Charter school application voted down for second time

PNT Staff Report

The Portales Municipal Schools board had a quick redo on its earlier denial of the proposed Horace Mann School charter Wednesday. But the result after the formality was the same: Application denied.

Organizers for the Horace Mann School proposed a charter school in June. After an internal and external evaluation of the application, the school board voted Sept. 13 to deny the application based on incomplete information.

According to Portales Schools Superintendent Randy Fowler, Wednesday’s action by the board rescinding its previous vote was a formality so that written reasons for the denial could be included in the board’s minutes. Both votes were unanimous. By state law, the board was required to provide written reasons to the charter authors within 14 days of denial.

“Now we have a list,” Horace Mann spokesperson Joan Brown said. “At least we have something to go on for our appeal.”

Board President Rod Savage read the reasons for denial into the record, but no other staff or board member made comment at the special meeting Wednesday.

The 17-page document given to Brown after the meeting included a summary of the reasons for denial followed by specific findings of the consulting firm that did the external evaluation for the district. Fowler said Educational Development Unlimited was selected because it specializes in evaluating charter schools and its staff has done work for other school districts around the state.

In the summary of the board’s reasons for denial, the report states: “The proposal before us is greatly improved from the original submission but still contains ambiguities that could lead to problems for the school and its students as well as the district as a whole. The areas of curriculum, special education and finance remain of particular concern to the board.”

The report goes on to note concerns in particular with the school’s provisions for special education. It says that the responses the board received in an earlier meeting indicated that policies and procedures had not been provided by the charter’s authors to ensure appropriate service to students with disabilities.

Also noted in the report was the lack of provision for transportation and a lunch program at the school.

The charter school’s organizers now have 60 days to file an appeal.

The school’s organizers propose to start with grades six through nine in the fall of 2007 and eventually have grades six through 12.

The school’s goal would be to provide a college preparatory alternative with an emphasis on math and sciences.