County office approves REALMS petition

Charter school to reopen under new program, name, director

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

County office approves REALMS petitionWith the Kern County Office of the Superintendent of Schools approval at its April 9 board meeting, Ridgecrest Charter School has been authorized to open under a new format in the coming school year.

According to RCS Board President Eric Bruen, the RCS corporation has been granted a charter for Ridgecrest Elementary Academy for Language, Music and Science, which will open in August.

“Over the next several weeks we will be sending out lottery opportunities and will begin the process of hiring for the fall term,” he said.

The assets of RCS will be transferred to REALMS, so the location (along with many of the other assets of the school) will remain the same.

Among the changes in next year’s program will be eliminating instructional programs for seventh and eighth grades. Because of that, and because REALMS will offer a different academy program, Bruen said he expects that the school’s current student population of about 500 will draw down to about 400 by next fall.

However, he said, the school is preparing to grow its elementary-school offerings in the coming years.

Dr. Steven Martinez, current principal of the school, has also accepted another position outside the Indian Wells Valley, Bruen confirmed.

“Since REALMS could not list any positions up until the time our petition was approved, we have not filled any of our staff positions yet,” he said. “The administrative structure will be a little bit different, but we will begin to list and fill our positions this week.”

As governing board of the corporation, the RCS board will carry over. A nominating committee will release board recommendations next month, and the board will have the addition of a member appointed by the KCSOS.

According to Bruen,contact information will remain the same for at least the remainder of the term and probably as long as it takes to ensure a smooth transition to REALMS.

The lottery process is a provision to ensure that the charter school maintains fair and equitable access, said Bruen. The school will give preference to students living within the Faller Elementary School zone, existing students of RCS and children of existing RCS teachers.

As a matter of procedure, RCS will also withdraw its charter appeal to the California State Board of Education. The pursuit of REALMS arose out of the process that began earlier this year to extend the RCS charter.

The SSUSD Board of Trustees denied the charter renewal, citing a decline in state test results. Although the state had agreed to carry the charter since 2000, a recommendation was made at a committee level, and sustained by a commission, to decline the renewal request.

Bruen noted that under the new organization, with the charter carried by the county authority, the school will have “a much closer, more symbiotic relationship” with local agencies.

“KCSOS, SSUSD and REALMS are working together to ensure that the school and charter district retain local control.

“We are also doing everything we can to remove all barriers from SSUSD being a cooperative partner moving forward,” he said.

“We believe that Ridgecrest is at its best when we are working together.”

Sierra Sands Superintendent Ernie Bell noted that he has been working with RCS officials to ensure a smooth transition for seventh- and eighth-grade students and their families.

KCSOS Chief of Staff Stephen Sanders said that the two-year approval was the result of a cooperative effort among all three agencies. “KCSOS will continue to work closely with the REALMS staff to ensure success.

“In two years we will work with the Charter and Sierra Sands to determine the best steps moving forward.

“This was a great collaborative effort between the Charter, Sierra Sands and KCSOS to ensure local accountability of this Charter option for East Kern students.”

Story First Published: 2019-04-12