By Christin Ayers

SAUSALITO (KPIX 5) — A state report is giving the Sausalito school district a failing grade. It claims funds are being funneled away from a mostly-black public school, straight into a charter school.

Sausalito is world famous for its spectacular location and beauty, but a battle over education is brewing that some say tarnishes that fairy tale picture.

It’s a tale of two schools: One in the exclusive and mostly white hillside neighborhood that overlooks the waterfront.

The other is in Marin City, the historically black and poorer side of town on the other side of the freeway.

“I don’t think there’s favoritism going on,” parent Kurt Weinsheimer said.

Weinsheimer has three children attending Willow Creek Academy, the district’s K-8 charter school, and sits on its board of directors

“It’s a pretty magical place that we are really passionate about,” Weinsheimer said.

There’s an emphasis on a rounded education, art, music and academic achievement at Willow Creek Academy.

But it’s a completely different story at the district’s public middle school, Bayside Martin Luther King.

District officials wouldn’t allow reporters to talk to anyone inside. But, according to district data there have been major funding cuts. There’s no longer an art teacher, music teacher, or even a fulltime gym teacher.

Even credentialed teaching positions in math and science have been cut this year. As a result, test scores have plummeted.

Zero percent of students tested at grade level in 7th and 8th grade at Bayside MLK in the 2014-15 school year.

“Its criminal to have a school have those kind of performance outcomes,” Bettie Hodges, who runs an after school study program for Bayside MLK students, said.

Hodges says she gets middle schoolers who can barely read or write.

Yet, when she brought the test scores to the attention of the Sausalito-Marin City School Board, she was surprised by what she heard.

“One of the supervisors said we have never seen this data before. And I am, like, ‘how is that possible?’” Hodges said.

Along with others in her community she complained to the Marin County Board of Education, and Superintendent Mary Jane Burke.

“It’s totally unacceptable. So what we have to do is look at what is going on.  What is happening?” Burke said.

So, Burke commissioned a state education task force to write a report, which just came out this month.

It concludes the Sausalito-Marin City School District diverts money and resources, possibly as much as $1.9 million this school year alone, to Willow Creek. And, that’s at the expense of the mostly minority, low income children at Bayside MLK.

“There is money available, but it is currently being provided to the independent charter school, rather than caring first for these children,” Burke said.

The district’s superintendent originally declined to talk to us, then he agreed to an interview, which he canceled later. Instead, he sent a statement acknowledging that the report raises questions and concerns and saying he plans to create some sort of action plan.

But, at Willow Creek, they had plenty to say. “It is shocking that first of all you would have a report that would get so many facts wrong,” Weinsheimer said.

Weinsheimer says more money’s going to Willow Creek because there are more than twice as many students, including half the kids from Marin City.

Burke says she’s asked the state to intervene.

“There is a deep-seated feeling that there is segregation happening in this community. It does need to change and it needs to change immediately,” Burke said.

Comments (6)
  1. Finally a school district that is willing to properly spend taxpayer money. They’ve been throwing money a the lousy schools for decades with no return on investment. Charter schools at least are going to have a far greater chance of producing some productive citizen that will actually contribute the tax base and ‘pay back’ the taxpayers that invested in them.

    Politicians love to throw around the word investment of tax dollars. But that is just a code word for stealing taxpayers money and wasting it. Paying for more government union bureaucrats that are overpaid and underworked is theft. Throwing money at bad schools that aren’t required to improve is theft. These garbage school get far more than their fair share of the tax dollars and never do anything to earn it.

  2. sfcameraman says:

    This story was reported too-simply as a have’s vs have-not’s situation. It ignores the history of the district, the failed Bayside school, the very reasons why the charter school was created in the first place. It is disheartening to see this story boiled down to such a simplistic message of white vs. black.

    Here are some facts. Bayside MLK in Marin City is run out of an almost new facility, WCA is aging. The students at Bayside receive $13,762/kid, WCA gets only $7984/kid. The teachers at Bayside (union) get paid more than WCA teachers (non-union). Bayside enrolls 143 kids. WCA enrolls 404 kids…. of which 150 come from Marin City to WCA. The demographics of Sausalito/Marin City are 73% white yet the percentage of white kids at Willow Creek is 43%. The percentage of Latino kids in Sausalito/Marin City is 6% yet Latino kids make up 27% of WCA. African American population is 11% and WCA enrollment is 12%.

    These are the numbers. Facts. None of this is in the report.

    Willow Creek was chartered with the goal of doing education right for all of the district, not just the rich white kids in Sausalito (which is a fallacy, but that’s the perception of kids living in Sausalito). More Marin City kids go to Willow Creek than the school in Marin City! Doesn’t that spell it out right there?

    The biggest difference between the schools, in my opinion, is the support that the kids have at home. Simply, most of the kids at Bayside MLK are sent to school there because they must go to school. Parents aren’t involved, there is no desire to get the best education possible. The stories there are of violent outbursts, discipline issues, uninterested students. These are problems from home, not caused by the school. They are social. The district has been throwing money at this very problem for years and it has never worked, it doesn’t work. That is part of the reason that Willow Creek came about…. to offer a choice for students… one that took a different approach and gave opportunity to kids who previously had none.

    Willow Creek has done an outstanding job over the past 15 years of filling a void in the Marin City/Sausalito education vacuum.

    No doubt, Bayside MLK has issues. The SMCSD board has issues. Willow Creek has issues. But, to frame it as white vs black, rich vs poor. That is lazy. It was lazy of the FCMAT study and it was lazy reporting from CBS5.

  3. Abigail Vazquez says:

    Comparing the dollar amounts per child for the two schools is deceptive because the Bayside MLK amount includes the cost of running the district including the $300000 salary of the superintendent. maybe giving up half that salary to the kids at Bayside to pay for a math teacher and an English teacher might be the fair thing to do.

  4. Ciji Ware says:

    As a former reporter (KABC TV/Radio in LA for 18 years; KCBS for 2), I am appalled at the shodding reporting of the FACTS regarding the Sausalito School District’s Willow Creek and MLK schools. The KPIX reporter has egregiously ignored some KEY facts and twisted others to do a story that must have been in mind before Ayers set out on the assignment. I do not have children in either school, but have followed the history of Willow Creek for at least ten years,a school that is wholly integrated with children from both Sausalito and Marin City enrolled, and does its job educating its more kids for far fewer dollars per child than MLK. Parent participation is high there; the kids accept the “rules,” and the outcome has been demonstrated. WCA is an example to be admired and replicated, not savaged with mis-information and outright falsehoods. KPIX’s News Director should get involved to find out how this story could have been so miscast!

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