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Thu Sep 26, 2019, 02:07 PM

A top charter school got California's first desegregation order in 50 years

MARIN CITY, Calif. — The hillside school with the dreamy view of San Francisco Bay seems to practically shout e pluribus unum. A racially diverse group of children play an afternoon game of capture the flag. Teachers and parents proclaim their inclusivity with lapel buttons: “All cultures. All faiths. All races. All abilities. All gender identities. … The future is welcome at Willow Creek Academy.”

The kindergarten-through-eighth-grade campus in Sausalito, which opened in 2001, has won fierce commitment from parents and staff. It has been recognized as one of California’s top charter schools.

But now Willow Creek is at the center of an emotional battle that has brought fresh attention to long-festering racial inequities in liberal Marin County. Last month, the tiny Sausalito Marin City School District was hit with the state’s first school desegregation order in half a century. The district has just two schools: Willow Creek, with an enrollment of 361, and Bayside Martin Luther King Jr. Academy, a traditional K-8 campus located a little more than a mile away in Marin City, across the 101 Freeway. Its 104 students are predominantly African American and Latino.

A state review found that Bayside MLK students have suffered under years of rapid staff turnover, inadequate class offerings, excessive discipline and substandard academic performance. As a result of the desegregation complaint by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the district is under a court order to end the unequal treatment of students who attend Bayside MLK.


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