SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — A leading San Jose charter school that’s twice been awarded one of the state’s highest academic honors is fighting for its future and very survival this week before the Santa Clara County Board of Education.

Cornerstone Academy Preparatory School was denied a renewal of its charter by the Franklin-McKinley School Board in October, a decision that threatened to put the school – twice named a California Distinguished School – out of business.

“Teachers have really cared about me personally, even emotionally,” said 8th grader Melody Chavez, a member of the school’s first kindergarten class nearly a decade ago. “And with my classwork, if I was stuck with something they would help me.”

Cornerstone Academy is appealing the school board’s decision Wednesday night to the Santa Clara County Board of Education. The county school board has the authority to overrule Franklin-McKinley’s decision and grant Cornerstone a five-year charter, allowing it to remain open.

“They all look forward to being here because of the one-on-one help that we can give them,” said 8th grade teacher Charles Arcadia-Sanchez. “I feel like it would be a setback to not have this school continue.”

Franklin-McKinley Superintendent Juan Cruz would not address the board’s decision on camera. He did forward a copy of a letter the school system sent to the County Board of Education. It criticizes Cornerstone for “failing to enroll a pupil demographic that is similar to that of the school district. The letter claims Cornerstone has under-enrolled Latinos and students with disabilities.

The school counters that more than seven percent of its students have learning disabilities. In addition, the school’s principal, Marion Dickel, says they are working to improve outreach to the Latino community which currently comprises a third of the student body.

Dickel says neither issue should have been grounds for not renewing the school’s charter.

“I had an opportunity to see the teachers do that hard work before my child came here,” said Candace Dickerson, a second grade teacher at the school who worked there before deciding to enroll her daughter.

Even if the county education board approves the charter, the school will still need to negotiate a lease agreement with Franklin-McKinley whose campus they currently share.

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