Nearly 500 West Contra Costa high school seniors who have failed the mandatory California Exit Exam could receive diplomas anyway this June if a majority of the school board joins a colleague's call to rebel against the controversial
"What can we do for our students who have demonstrated they will have a successful life, yet can't pass the exit exam?" [school board member] Brown asked in proposing the resolution. "There's a work ethic that's needed (for employment) that our students demonstrate that may not show up on an exit exam."
School board President Charles Ramsey said he will vote against Brown's proposal because of its potential legal and financial ramifications.
"I understand the motivation (for the resolution). It's well intentioned, but that has to be coupled with the reality of the law," he said. "We're a part of this state. We can't secede from California."
He was joined by Trustee Karen Pfeiffer. "We have for a long time passed along students who are not prepared for work," she said. "West Contra Costa has not always been accountable. To continue to pretend that students who can't pass this relatively simple exam are high school graduates and should get a diploma is a disservice to the students and the community."
State Department of Education officials said Tuesday they contacted Cynthia LeBlanc, the district's interim superintendent, to warn that passing the resolution would violate the law. The Chronicle could not reach LeBlanc for comment.
But Hilary McLean, a spokeswoman for the state education department, said her agency "would look at all possibilities, including enforcement through the courts." She also pointed out other leverage, noting that "the Department of Education is the entity that provides funds for schools."
As my students might say, "Snap."