Armstrong School District board rejects charter school plan
By Tim Karan
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013, 3:33 p.m.
The dream of Everlasting Elderton could be short-lived.
Armstrong school directors voted 8-1 not to approve Everlasting Elderton's charter school application.
D. Royce Smeltzer, who represents the Elderton area, cast the lone opposing vote.
The idea surfaced last spring as ASD planned to close Elderton Junior-Senior High School.
After a public hearing with the EECS (Everlasting Elderton Charter School) founding board in December, the ASD directors compiled an extensive list of more than 20 reasons why the charter should be denied. Ranging from a perceived lack of public support to a potential need to increase real estate taxes, the board was skeptical the school would benefit anyone at all.
Vice president Chris Choncek noted the unorthodox MicroSociety curriculum EECS planned to implement for K-12 students is not geared toward secondary students.
“Overall, I'm just not confident that students would get added benefits or increased opportunities,” he said. “Ultimately, I don't feel they would get a better education through this charter school.”
Director Linda Walker, a retired ASD teacher, said she was skeptical the EECS board fully grasped all of the complexities that go into building a curriculum and catering to a wide range of students with special needs or gifted abilities.
“Speaking from the classroom viewpoint, I don't think the needs of these students would be met as they would be met in the current schools.”
Although the board did not read any of its official reasons for denying the application during the meeting, a written version will be mailed to EECS as soon as Tuesday.
But in a copy of the document obtained by the Leader Times, the board claims Everlasting Elderton was founded on false pretenses.
It reads: “The EECS was designed not to provide a new learning model, but solely to find a way to reinstitute the closed junior-senior high school building which had average graduating classes in the area of 30-50 students and could no longer be sustained.” It goes on to say, “It is apparent that adding elementary students to the enrollment was done merely to provide financial support for the meager number of secondary students in the area.”
The document also cites problems with the apparent lack of alignment between the MicroSociety concept and Common Core Standards; a vague plan for implementing MicroSociety on the secondary level; a lack of course offerings that could be provided by the proposed initial staff of six high school teachers; a universal start time that could have elementary students waking up as early as 5:30 a.m.; no librarian or Advanced Placement teachers; no textbooks; no opportunities for students to attend vo-tech schools; no possibility for dual enrollment at local colleges; a non-comprehensive professional development plan; and many more concerns.
The ASD board also felt that there was not enough public support to justify the charter.
“Despite the large geographic size and number of available students and parents from which to gain support for a local charter school, a dismal number of individuals came out to a well-publicized public hearing to support or advocate the start-up of the Everlasting Elderton Charter School. It is obvious from the attendance the evening of the hearing that the community support is undemonstrated and unsustainable.”
The board also said mandatory letters of support provided by EECS were “minimal in number, pre-made with several noted to be exactly the same, with the majority lacking addresses to verify whether the individuals are even residents of the school district.”
The board also felt the show of support from Elderton area business owners was not done to help students, but rather, in their own interests.
“The few letters provided by business owners did not focus on partnerships with EECS and making a contribution to the learning of the students,” said the report. “Instead, these letters from businesses extolled the need for a school as business and income had allegedly fallen precipitously since the Elderton Junior-Senior High School had closed.”
And although the Everlasting Elderton board continues to push for the ability to lease the former Elderton Junior-Senior High School, ASD has offered no indication that will ever happen. The ASD board said Everlasting Elderton's second-choice building, Towne Hall along Route 422, will require significant changes to convert into a public school and that cost “has not been properly taken into consideration.”
All of this, however, is before mentioning the potential financial impact ASD foresees the charter could have on the local economy. A budget provided to ASD showed that EECS expected local revenues through 2017-18 to total more than $16 million, and ASD — the host district responsible for the bulk of the revenue — would be required to allocate funding to a level of approximately 8.5 additional mills of taxes to account for it. The report said, “Local real estate taxes will need to be raised to offset the costs of the EECS and additional services and/or programs will need to be curtailed at the local level.”
In essence, the creation of Everlasting Elderton would nullify all of ASD's recent plans, which also included the closing of Kittanning Township Elementary and the future closings of Kittanning Senior High, Kittanning Junior High and Ford City High.
“It is apparent that the savings realized from a sustained program to contain costs and reduce building inventory will be negated through the costs associated through this one charter,” said the report.
Still, the founding board of EECS remains undeterred. Secretary Amanda Bartosiewicz of Plumcreek said she fully expected ASD to shoot down the application and anticipates the decision to eventually be overturned with an appeal to the Charter School Appeal Board (CAB).
“The EECS founding board has already voted to pursue every avenue available to us to get our charter approved,” said Bartosiewicz. “You give us no choice. When we appeal to CAB, our application would most likely be approved and could cost the district $100,000 or more in legal fees.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kittanning vigil planned for mother in fatal collision
- District weighs AP test charges
- County board seeks members
- West Kittanning holds line on taxes
- $2,000 gifts benefit homeless vets in Armstrong County
- Christmas for Kids receives $1K donation
- Rayburn animal shelter in desperate need of new wheels