History of Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter School
Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter School is located in an overcrowded urban section of East Hollywood that consists of mixed residential and commercial/industrial development. SMBCCS has been in existence as a public school since 1910. In 2002, SMBCCS converted to independent charter status.
Since initial charter approval in 2002, Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter School has implemented innovative ideas and strategies, and invested human and fiscal resources to improve the quality and effectiveness of the instructional program. In 2002, SMBCCS became the largest conversion charter school within LAUSD. Before converting to charter status, SMBCCS was placed on LAUSD’s one hundred worst schools list. During the first 10 years of charter conversion, SMBCCS accomplished much: raised student achievement, received Western Association of Schools and Colleges (“WASC”) accreditation, celebrated the school’s centennial, and was able to create and maintain strong community partnerships with Paramount Pictures, the SABAN Free Clinic, Pepperdine University, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. SMBCCS expanded afterschool programs to include an extraordinary chorus of over 80 students and an award winning drill team. The accomplishments, however, were inadequate when compared to the academic performance of students in neighboring District schools.
In December 2011, while preparing for its second charter renewal, the Los Angeles Unified School District identified Santa Monica as a “focus” school due to minimal gains in API scores. In January 2012, the Charter School was notified that its charter was not going to be renewed and the Charter School would revert back to a traditional public school.
The reasons cited by LAUSD included:
- Minimal gains in API scores
- Student achievement (California Standards Test (“CST”)) data equal to or less than District/state averages
- Lack of alignment within a cohesive curricular program
- Inconsistent instructional program strategies
The parents and community of SMBCCS were informed that although the Charter School has accomplished much over the past decade, the Charter School has had stagnant test scores and lower academic performance than comparison schools. On January 17, 2012, nine parents delivered a petition signed by 320 parents to LAUSD in support of a charter petition for SMBCCS to be operated by Fenton Charter Public Schools. As an alternative to reverting to a traditional public school, SMBCCS proposed that the Charter School merge with and come under the governance of FCPS. The SMBCCS Board of Directors sought to merge with FCPS because the schools service very similar students, yet FCPS has demonstrated a history of academic success.
When responding to obstacles, many schools close their doors to scrutiny and collaboration with outsiders. Rather than responding with cyclical blame, SMBCCS proactively sought to merge with an organization with a history of success at increasing student achievement. By being proactive, SMBCCS was able to remain an independent charter school while overhauling its instructional program with effective research based practices to increase student learning.
On May 1, 2012, the Los Angeles Board of Education approved the operation of Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter School by Fenton Charter Public Schools. During the LAUSD Board meeting, Superintendent John Deasy told Board Members that this union was an innovative way to implement school reform and “is a model of what public school accountability should look like.” LAUSD Board Member Tamar Galatzan stated, FCPS “has come up with something that is totally innovative. This is the kind of creative thinking that I hope to see from our charter partners."
On July 1, 2012, the existing governance structure of SMBCCS effectively transferred to FCPS. All policies and practices pertaining to SMBCCS were reviewed by the FCPS Board of Directors and Executive Director. FCPS assumed all aspects of the operations of SMBCCS. In addition to the assignment of the Director, the FCPS Board of Directors assigned ten highly qualified teachers who taught kindergarten through fifth grade at FCPS to serve as Lead Teachers at SMBCCS. The Director and Lead Teachers were responsible for hiring all staff members at SMBCCS. Teachers requesting employment with FCPS were required to be observed by the hiring committee, complete a professional portfolio, and take part in an interview. Approximately 60% of the original SMBCCS teachers were rehired by FCPS.