Wednesday, March 13, 2013

State Board Sides with Cherry Creek School District on Charter Appeal

In the appeal hearing, Infinite Charter Academy v. Cherry Creek School District, the State Board of Education sided with the school district and affirmed the decision to deny the charter school application.

The primary issue of the case was whether or not Infinite was a private school conversion. The school previously operated as a private religious Muslim school called Crescent View Academy (CVA). In 2006 CVA began contracting with Hope Online Academy to be a learning center of the charter school. During this arrangement the learning center's students take an online curriculum during the day, with a "mentor" overseeing the students. Hope Online is a public charter school authorized by the Douglas County School District. CVA offers a tuition-based religious program after school each day. About 200 students attend the learning center.

The State Board 6 to 1 to affirm the district's decision to deny Infinite Charter Academy.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Charter School Job Fair 2013

After years of having excellent weather for the annual charter school job fair at Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette, this year the heavy snow kept many teacher candidates away.

More than 550 teacher candidates registered for the job fair, but about 150 didn't show, largely due to the weather. However, 44 charter schools were present, many hiring numerous positions. This job fair is especially ideal for brand new charter schools hiring a complete staff.

Aspen View Academy's new Principal, Merlin Holmes said they were hiring 30 instructional positions and about 50 total staff members. Aspen View will open in the fall, in Castle Rock, with about 600 students K-6 eventually growing through 8th grade.

Jen Dauzvardis, from the Center for Professional Development at Peak to Peak, the group that organizes the job fair said that it's hard to estimate, but somewhere around half of the candidates who are screened at the job fair move on to a second interview at the charter school.

This charter school job fair is the best place to get information on positions open in the state's charter schools. Schools come from all over the state and oftentimes follow up on resumes even later in the school year.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Six Years and 1,000

Today marks the sixth anniversary of this blog AND this is the 1,000th post! To celebrate these two milestones, I thought a little reflection on the past six years was in order.

Most read post: "Bad Board Behavior" posted Aug. 6, 2012. The popularity of this particular post is probably due to the bad reputations boards in general have. I don't think it only reflects on charter school governing boards, although they have certainly been known to have their dark moments and end up in the media. As almost all of my posts touch on something that really happened, I must say that the situation I wrote about (and is still continuing today) is the worst case of bad board behavior that I've seen in my 20 yrs of working with charter schools.

Most used label: Charter Success (114). Authorizers ranks second, followed by New Charter Schools and then Governance and Parent Info. Looking at the statistics surprised me because I would have guessed governance to be higher in the ranking.

Favorites: I have several and can't narrow it down to one. My favorites include Senior Pranks where I wrote about some things my son and nephew did. This is a favorite because for years I've drawn in readers who Google "senior pranks" and I'm entertained by the numerous school district email addresses that read about the pranks. I never have figured out if the school district people were trying to avoid senior pranks or get ideas!

I had fun writing Innovators. I wrote it tongue-in-cheek and enjoyed getting an email from a friend who laughed out loud when he read it.

It's also fun to write about my pet peeves--and there are many related to charter schools! The names people pick for their charter school is a big one! The other biggee for me is what I can bureaucratic/regulation creep.  Charter schools were created out of a philosophy that LESS is BETTER and over time, we have re-created the bureaucracy that led to the formation of charter schools.

My 500th blog post was Jan. 20, 2009. I wrote more often the first few years of this blog. I wrote then that the blog took more time than I'd initially thought it would. It took less than two years to get to 500 blog posts, but the second 500 posts took four years! I've had very few guest bloggers contribute, which probably would have helped the times that life interfered with blogging.

I'm always entertained when I talk with someone who has read one of my posts. It's nice to know that people actually read what I write. Most of the time I imagine myself pontificating to an empty auditorium or writing my legacy.

I've written a lot about the history of charter schools in Colorado because I got involved in the fall of 1993 and worked on the application for Jefferson Academy. The school opened in 1994 after a successful appeal to the State Board of Education, but having been initially being denied by the Jefferson County School District. In 1996,  I worked on Lincoln Academy, which didn't open until 1997. Then in 2005-2006 I helped a group of parents from the north Jeffco K-8 charter schools to submit an application for Madison High School. The application was denied by Jeffco, appealed to the State Board of Education and lost on a tie vote. The following year the appeal was successful, but due to a legal maneuver, the school was never allowed to open.

Now that this blog has migrated to our Charter School Solutions website, more posts are about charter school authorizer issues. As new charter schools developed technical assistance was important to help schools establish in a manner that would increase their chances of being successful. In the last decade, the role of charter school authorizers has moved to the forefront as it's become apparent that the best charter schools are in a strong relationship with their authorizer. Now there are numerous tools available for authorizers so they can build on best practices from others.

Thanks for reading my 1,000th post! I hope you keep reading!

Aspen View Academy Uses DCSD Credit Rating to Improve Bonds for New Facility

Aspen View Academy is a new charter school slated to open in the fall in Castle Rock. Yesterday the school received media coverage because they negotiated a deal with the Douglas County School District, their authorizer, to use the district's excellent credit rating to get a better deal on the bonds for their new facility.

The Aspen View Academy governing board has worked diligently to provide the means for a brand new facility to house approximately 600 students on opening day within budget constraints inherent to charter schools that must use their per pupil funds to pay for a facility.

The school received an exceptionally high score on their Charter School Program startup grant, earning bonus funds from the CO Dept of Education's Schools of Choice Unit.


Aspen View's new Principal, Merlin Holmes, is well-respected in the state's charter school community. Merlin has led schools such as SkyView Academy, The Classical Academy and Legacy Academy and helped open Foundations and Landmark when he worked for National Heritage Academies. Mr. Holmes has a great deal of experience with establishing a well-run, positive learning environment and he has a reputation for hiring extremely talented staff.

Disclaimer: Merlin Holmes worked with me at the CO Dept of Education and remains a close friend. I first met Merlin when he was the administrator who opened The Classical Academy's high school and I sought his advice on creating a quality high school. We've had numerous conversations about charter schools over the years and he continues to be someone I seek for advice.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Nostalga

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic since 2013 is the 20th anniversary of charter schools in Colorado. I've been digging through old pictures and files to share at the upcoming June 3rd celebration lunch sponsored by the League of Charter Schools.

One of my most cherished possessions is the Charter Schools Act bill that belonged to then-Senator Bob Schaffer. Bob served on the Senate Education committee, which heard the bill before sending it on to the floor for a full vote. The bill, SB 93-183 was sponsored by then-Senator Bill Owens and then-State Rep. Peggy Kerns. Originally the bill was 15 pages long, but it was amended as it moved through the Senate and then House.

Bob Schaffer's notes on the legislation included questions he had such as why the original bill limited the number of charter schools to only 20? Eventually the bill passed with a limitation of 50 charter schools by 1998, which was the five-year pilot phase that was added in order to gain enough votes for passage.

The SB 183 file also contains notes made by Dave D'Evelyn, who worked for the CO Dept of Education at the time and was supportive of the bill's passage. He died in a plane crash before the first charter school was approved, however. There's also a memo from CASB (CO Assn of School Boards) asking for a no vote on the bill. There are also a couple of memos from the CO Education Association. The first asks for legislators to oppose the bill and the second urges them to support the conference committee report (the last version before it goes to the Senate and House for final approval).

In case you're wondering how it is that I came into possession of this bill and the file of Bob Schaffer's, I was working for a friend in the Senate and he was given Bob's old filing cabinet. When I was putting away new files, there were several old files. And yes, Bob Schaffer does know that I have his file now.