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Pittsburgh Public Schools charter review team recommends denial of 3 applications

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By Bill Zlatos
Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Pittsburgh Public Schools officials have recommended that the school board deny the applications for three charter schools less than two weeks after the board rejected a proposal for a charter school in Hazelwood that the administration favored.

Lisa Augustin, coordinator of the district's charter review team, urged the rejection of applications for Mt. Washington Community Academy, Hill House Passport Academy and Computing Workshop charter schools. All three would like to open in the fall.

The school board's education committee discussed the recommendations at a meeting on Tuesday.

In its first year, Computing Workshop would serve 16 students with autism or other learning and physical problems in grades 5-12 and beyond in Squirrel Hill.

Hill House Passport Academy would serve 150 students in grades 9-12 in the Hill District in its first year. The academy focuses on helping dropouts get a high school diploma.

Mt. Washington Community Academy would serve 256 students in grades K-8 in the first year at the former St. Mary of the Mount Catholic School in Mt. Washington.

The charter review panel made the following observations about the applicants:

• Computing Workshop does not have expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are now offered. Furthermore, the school is neither financially viable nor able to serve as a model for other schools in the district.

• Hill House Passport Academy has not set up a separate public, nonprofit group to hold the charter and run the school. In addition, the school would expand choices and serve as a model to other schools in the district “only to some extent.”

• The governance structure of Mt. Washington Community Academy does not meet federal, state and local regulations or state law. The school also has underestimated some of its initial costs.

Board member Regina Holley asked the district to think twice about the Hill House proposal.

“I'm concerned because this would have provided an another alternative for students who are out on the streets to get a diploma,” she said.

The school board is scheduled to vote on the recommendations on Feb. 27. On Jan. 23, the board failed to approve an application by Propel to open a charter school in Hazelwood. Propel, a nonprofit group based in the South Side, runs a chain of charter schools.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. H e can be reached at 412-3 20-7828 o r

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