CUSD: Changes could save Chapman

To save Chapman Elementary School from state control, the Chico Unified School District is doing some big-time shuffling.

To the concern of many parents, district staff is recommending axing the dual-immersion program, in which native Spanish-speaking students learn alongside their English-speaking peers. If the school board endorses the plan, Chapman students in the program could choose to transfer to dual-immersion classes at Rosedale or Park View.

Also, the school’s principal, Maureen Stuempfig, will be replaced by Ted Sullivan, currently of Citrus Elementary.

The two actions will likely count as “significant structural changes” under options given schools under the No Child Left Behind Act. Chapman is in “program improvement” status after four years of test scores that, although steadily improving, don’t satisfy the new federal requirements.

Sullivan said he has already visited “achieving” schools and is confident that Chapman can succeed.

Assistant Superintendent Kelly Staley said that the dual-immersion program is “causing a decrease in test scores” at Chapman because, as students progress through the grade levels, the number of native Spanish-speakers greatly outweighs that of English-speakers. (It’s more balanced at the other two schools.) The students must be tested in English, which doesn’t properly showcase their knowledge.

Jill Quezada is among the Chapman parents who fought to keep the program a year ago. “Why do we assume that if we take these students away the school will flourish?” she asked.

The decisions went counter to the direction the process seemed to be taking under a consultant hired by the CUSD.

Superintendent Scott Brown said later that “reinventing the governance … turned out to be a much bigger charge than we thought.” Early negotiations with employee groups proved problematic, he said, and meanwhile Sullivan, who is bilingual, came forward with a vision on improving the school.

In a matter of just a couple of years, other Chico schools may be in the same position as Chapman, thanks to the strict language of NCLB, which ensures that half of all schools are destined to be labeled underperforming.

Chapman is not the only school where changes are taking place, the News & Review has confirmed. Principal Rod Stone, of soon-to-be-closed Jay Partridge Elementary, is moving to nearby McManus Elementary. McManus’ Cherie McGuire will replace Sullivan at Citrus. Ken Ball is out as Hooker Oak principal, replaced by Stuempfig. Ball has not been offered another administrative slot. In addition, former Marsh Junior High School Principal Jeff Sloan will not be offered an administrative position next year. Ball and Sloan can be teachers, if they wish.