Board agrees to keep Doyle Park School open

Doyle Park School in Santa Rosa, Calif. (Google Street View)

May 15, 2012 4:16:27 PM PDT
The Santa Rosa Board of Education has agreed to keep the K-6 Doyle Park Elementary School open for the 2012-2013 school year.

A settlement of a lawsuit filed in Sonoma County Superior Court on behalf of parents and community members objecting to the closure was reached Monday, said Jeffrey Hoffman, directing attorney of California Rural Legal Assistance.

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and the California Rural Legal Assistance challenged the school board's decision in March to close the school.

The school board cited declining enrollment and low academic performance test scores for the closure, which would have saved the school district $400,000. More than 200 Doyle Park students would have attended three other area schools.

The school board in March approved using the Doyle Park school for a French-American Charter School.

The lawsuit said the closure decision was tainted by school board member Tad Wakefield's announcement he intended to enroll his children in the French-American Charter School.

Wakefield voted to close the school after he was informed by legal counsel he did not have to recuse himself from voting on the closure.

The French-American Charter School will open at the Doyle Park school in the fall and will share the campus with Doyle Park Elementary School students, according to the agreement.

The suit against the school board also alleged the closure would have a negative and disproportionate impact on Hispanic students, who comprise 75 percent of the student body, and would violate anti-discrimination laws.

The next hearing on the lawsuit was scheduled for June 7, Hoffman said. Negotiations between the school board and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit took place last week and a tentative agreement was reached Friday.

The settlement agreement will now be sent to Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Mark Tansil, Hoffman said.

"We are delighted that we were able to reach an agreement that best serves the needs of all families impacted by the board's original decision," Hoffman said.

"It is unfortunate that it took a lawsuit to protect the democratic process," said Edie Sussman, a Santa Rosa attorney who also represented the plaintiffs.

"However, it was a necessary step to ensure that the Doyle Park community will have a say in the future of their school," Sussman said.

Hoffman said the school board also agreed to "fast-track" the possibility of establishing a Spanish language dual immersion school in the district.

Community activist Michaele Morales said he hopes to see a dual Spanish language dual immersion school at Doyle Park in the fall of 2013.

The school board's attorney Robert Henry and the district Superintendent Sharon Liddell were not immediately available for comment.

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