Denied charter schools seek support during appeal process
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.