Thursday, February 9, 2012

State Board Hears Northeast Academy Charter School Appeal

Citing that Denver Public Schools (DPS) didn't have the authority to take away Kindergarten and sixth grade during the 2012-13 school year, Northeast Academy Charter School (NACS) appealed to the State Board of Education yesterday. The board backed the charter school on a 4-3 vote.

DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg took the unusual position of arguing the district's case before the State Board. He spent a good deal of time touting the accolades of the 83,000 student district, about 10,000 of which are in public charter schools.

DPS entered into a three-year contract with NACS in 2010 and the charter school asserted that imposing the condition that the two grade levels be eliminated was tantamount to unilaterally changing the contract. DPS cited that the charter school has never performed well since it opened in 2004. The NACS attorney, Barry Arrington, stated that the 2010 turnaround contract with the charter school, in essence, wiped the prior slate clean because the district acknowledged the school needed to improve and agreed to a three-year period to improve.

Chairman Bob Schaffer said he didn't understand the district's logic in eliminating only two specific grade levels. He stated that the district, if it were true to that argument, would need to close the school. Supt. Boasberg did call the plan a "phased closure."

George Sanker, who led the turnaround effort from January 2010 to May 2011 testified at the hearing that DPS wasn't clear on if the school were in transformation or turnaround and therefore made the improvement process extremely difficult for the charter school's leaders. Further, while other district schools in similar situations were given significant funding for improvement, NACS did not receive a comparable level of funds.

In the end, the State Board backed the charter school along a party line vote. Board members stated they believed the charter school had made their case that the three-year contracted needed to be honored. Before walking out of the hearing room before it was adjourned, Supt. Boasberg gave the NACS Principal a veiled threat about the school's future, implying that he would see that the school closed.

DPS now has 30 days to make a decision on the State Board's remand order. If the charter school disagrees with that decision, they can appeal to the State Board for a second time. At a second hearing, the State Board's directive is mandatory.

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