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Charter school in U-46 resurfaces via appeal


By Seth Hancock
  The Elgin Math and Science Academy (EMSA) has new life after being denied a charter contract by the School District U-46 Board of Education in June despite being given conditional approval just two months prior.
  EMSA submitted an appeal to the Illinois State Charter School Commission (ISCSC) on July 26, and a decision by the commission must be rendered within 75 days which puts the deadline in early October.
  A public hearing will be held this week on Thursday, Sept. 7 in the Heritage Ballroom of the Centre of Elgin. The hearing begins at 5 p.m. but those wishing to make public comments can sign up starting at 4 p.m.
  According to the appeal submitted by Kerry Kelly, president of the EMSA board, both EMSA and U-46 had “reached an agreement” on a contract on June 21 but “nonetheless, on June 26, 2017, the U-46 School Board voted 4-3 to adopt a Resolution that denied EMSA’s Proposal for a charter school and rejected the agreement that the parties had reached.”
  In April, the board approved, by a 6-1 vote, a resolution “granting approval to the charter school proposal based upon a mutually agreed upon contract,” but in June the board reversed its decision by not only denying the contract but also approving a rewritten resolution that ignored the original approval.
  Board members Phil Costello, Veronica Noland and Jeanette Ward supported EMSA both in April and June. Donna Smith, the board’s president, voted against EMSA both times while Traci Ellis and Sue Kerr approved the proposal in April but flip-flopped in June while Melissa Owens opposed EMSA in June but was not on the board in April when former board member Cody Holt cast the sixth vote in favor of the charter.
  “EMSA entered and engaged in negotiations in good faith and hired legal counsel,” Kelly wrote in the appeal, and the negotiations were both “time- and resource-consuming.”
  After the conditional approval was given, there were four negotiation meetings between EMSA and the U-46 administration as well as lengthy conversations at board meetings, including two special meetings that alone lasted over six hours.
  According to the appeal, the night before the June vote U-46 CEO Tony Sanders sent a memo to the board recommending denial of the contract leaving the appearance that he and the U-46 administration were never negotiating in “good faith” and that he completely ignored the directive given to him by the board.
  “We did not go in good faith and negotiate if this is what happens in that our administration has rewritten the proposal and rehashed all the same issues that we discussed before and negated the 6-1 vote,” Noland said after the contract was denied. Noland called it a “bait and switch” and added: “We directed administration to work with EMSA to work on a contract, not to rehash the proposal that we already did. This is disingenuous, and I strongly object with the way this has been manipulated.”
  Ward said after the denial: “This was behind the scenes manipulation to make sure that this didn’t pass, and here it is not passing.”
  However, Ellis said the board isn’t Sanders’ boss but rather it’s the other way around saying the administration is “to direct and guide the board, guide the board.”
  Sanders’ and the board’s majorities decisions to do a “bait and switch” and “behind the scenes manipulation” may cost the district if EMSA’s charter is approved by the ISCSC as Noland warned the board before the June vote that EMSA “can ask for up to 125 percent for full funding.”
  EMSA’s original proposal asked for 92 percent Per Capita Tuition Charge, but in it’s appeal proposal it is seeking 100 percent. The original proposal sought to have 450 total students by 2023 but under the new proposal seeks “an additional student to each classroom” and “gradually adds a third class per grade level, starting in year three” for a total of 702 students by its 11th year.
  Within the appeal were comments from members of the public supporting the charter including from Corina Garcia who said: “We the parents deserve options because sometimes we cannot afford to send our kids to a Montessori school or to a fancy private academy and having a charter school in the U-46 would be a dream come true to some of us parents who see the benefits of having a charter school education.”
  Other factors may garner support for the charter school including a recent Bloomberg report showing that property values increase by 3.5 percent where there are charter schools.
  Since the board’s denial of the contract, a study from Temple University professor Sarah Cordes titled “In Pursuit of the Common Good: The Spillover Effects of Charter Schools on Public School Students in New York City” has come out showing that math and reading scores increased in the traditional public schools when there is a nearby charter meaning the competition created through school choice helps everyone, not only those who attend the charter school.
  The study states: “The findings suggest that more charter schools in NYC may be beneficial at the margin and that co-location may be mutually beneficial for charter and traditional public schools.”

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