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Reforming a Charter School

Reforming a Charter School

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Published by Kilroy's_Delaware
Community letter from the leaders of Pencader Charter School located in Delaware
Community letter from the leaders of Pencader Charter School located in Delaware

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Published by: Kilroy's_Delaware on May 17, 2011
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Reforming A CHARTER SCHOOLThe reform campaign that came thundering into Delaware·spublic education system in the 90·s has created many changes in whatwe typically thought of as a ´school.µ One of the most significant newshapes on the education landscape is the charter school.Thursday night at Clayton Hall, the Delaware Charter SchoolsNetwork celebrated Newark Charter and its leader, Greg Meece, attheir annual Catalyst in Education Award Dinner. One of the highlightsof the evening was a video of the history of Newark Charter from itsearly days in trailers on Barksdale Road and to the move into thefacility they built on Elkton Road. Newark Charter has become astunning success in ten years.A charter school is an independent, tuition free public schoolwhich can serve students in any grades from K-12. Each school has acontract, or a ´charterµ with either the state or a local district, whichprovides the school·s mission, its academic programs, and its goals for the students attending. Either the state or the district that authorizesthe charter must hold that school accountable for what the school·scharter promises.Charter schools receive operating funds from the state of Delaware, as do the traditional public schools, but unlike traditionalpublic schools, charter schools receive no capital funds. What thatmeans is they either have to use some of their operating funds for their building/structure costs, or they have to develop a very goodstream of fundraising to capture capital expense dollars.Recently an article appeared in the Delaware News Journalabout Pencader Charter High School which is located in New Castle.The article reported that the state of Delaware is placing Pencader under a Formal Financial Review. The article then went on to say that
Pencader could be closed as a result of the review. The FormalReview is a very specific process that needs some explanation. Aschool can be placed under a Formal Review if their academicprogram is not aligned with their charter, or is unsuccessful, or theycan be placed under review if their financial situation is tenuous anddoes not appear to be able to support the charter·s mission.Pencader Charter High School, ironically a school focused onbusiness and finance, is currently under a financial review. Thismeans that the school must prove to the state, by submitting proper documentation, budgets, and contracts, that they can live within their budget. Beginning in February, Pencader started making some swift,important, and very calculated but very necessary changes, almostlike undergoing a transformation. A change in administration tookplace; a licensed CPA was added to the Board of Directors and anoutside accounting expert was hired to redesign budgets and financialreports; the Board of Directors itself was restructured under theguidance of a new President; The Board of Directors is taking a hardlook at the existing By-Laws and changing them to reflect neededfinancial requirements; a Policy Manual for the Board of Directors willbe written this summer so that all policies and procedures are in fullalignment with the school·s charter and Department of Educationguidelines; all contracts the school entered into from building rentalcosts to transportation costs were renegotiated to gain significantbudgetary savings; a salary scale in keeping with the school·s charter was put in place; positions over and above those allocated by thestate unit count are scheduled for elimination at the close of thisschool year as well as restructuring as needed. Cuts in budget lineshave and will continue to occur, but none of these changes will affectthe services we provide for our students.The next step in the process is that we present all of our documented and proposed changes to the Department of Education onJune 6
, from which the Department will compose a final report. The
final step in the process occurs on June 28
with a ´public meeting.µThis meeting, as the previous two, will be held in Dover. Allstakeholders can attend and be heard with their views and thoughtsabout Pencader Charter High School. Dr. Lowery, the Secretary oEducation, will then make a final determination about the fate of Pencader Charter High School. Her decision could be one of severaloptions available to her.1.
She could require Pencader be put on probationary status andnecessitate the submission of monthly or quarterly reports andhave Pencader work closely with the Department of Education tocompose those reports in a manner that the Department of Education requests2.
Another option is that Pencader is deemed to be fulfilling itscharter based on the documented and proposed changesprovided to the Department and as a result, no other requirements placed on Pencader other than continuing to meetits financial obligations; and3.
The direst, which is not presently anticipated, would be thatDepartment of Education revoke the charter and close theschool.We are proud of what we are accomplishing for Pencader·sstudents. Our academic progress continues to speak for itself, and weare confident that the State Department of Education will be pleasedwith the financial and restructuring changes we are making and thatthe article forecasting the closing of Pencader School will just beanother version of the tale of the boy who cried ´wolfOur 600 plusstudents work too hard and are doing too well to be let down. We arecommitted to not only keeping Pencader Charter High School open butone night in the not too distant future we want our school to berecognized as an outstanding school of business and finance! Acatalyst in education!

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