De­nied char­ter schools seek sup­port dur­ing ap­peal process

North Penn Life - - News - By Jen­nifer Law­son jlaw­son@jour­nalregis­ter.com

WKHn WHnGy 2rPsEy firsW set out to es­tab­lish the Soud­er­ton Area Char­ter School Col­lab­o­ra­tive in 1999, the school board de­nied her ap­pli­ca­tion.

6KH WKHn fiOHG Dn DS­peal with the Penn­syl­va­nia De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, which over­turned the school board’s de­ci­sion and granted her the char­ter.

heep­ing this in mind, she IHHOs FRn­fiGHnW WKDW WKH DSSHDO sKH is fiOing in WKH wDNH of her de­nied ap­pli­ca­tion to launch the North Penn Char­ter School Col­lab­o­ra­tive will pro­duce the same re­sults.

“I’m op­ti­mistic about PRv­ing IRr­wDrG, DnG , WKinN that our his­tory of great success will stand on its own and war­rant the char­ter,” she said.

Feb. 12, the North Penn School Board de­nied ap­proval for North Penn Char­ter School Col­lab­o­ra­tive, Mont­gomery Flex Char­ter School and Ed­u­ca­tion for New den­er­a­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to the state De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, WKH firsW sWHS in WKH DSSHDO process is for the ap­pli­cants to gather sig­na­tures from 1,000 in­di­vid­u­als 18 years and older who sup­port the es­tab­lish­ment of the char­ter school. The sig­na­tures must be gath­ered within 60 days of the de­nied ap­pli­ca­tion, which would be April 13.

Next, the pe­ti­tion must be submitted to the Mont­gomery County Court of Com­mon Pleas, which will ver­ify the sig­na­tures and is­sue a de­cree.

The ap­pli­cant then sends the pe­ti­tion and de­cree to the ap­peals board, along with a state­ment de­tail­ing the rea­sons why the ap­pli­cant dis­agrees with the school board’s de­ci­sion to deny the char­ter ap­pli­ca­tion.

lnce the ap­peals board re­ceives the doc­u­ments, it Ds­signs D GRFNHW nuPEHr DnG KHDring RI­fiFHr.

The ap­peals board also re­quests that the school board SrRviGH D FHrWi­fiHG rHFRrG within 10 days, which in­cludes the char­ter ap­pli­ca­tion; tran­script of the pre­sen­ta­tion made be­fore the school board; ex­hibits that the ap­pli­cant used dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion; any doc­u­ments that the school board used in reach­ing its de­ci­sion; and the school board’s writ­ten de­ci­sion.

The hear­ing of­fi­cer will set a date for the case to be pre­sented be­fore the char­ter school ap­peals board.

If the ap­peals board grants the ap­peal, the school board has 10 days to grant the ap­pli­ca­tion and sign the char­ter.

If it fails to do so, the char­ter will be con­sid­ered ap­proved and will be signed by the chair of the ap­peals board.

2rPsEy is PDNing D push to have all of the sig­na­tures gath­ered by Feb. 28. 6KH DsNHG WKDW DnyRnH wKR wRuOG OiNH WR sign WKH pe­ti­tion or as­sist in gath­er­ing sig­na­tures call the Soud­er­ton Char­ter School Col­lab­o­ra­tive at 215- 7214560.

“The process will be very sim­i­lar to what hap­pened more than 14 years ago. te ap­pealed and then we re­ceived our char­ter,” 2rPsEy sDiG. “, WKinN WKDW in the char­ter school move­ment, it’s not atyp­i­cal to meet with re­sis­tance from school boards. It’s prob­a­bly the norm.”

Ti­mothy Sager, who is sHHNing WR ODunFK 0RnW­gomery Flex Char­ter School, is weigh­ing his op­tions along with his le­gal coun­sel.

He said his three op­tions are to re­sub­mit the ap­pli­caWiRn WR WKH sFKRRO ERDrG, fiOH an ap­peal or drop it al­to­gether.

The ben­e­fits of re­sub­mit­ting the ap­pli­ca­tion would be that it would save money and time, Sager said.

“The down­side is that you’re sub­mit­ting it to the same peo­ple who de­nied it, and are they really go­ing to change their minds?” he said.

Sager called the school board’s rea­sons for the de­nial of his ap­pli­ca­tion “laugh­ably silly.”

In its writ­ten de­ci­sion, the board said that Mont­gomery Flex’s ap­pli­ca­tion failed to demon­strate that the school would im­prove pupil learn­ing and in­crease stu­dent achieve­ment, which the state char­ter school law re­quires.

