By Rick Hennes

On behalf of the school board, staff and students at Twain Harte School I wish to clarify several comments made by Heidi Lupo on behalf of the proposed Pinecrest Expedition Academy in the Union Democrat article, July 27, 2018. Ms. Lupo stated that Pinecrest School Club was an independent fundraising group for decades even before the now-defunct Twain Harte-Long Barn Union High School District acquired the Pinecrest School. The district has been unable to find in its records any written approval for the School Club to fundraise for the benefit of Pinecrest School, as required by California Education Code section 51521.

She states, “ I think they believe the money received for property tax revenue belongs to the district when in fact, the money belongs to the education of the students.” Property taxes are how the Twain Harte District receives almost all of its operating revenue to provide the education of our 264 students.

In fact, if the charter school is approved, the district will lose $250,000 in the 2019-20 school year and would have to look at the following budget cuts:

Eliminate one full time teacher

Eliminate all art instruction

Eliminate all music instruction

Eliminate the librarian

Eliminate all class trips

Eliminate school counselor

Eliminate purchases of classroom library books

Eliminate Safe School Ambassador

Eliminate Treehouse Program (addresses social adjustment for grades K-3)

There is also a great deal of misinformation coming from the Pinecrest Permittees Association to their membership. On their website posted on 3/17/17 they state, “Our employees, Dodge Ridge Employees, Strawberry residents, USFS personnel have been required to provide transportation for their children to Sonora daily for school.”

This is not true as these parents choose to do so; the district runs a bus to Cold Springs daily unless there is inclement weather then our buses go to Long Barn. Furthermore, on the Permittees website in 2016 they state that the Charter School will pay $2,000 per month for rent and also committed $30K at this time for the purchase of the Pinecrest School site.”

According to Ms. Lupo’s comments in the recent Democrat article, these actions had not occurred yet this is what was told to the Permittees membership. “Ms. Lupo said their intentions to raise money for a school in Pinecrest have been very clear for the last six years.”

The Twain Harte Board of Trustees and past superintendents including myself have never been appraised or approached about this idea until the Tuolumne County Office of Education received a charter petition in June. It may have been clear to the very small group of people in the Pinecrest area, but not to the other residents of our school district.

Furthermore, the charter’s petition does not include providing lunches or transportation for their students. Any charter school petition is supposed to recruit or attract the same socio-economic student group that is enrolled in the regular district. Over 60 percent of Twain Harte students ride the bus as well as receive a free or reduced lunch. It seems that the charter petition is targeting middle class or higher families that can provide transportation up the hill; which would seem to rule out most of our current students.

Finally, in regards to Ms. Lupo’s statement about asking the district permission to use the Pinecrest School site after it closed, John Keiter, previous superintendent, is quoted by her as saying, “The district no longer recognizes the Pinecrest Parents Club as a booster club serving district students.” What that should have meant to the Pinecrest Parents Club is there were Pinecrest students who were transferring to Twain Harte School and that money should have been turned over to the district; who under the education code is the rightful beneficiary of those accounts, not controlled by a small group of individual people that have made no donations to any educational activities since 2012. What will happen to that money if the charter school petition is denied at the county and state level?

Rick Hennes has served as part time superintendent of the Twain Harte School District for the past two years. He has 39 years of educational service including nine years as a superintendent and lives in the Twain Harte School District.