The differences are real.
The contract requires the District to create two completely separate schools each with their own individual identity, identitification code with the state, facility, staff, principal, and IT administrator. We have been told that the two STEM academies will share an identity, identification code with the state, facility, staff, principal and IT administrator.
The contract strictly limits enrollment of each school to 450 for a total maximum of 900. We have been told that the capacity of STEM is 1,000 students.
The contract requires that all core classes be taught on campus. We have been told that the students can leave the campus for Running Start classes.
When asked about these discrepancies, it took the staff several days to respond. The eventual explanation was that these differences were discussed with NTN, and NTN agreed, in those discussions, to accept the District's intended performance in deviation from the contract language. This explanation fails to satisfy. It fails for three reasons. First, if there were were negotiations and agreements that differ from the language of the contract, then those terms should have been the ones codified in the contract rather than the ones that were codified. That is, after all, the purpose of a written contract - to codify the results of a negotiation and agreement - not to codify anything else. Second, any such oral agreements outside of the contract would not be enforcable if they contradicted the written agreement. Third, the contract has a clause which specifically says that any discussions or agreements outside of the written language of the contract are void.
Just to be clear and fair. The contract does not require perfect performance from the District. The District is required to make their "best effort", but Exhibit C provides a better measure of what is acceptable and what is not. Exhibit C provides descriptions of three levels of District achievement: At Risk, Emerging, and Advanced. The District is required - by the contract - to reach at least the Emerging status on all measures. NTN could find the District in breach of contract if it fails.
District commits to use its best efforts to attain in all categories at least the status of "emerging" (and with the goal of attaining in all categories the status of “advanced”) in accordance with the School Success Rubric standards attached hereto as Exhibit C.
For one of the measures of school culture and autonomy, the Emerging level is "School has a unique identity." The At Risk version of that effort is "School has failed to develop an identity separate from other institutions." If STEM continues to be one school, then the District will have failed to achieve Emerging status on this measure. That failure will put the District in breach of contract and would make the contract voidable by NTN. The contract could be terminated:
At the non-breaching party's option, effective immediately, if a party materially breaches, violates or otherwise fails to comply with any of the terms contained in this Agreement and fails to cure such breach within sixty (60) days of receiving written notice of such breach from the non-breaching party;
Would a family with a student at STEM have standing in a Court to appeal the Board's decision to violate the terms of the contract? The law on the appeals is that anyone who is aggreived by a decision (or non-decision) of the Board can appeal. Is having only a 1/1000 share of the principal's attention instead of a 1/450 share sufficient cause? Is putting the NTN contract at risk sufficient grounds for an appeal?
Should it even come down to a legal appeal in Superior Court? Shouldn't it be enough that we, as citizens, expect our government bodies to fulfill the letter and spirit of the contracts they sign? Isn't it enough that we demand they have the legal acumen not to enter into contracts that they - erroneously - believe are modified by ancillary oral agreements? More than anything, isn't it enough that not a single member of the Board ever asked a single question about any of these differences between the contract language and the public information about STEM?
In the end, this isn't about whether or not the District will fulfill the terms of the contract or if NTN will terminate the agreement due to the District failure to fulfill those terms. The critical issue here isn't the contract at all - it is the obvious failure of the Board to conduct the minimal due diligence of reading the contract they were approving.