New Castle News

Closer Look

March 19, 2013

Resolution details charter school denial

CNHI — The New Castle Area School Board has cited apparent deficiencies in denying a charter school application.

The board conducted two public hearings prior to its 8-0 vote Thursday.

Debra Rice, charter school leader, said the school’s organizers plan to meet today with an attorney to decide their next step.

New Castle’s school solicitor, acting superintendent, business manager and other administrators had perused the plan and cited several pages of what they believe are deficiencies in the application of the New Castle Arts Academy Charter School.

These recommendations were adopted by the board as a resolution which concludes that each identified deficiency “is sufficiently serious to warrant denial of the charter application.”

Shortcomings cited in the resolution include:

•There is no indication that any of three possible downtown sites for the school is adequate for the grades to be served. The applicant failed to provide drawings, renditions, outlines or simple sketch of any of the proposed sites. Nor is there documentation that steps were taken to ensure the health and safety of the students as mandated.

•The applicant’s rent budget is unrealistic.

•The application fails to show sustainable support for the school by teachers, parents, other community members and students. Two people spoke in support of the school at a public hearing — one of whom lives outside the school district, the other is a member of the applicant’s board of trustees. Of three others commenting, two opposed the application and one asked a question.

Of the 33 signatures on a petition in support of the charter school,  27 percent of those signing live outside the district. Of a total of 52 pre-enrollment forms submitted to the district, 32 percent were from individuals who live outside of the district. According to state statutes,  charter school support must be from within and not outside of the community.

•There are discrepancies in listing advisory board and founding members. At least one person on the list denies being  part of the process.

•There is an apparent lack of mission and educational goals regarding state academic standards for math, reading, writing, speaking and listening.

•The curriculum is general and does not show any art infused into any course. The instruction method for reading, an important aspect of elementary curriculum, is lacking.

•Textbooks and instructional materials are not clearly identified.

•The application fails to show how the school will verify teacher qualifications or obtain “highly qualified” world language teachers.

•No remediation is offered for students who don’t succeed in world languages.

•Demographic data indicates about 20 percent of the students would need English language learning support, but there is no detail or budget for such programs.

•Support for special needs students is not calculated into the budget, nor are there specific allocations for a school psychologist, speech therapist, occupational therapist or other support services.

•Title I revenues are based on an 85 percent free and reduced lunch population. The district’s free and reduced percentage is closer to 70 percent.

•The applicant provided no information about its ability to borrow money should the school need funds. Additional concerns are its projection of the state employees retirement system, which shows a $31,000 budget shortfall, and inadequate funding for student health care.

 “The district cannot make a sound fiscal decision when financial data submitted by the applicant is inaccurate, inconsistent and not reflective of sustainable business practice.”

•There is no plan of action should pending legislation pass make charter school funding more equitable and decrease funding.

•While the applicant has designated grades 4 through 8 will be represented at the school, there is no budget.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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