Banta school district accused of blindsiding tech academy
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Feb 22, 2014 | 6350 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BANTA — More than 50 parents and officials of River Islands Technology Academy showed up at the monthly meeting of the Banta Elementary School District Board of Education on Feb. 13 to protest a district plan to end the academy’s charter.

The five-year timeline, approved that night by a unanimous vote of the Banta board of trustees, phases out the academy at 73 W. Stewart Road in Lathrop to make room for students expected to move into homes in River Islands.

River Islands developer Susan Dell’Osso, an academy trustee, said that the Banta school board “blindsided them.”

“I feel sick,” she said. “What do we do with the River Islands kids in the charter? It’s not us against each other. It’s the parents and kids who lose. Don’t create a timeline you can’t back away from. I know we can work this out.”

Gene Neeley, another academy trustee, told the Banta board it was not allowing the charter’s trustees to help with the planning process for their school’s future.

One mother told the board her daughter was excited about attending River Islands Technology Academy. She was surprised to learn that the girl would have to leave the school in a few years.

District consultant Thomas Duffy, who created the timeline, explained that the charter would begin phasing out the students of the charter in 2016-17 to make more space for Banta district children. He said the Banta board could begin plans in 2018-19 to build a second elementary and middle school.

Another academy parent asked the board how it planned to fill the school with students if the development failed to happen as planned.

The Banta board president, Frank Silva, told the gathering that the original plan had called for the school to be occupied by River Island residents from the beginning. He said the plan never changed, even when the housing market collapsed and the district decided build the school and let a charter school use it temporarily.

“We always talked about Banta being out there,” he said. “We want to be able to work together. We need to be out there. That’s what we’re doing, commencing that process.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Banta Superintendent Albert Garibaldi, who is one of five trustees on the charter school board, said Banta officials would respond to the concerns expressed by charter officials and parents at the Banta board meeting in March.

On Monday, Dell’Osso called the matter a very heated and sensitive issue.

“I absolutely believe that everybody in that room is just trying to do what they think is best for the kids,” she said, adding that the charter academy would continue to cooperate with the district to find a solution that fit everyone’s needs.

“It means that in 2016, there is going to be a sharing of the site,” she said. “Not they are getting rid of the charter or anything like that. It starts the natural progression. We have eight to nine schools to build out there.”

• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or

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