Breidenthal defends Madrone Trail school from parents' criticism

Concerns from Madrone Trail Public Charter School parents expressed to the Medford School Board this week about the charter school's board of directors are outdated and not representative of the majority of parents, board Chairman Doug Breidenthal said Tuesday.

A parent on Monday told the Medford School Board that Madrone Trail's board was failing to follow board bylaws and that the board's plan for capital fundraising at the school is flawed.

"These are parents dredging up issues of the past," said Breidenthal, a Jackson County commissioner-elect who has served as board chairman for nearly two years.

Financially, Breidenthal said, the school is the most solvent it's ever been, and has $300,000 in reserves.

He said the school is looking into financing the construction of three new classrooms through a bank loan, in addition to its reserves.

Madrone Trail is receiving roughly $1.1 million this year in per-pupil funding from the Medford School District, based on a calculation from the district's proposed fiscal year budget.

"We have money in the bank," said Breidenthal.

Madrone Trail is modeled on a Waldorf-style program that emphasizes music, art, drama and handwork. The school is located in the former West Side School at the intersection of Ross Lane and Old Stage Road, west of Medford and north of Jacksonville.

The Madrone Initiative, a private, nonprofit corporation that operates the school, is currently being sued by a man who loaned the corporation $95,000 in 2010 to help the group purchase its school building.

According to court documents filed in Jackson County Circuit Court, Robert Rudolph loaned the Madrone Initiative the money in 2010 under the impression that an extensive fundraising campaign to pay him back would begin immediately.

Rudolph said that after two years without repayment, he now wants the money paid back with interest retroactive to 2010, according to court records.

Breidenthal said at a Nov. 5 Medford School Board work session that the Madrone Initiative has made Rudolph an offer to settle the case and is waiting to hear back, but said he couldn't comment further on the litigations.

Medford board members at the Nov. 5 work session said that in addition to financial solvency, they wanted Madrone Trail to address parent concerns about the board's bylaws, which were written by founding members of the school in 2007.

The school is up for a five-year renewal with the Medford School District this year, and will likely apply for the renewal within the next two months.

Medford School Board member Sally Killen said that the bylaws will be an important part of the renewal process.

"They govern the whole structure of the school," said Killen.

Killen said she had heard from parents who wanted a clearer understanding of how much Waldorf training or experience is required by someone to be a member of the board.

Board bylaws state that at least two board members "must be people with experience or training in teaching the Waldorf educational curriculum."

Breidenthal said currently none of the six board members are Waldorf educators, but that three of the members have received some kind of training in Waldorf methods.

"Some parents think they should be Waldorf educators," said Breidenthal.

A parent petition circulated online in March collected 99 signatures, mostly from parents, asking the Medford School Board to insist that two Waldorf educators be on the board, including one Madrone Trail faculty member.

The petition was created by parents Abigail and Tobias Hatfield, who did not immediately return calls Tuesday.

Breidenthal said during the Nov. 5 meeting that the Madrone Trail board has not met its own bylaws "since the inception of the school," but said Tuesday in an interview that the board currently was following the bylaws correctly.

He said despite what he identified as a small group of concerned parents, he feels confident that the Medford School Board will not have its judgment clouded during the renewal process.

"I have a lot of faith and trust in the prudent judgment of the Medford School Board," Breidenthal said.

The Medford School Board members said Monday they would try to schedule time in an upcoming work session to address the parents' complaints.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or

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