticized as unnecessary and a conflict of interest for district officials Wednesday during a public hearing.

The district is proposing to open Dailey Elementary School near Shields and Palm avenues as a charter K-5 International Baccalaureate program that would be a feeder school for the IB programs at Wawona and Fresno High schools.

Three of the five members on the nonprofit's board would be district officials.

Judith Pansarosa, a teacher at Baird Middle School, said she was concerned that having district officials oversee a nonprofit as well as a public school system would constitute a conflict of interest.

But attorney Susan Hatmaker said state law allows district officials to serve on nonprofit boards.

Superintendent Michael Hanson said serving on the proposed charter's board would not be a conflict, "just as there was no conflict of interest as I sat on the CART charter board." CART is the Center for Advanced Research and Technology and serves students from the Fresno and Clovis unified school districts.

Hanson previously said operating the charter through the nonprofit will allow the district to impose a longer school day and design academically-appealing programs.

If the board votes to approve the proposal next month, the new school would open in August.

The proposal has sparked outrage from the Fresno Unified teachers union, which contends that the move to a nonprofit is meant to bypass union hiring rules. Employees of the charter would not be represented by unions.

The union also contends the district could negotiate longer school days and create alternative programs without resorting to a nonprofit-run charter.

Related stories from Fresno Bee