Friday, March 18, 2011

Charter School Business Manager's Network Meeting

Charter school business managers from across Colorado met to discuss a number of pressing issues, including how they would deal with impending budget cuts. Here's a summary of the day's meeting.

* The stimulus money (federal ARRA and EduJobs) goes away this year.

* The teacher salary results (63 of ~160 responding):
a. Highest range of full-time teacher salaries was in the $25,000 to $43,999 category.
b. Lowest full-time teacher mean was $30,000. Lowest range from $13,650 to $40,000.
c. Highest full-time teacher $47,000 mean. Lowest range from $30,000 to $76,688.
d. There were no trends for more mature charter schools or for charter school size.
e. Next teacher salary survey should be percentage of district salary. Plus, survey what benefits schools do pay for.
f. The salary survey will be open through the end of next week (April 1).

* School Fees
a. Should be on fee sheet if the fee is mandatory or optional and if it is optional, what the student will not receive if the fee is not paid.
b. No fees are required (may opt out of any) and the student will not be penalized or not able to graduate or advance to the next grade level.

* Security Systems
a. Some volunteer security systems include instant background checks that identify people with restrictions from accessing a school building.
b. A couple of the schools presenting cover the cost of background checks on their volunteers. Some schools have the parents/volunteers.

* Legislative Update

a. HB 1055: Charter school access to available school property. Will be heard in State Affairs on Wednesday.
b. HB 1089: Grant Opportunities. Headed to the Governor’s desk for signature. Allows charter schools to use the collaborative law to apply for federal competitive grants.
c. School Food Authorities. Will be added to Rep. Massey’s omnibus bill (HB 1277).
d. Timely Access to School Data. Will also be added to Massey’s bill. Data should be distributed to charter schools within two weeks of the district receiving it.
e. HB 1253: Charter School and At-risk Funding. Bill was killed.
f. Change BEST formula. Change the matching fund formula for charter schools.
g. Next year’s charter school capital construction will be around $83 per student (as projected by the JBC).
h. SB 188: Moral obligation bill. Previous version died in the Senate (SB 132), but was reintroduced.
i. HB 1277: Massey’s omnibus bill, which includes changes to online school reporting, overage and under credit student funding changes and School Food Authorities.
j. Senator Bacon is holding a public hearing on public education issues with a goal of generating media attention. Representatives from charter schools are invited to speak at the hearing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jefferson Academy at State Basketball Tournament

Congratulations to the Jefferson Academy Jaguars boys basketball team for getting second at the state 3A tournament. JA lost to the Faith Christian Academy team 49-41.

The Lady Jags won their game by beating the Pagosa Springs team 41 to 36.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Job Fair Ideal for Brand New Charter Schools

Imagine opening a brand new charter school and having to hire everyone from the maintenance person to a full slate of classroom teachers. Daunting? Yes!

Charter schools opening this fall, including Prospect Ridge Academy (Adams 12) , Loveland Classical School (Thompson) and Ben Franklin Academy (Douglas County), had tables at the Charter School Job Fair to minimize the time and effort needed to tackle the daunting task of hiring an entirely new staff. Reports from school leaders were that they were meeting some very serious candidates and were optimistic that several people would be hired.

Charter School Job Fair

Over 500 teachers showed up for the chance to submit their resumes and hopefully interview with more than 43 charter schools today. The job fair, hosted by Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette, allowed for a great networking opportunity for both teachers and charter school leaders in need of staff.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

DSST and W Denver Prep Awarded Federal Grant

The Denver School of Science and Technology Middle School and W Denver Prep - Federal Campus have been awarded a federal EPIC (Effective Practice Incentive Community) grant. The grant is for charter schools that have improved student academic achievement.

DSST will get $72,500 and W Denver Prep $58,000 from this grant, which will be used distribute their best practices to other urban charter school leaders.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

YAFA Wins Remand from State Board

The Youth and Family Academy (YAFA), of Pueblo, won an appeal heard by the State Board of Education this afternoon. The decision remands the matter back to the Pueblo 60 School District for further consideration. The vote was 6-1 with Elaine Berman being the sole dissenter.

Much of the debate centered on the charter school's contention that their growth data showed them doing as well or better than the other 60 Alternative Education Campuses (AECs) in the state. The school, which has been open since 1996 has consistently scored at the very bottom of achievement measures throughout its history. The related concern about student attendance was another area receiving a fair amount of discussion. The district stated the charter school doesn't send any students to truancy hearings even though the service provided by the district, doesn't have any cost for the school.

The board's discussion after both sides presented their cases was about there being an alternative that was a credible place for the students to attend if it weren't for the charter school. Currently the district has an administrator at the charter school and the charter school is operating without a contract or waivers. The district stated they were prepared to take over the school and even pay rent to the charter school's leaders in order to continue to use the facility.

Lotus Loses Appeal to State Board

On a 6-1 vote, the State Board of Education upheld the district's decision to deny the Lotus School of Excellence-Longmont charter school application.

The Lotus board operates a school in the Aurora School District and planned to replicate its program in Longmont. The St. Vrain Valley School District denied the application due to concerns about conflicts of interest, comingling of funds, governance not being local, projected enrollment, facility issues, and it not being a unique choice within the district. The district hit hard on what it considered inappropriate financial transactions by the Lotus board in Aurora, which was that board members secured personal loans to cover facility costs. Loans from two former board members are still outstanding.

The charter school developers explained their intentions for board governance that included parent representation on the board and a School Accountability Committee at each location.

After little discussion the State Board voted for a motion brought by Marcia Neal to uphold the local school district. State Board Chair, Bob Schaffer, was the lone nay vote for the motion. Both Paul Lundeen and Marcia Neal expressed their desire to support charter schools, but were uncomfortable in supporting this particular charter school given concerns that had been raised during the hearing.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Frontier Academy Students Win State Academic Competition

Frontier Academy students not only won a state academic competition, they did it by competing against larger schools! Students on Mr. Royle-Grimes' Academic Decathlon team should have competed at the 2A level, but instead chose to participate at the 4A/5A level in order to have more competition.

The team is now eligible to compete in North Carolina in April at the national competition. The team of nine students, all of different academic achievement levels, compete against the intellects of comparable students from other schools in ten categories.

Frontier Academy serves grades K-12 on two campuses in Greeley.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Loveland Classical School Approved to Open

The Thompson School District Board of Education approved Loveland Classical School (LCS) to open in the fall and to serve grades K-9. The charter school application proposed with opening K-11.

The charter school founders met with Thompson School District staff and board members in a workshop session prior to the regular board meeting. During the workshop many of the possible contingencies were discussed. School district board members conveyed the belief that they would have to approve the charter because of pressure from the State Board of Education. LCS appealed the board's earlier decision to deny the charter school application and the applicants were supported by the board in a remand order to the Thompson board. The two parties now have 90 days to work out contract terms.

After being approved, LCS founders announced that their new principal will be David Yu, a teacher at Ridgeview Classical School in Fort Collins and a Thompson high school graduate.