Broken Promise: Local Control

Rocketship Broken Promises
In the late night of Dec 14th, 2011, the Santa Clara County Office of Education approved 20 Rocketship county charters. Rocketship bypassed the local district, going straight to the county for approval, short circuiting the local community’s ability to hold Rocketship accountable.

During that meeting, Rocketship made a number of promises, which they have subsequently broken. This is the third in a series of 3 posts outlining Rocketship’s broken promises.

Rocketship promised full local control of schools. During public testimony, board members engaged in a lengthy discussion of Rocketship’s governance board. The national board meets in Redwood City — a location which is more than 30 miles from Rocketship’s schools. Rocketship, which serves low income Latino families, is run from a wealthy community far from the people it serves, in more than one way. It also came to light that some of Rocketship’s national board meetings, supposedly open to the public, were held in the Silicon Valley Capital Club, a members only club that costs more than $200 a month with a dress code that outlaws jeans.

To assuage the board’s concerns about inaccessible national board meetings, Rocketship promised that each school would have a local governance board that would have full control over local schools. Those boards would be more accessible to local low income Latino community members. It sounded like a reasonable deal — the wealthy national board members would be subservient to local school control, and if a local Rocketship had irreconcilable differences, it could in theory stand independent from the national board.

“Our local school boards have full legal authority, so they’re not giving up any legal authority to the national board, There’s just a relationship between that board and the national board around the management contract etc. You could split off a Rocketship school and it could stand on its own with its own local school board, it just happens to have a relationship with Rocketship national for the services provided.” Rocketship Founder, John Danner, Dec 14, 2011

It was a promise that lasted less than 2 years. On May 15, 2013, Rocketship quietly slipped a small provision into their material charter revision that stripped all local control, consolidating local school boards into the national board. The wealthy board members, three-fourths of which are white men, regained full control of local Rocketships. The parent boards were downgraded to SELAC advisory committees.

The Santa Clara County Office of Education’s charter school oversight division of Innovative Schools helped Rocketship sweep the change under the rug. In the petitions listed on their website, they still show Rocketship’s governance board having local control. The public could only discover the real board structure, if by some trick of omniscience, they knew that the material charter revision was discussed on May 1, 2013. Only by following a link in the agenda, and reading the 385 page document, can one find the real truth. Below we’ve shown the cliff notes version, which documents the complete and total power grab by Rocketship’s national board. The document submitted used Rocketship Si Se Puede (RSSP) as an example, hence RSSP refers to the old governance structure, and RSED (Rocketship’s Education’s national board) refers to the new nationally controlled governance structure.


Rocketship’s board meetings have been held in the members only Silican Valley Capital Club at the top floor of the Knight Ridder Building
Rocketship’s national board power grab. From Rocketship’s material charter revision, pages 76-83.

John Danner and Preston Smith promise Rocketship schools will have local control in the Dec 14th, 2011 Santa Clara County Office of Education meeting, a promise which was subsequently broken.