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January 15, 2014

Arts academy to appeal after board says no to charter school

NEW CASTLE — The New Castle Arts Academy Charter School plans to contest the New Castle school board’s denial of its charter.

The board voted 9-0 Monday to reject the academy’s application to open an arts-infused charter school in the former Days Inn.

The action came after a public hearing and public board discussion about the application.

The charter school applicants said Tuesday they are circulating a petition to obtain signatures of 2 percent — or 1,000 — district residents. The petition then must be certified by the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas before the academy may appeal to the state charter school appeals board for a decision.

“We have 60 days from the day of the denial to do this,” said Debra Rice, who heads the effort. “Our team is not sure at this point as to why we were denied and won’t know until we receive the resolution.”

She noted the academy organizers have “made every effort to reach out to the district to open up communication on shared services and how it would have been beneficial to the district to approve the charter.

“Unfortunately, the district has not been receptive to our efforts,” she continued. “Even though we are not surprised by their decision, because this is very typical in this process, we had a glimmer of hope.”

Reasons for the board’s denial, as detailed in a resolution, included:

•The lack of a drawing or details of the configuration of the proposed school. Eight classrooms and a gymnasium/cafeteria are the only description provided.

•The charter school’s hiring of one part-time security guard will be insufficient to provide for the health and safety of students.

•The proposal does not include research-based curriculum, and there is no data to support the effectiveness of its approach to instruction and learning.

•There are no plans for teachers certified in music or art, reading specialists or administrators with curriculum specialization.

•There is no growth plan or curriculum for grades five through eight, which are to be added later.

•There is no transition plan for students advancing from charter school into high school programs within their home district.

•There is no clear schedule of daily instruction to show the amount of time allotted for each subject. Nor does the application specify how often students will receive physical education and foreign language instruction.

•The application does not include a current viable technology plan.

•The application does not include a financial balance sheet showing the amount of capital for start-up expenses.

•The staffing plan falls short with regard to staffing costs and there are no budget provisions should funding levels not be met.

•There are no contingency funds to educate special needs students who have extraordinary costs. Nor is there funding for psychological services, which the district’s demographics require for daily counseling and evaluating students.

•There are no specific allocations for speech, occupational or physical therapists or related support services.

•The professional development plan included was last revised in 2001.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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