Portales Municipal School board votes down proposed charter school

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Organizers of the proposed Horace Mann School were dealt a blow Wednesday as the Portales Municipal School board voted down its application to become the district’s first charter school.

“It’s not a huge surprise,” Joan Brown, one of the school’s organizers, said following the meeting. “We will be appealing to the state.”

A group of citizens want to create the charter school to establish a school with smaller class sizes, with more emphasis on science and math classes and preparation for college.

Organizers presented the application to the board in July and after a review, submitted revisions of their plan in August. At Monday’s regular meeting, board members and school administration staff grilled organizers on the particulars of their plan and accepted public comment on the proposal.

Board members cited uneasiness with the missing details of the school’s plan as their reason for rejecting the charter in a unanimous vote.

“This application has grown dramatically from its submission,” board member Alan Garrett said. “Based on our meeting Monday there are too many items left unanswered.”

Board member Inez Rodriquez agreed with Garrett in her comments before the vote but expressed the hope that the details could be pulled together in the future that might allow it to succeed.

“Some of the things you want to do might be better,” board member Mary Lou Rowley said. “But I don’t think you’re understanding of the bottom line responsibility placed on our superintendent.”

Addressing Rowley’s comment to the PNT after the meeting, Brown said it wasn’t the charter school’s intent to do things better than the Portales public schools, rather to provide students and parents with an alternative.

“Change is hard,” Brown said.

Superintendent Randy Fowler said in making his recommendation to deny the application, his reasoning was based on missings detail in the proposal. He said that his biggest concerns were in the area of fiscal management with some additional problems with curriculum and state standards.

“We just want to make sure if it does happen, that it has the best chance for success it can possibly have,” Fowler said.

Fowler said the school board has 14 days in which to put into writing their reasons for rejecting the proposal and forward those to the applicant.

Brown said her group is committed to the process and sees an appeal as just “the next step” for them.

Currently there is no option for them to charter outside of the school board’s oversight, according to the organizers.