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March 15, 2013

New Castle board members say no to charter school application

NEW CASTLE — The New Castle Area School Board last night rejected the application for a fine arts charter school in the city.

The board vote passed a resolution 8-0 denying a charter to the New Castle Arts Academy Charter School.

Members Karen Humphrey and Dr. Marilyn Berkeley did not attend the meeting but voted by phone.

Member Stacey Fleo was absent from the meeting.

There was no discussion before the vote, except for comments offered by board member Mary Ann Tofel when it came time to cast her vote.

“The two hearings we had did not assure me that this proposed charter could fulfill the needs of our students in comparison to academics and cultural objectives infused in the New Castle School District,” she said.

“I felt the proposed instruction for entry levels (by the charter school) was not presented in any specific mode of construction, which is the foundation to learning,” Tofel said.

“Questions were not answered wholly in regards to security, nursing staff, cafeteria functions, special ed programs, professionals, custodians, et cetera, et cetera,” she added.

Acting district superintendent Stan Magusiak said after the meeting that he felt the board looked to the administrators and the district solicitor to review the charter proposal and testimony from two public hearings and make a recommendation based upon their expertise.

Magusiak handed out a list of some of the deficiencies in the charter application to the board at its public work session Monday. Those were incorporated by the solicitor, Charles Sapienza, into the nine-page resolution that the board adopted last night.

Debra Rice, charter school organizer, said after the meeting that she does not know yet what the organization’s next move will be or whether it will appeal to the state Department of Education. She said the organizing team will review the details of the resolution with the school’s attorney and decide how to proceed.

“We need to look at the document first,” she said. The team’s decision will be based upon the reasons for the denial.

Board member Anna Pascarella said after the meeting that she voted against the charter school based upon the information that the administration gave the board members.

“I think the sheet that Stan provided was pretty self-explanatory with the deficiencies,” she said.

The board did not publicly discuss them.

Rather, they reviewed the document on their own time, Pascarella said.

“I think the explanation the administrators gave us was well put together and it justified our vote,” she commented.

“It’s pretty hard for me to accept dishing out $10,000 a student when we offer all the subjects and classes ourselves,” board member Allan Joseph commented after the meeting.

“ We have our (own) music and art,” he said. “The kids in junior and senior high have to have that, too, and we’re providing all those services and that same education. Schools are having tough times now. Then to have to lose $10,000 per kid, that’s pretty hard.”

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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