Mont­gomery Flex’s goal would have been to ex­ceed the Penn­syl­va­nia four-year co­hort av­er­age grad­u­a­tion rate of 78.73 per­cent, but the four-year co­hort grad­u­a­tion rate for the North Penn School District is 94.75 per­cent, the de­ci­sion says.

Sager said he set the grad­u­a­tion rate as lower than North Penn’s be­cause char­ter schools must ac­cept all stu­dents, and some might not be ca­pa­ble of high achieve­ment.

“YRu PigKW gHW NiGs wKR are strug­gling, so why would I put in a num­ber as high as North Penn’s?” he said. “Many peo­ple go to char­ter school be­cause pub­OiF sFKRRO is nRW wRrNing for them and might not be at that level. I didn’t want to write a num­ber that I didn’t feel was achiev­able, and I don’t have enough in­for­ma­tion about who will EH Hn­rROOHG WR NnRw wKDW is achiev­able.”

lne of the rea­sons for the school board’s de­nial of North Penn Char­ter School Col­lab­o­ra­tive was that it didn’t show ev­i­dence of a cur­ricu­lum aligned with Com­mon Core Stan­dards and hey­stone An­chors. But lrmsby said most schools are still in the process of do­ing this.

te are go­ing through the align­ment process now and we have a whole team of SHRSOH wRrNing Rn iW,” sKH said. “te haven’t found any­one who has com­pleted the process.”

The school board also said that North Penn Char­ter School Col­lab­o­ra­tive failed to show that it’s pre­pared to meet the needs of stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties.

How­ever, lrmsby said they are equipped to ed­u­cate spe­cial needs stu­dents (also NnRwn Ds sWuGHnWs wiWK in­Givid­u­al­ized learn­ing plans, or IEPs) but that their ap­proach is dif­fer­ent from the school district’s ap­proach. In­stead of hav­ing spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion class­rooms, spe­cial needs stu­dents get one-on-one in­struc­tion in the same class­room space as the rest of the stu­dents.

“It’s not a stig­ma­tized, seg­re­gated class and that’s pretty pro­found,” she said. “te’ve had great success wiWK WKDW, DnG , WKinN WKDW vir­tu­ally any par­ent who has a child with an IEP who at­tends our school would sSHDN wiWK grHDW DFFRODGHs about our en­vi­ron­ment in terms of em­brac­ing those with IEPs.”

An­other rea­son why the board said it would not ap­prove lrmsby’s ap­pli­ca­tion was that it didn’t iden­tify a phys­i­cal lo­ca­tion for the school, de­spite the fact that she had submitted a let­ter from the owner of a prop­erty in North tales stat­ing he wDs FRn­fiGHnW D OHDsH FRuOG be ne­go­ti­ated.

“It’s just part and par­cel in how to cre­ate a de­nial,” she said. “It’s a Catch 22. te can’t have a lease signed un­til we have a char­ter, but we can’t get a char­ter un­til there’s a lease. I felt we had given con­crete ev­i­dence that a lease was forth­com­ing.”

In all three de­ci­sions, the board said that the ap­pli­cants did not demon­strate sup­port for the char­ter school plan by teach­ers, par­ents, other com­mu­nity mem­bers and stu­dents, de­spite as many as a dozen or more sup­port­ers who at­tended the prior hear­ings. Sup­port­ers of Ed­u­ca­tion for New den­er­a­tions even sported match­ing T-shirts and some held signs urg­ing the board to ap­prove the school.

lrmsby said that when she was launch­ing the Soud­er­ton Char­ter School Col­lab­o­raWivH, suSSRrWHrs sSRNH DW WKH pub­lic hear­ing for more than two hours, and the Soud­er­ton Area School Board’s de­ci­sion stated that they hadn’t shown enough sup­port.

“It’s so am­bigu­ous, and there’s no ques­tion in my mind that we have a lot of sup­port,” she said.

Sager voiced frus­tra­tion over this point.

“, WKinN iI yRu rHDG WKH char­ter school ap­peal board de­ci­sions, ev­ery sin­gle school district says there wasn’t enough com­mu­nity sup­port,” he said. “It’s alPRsW OiNH D WKrRwDwDy.”

De­spite the ap­peal, lrmsby said her team is still mov­ing for­ward un­der the as­sump­tion that North Penn Char­ter School Col­lab­o­ra­tive will be awarded a char­ter. They’ve re­ceived sev­eral hun­dred ap­pli­ca­tions for teacher po­si­tions and they’re in the process of in­ter­view­ing, she said. 7KHy DOsR SODn WR finDOizH the lease for the school build­ing.

Ed­u­ca­tion for New den­er­a­tions could not be reached Mon­day for com­ment on their ap­peal ef­forts.

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