Proposed Loudoun charter denied application extension

An effort by a group of Turkish immigrants to get more time to develop their application to open a charter school  in Loudoun County — which would be the first there and possibly in Northern Virginia — was rejected by a 6-3 vote of the county’s school board.  The vote means that the board will decide on the controversial application in late February.

The proposal to open the Loudoun Math & IT Academy was approved by state officials last summer and then sent to county for more intense scrutiny. A three-member select committee of the board voted last month against recommending that the full panel approve the school because of continuing questions involving curriculum, a lack of transportation for students and other operational issues. In hearings, the applicants were unable to answer basic questions about curriculum, student transportation and other subjects to the satisfaction of the members.

In an undated letter,  state Sen. Richard H. Black (R-Leesburg), said he was withdrawing support for the proposed charter for another reason. It says in part:

…Unfortunately, I was not fully apprised of certain misgivings expressed by the public regarding this proposal.

Questions have been raised about whether other charter schools associated with this particular network have experienced high rates of failure and poor financial management…

 

The network to which he is referring is a group of charter schools around the country that have been opened by supporters of of a reclusive Turkish Islamic preacher named Fethullah Gulen. There are believed to be about 135 charter schools in this network, and a number of them have come under investigation from state and federal officials for various issues, including connections to the Gulen Movement.

The charter school on which the proposed Loudoun academy is modeled is the Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School in Anne Arundel County, which has had academic success but has clashed repeatedly with Anne Arundel education officials, and the school is actually suing the district, alleging that it has been underfunded.

The 6-3 vote on Tuesday to deny a three-month delay in the application process does not necessarily mean the academy will be turned down, but comments from board members suggest there are still steep hurdles for the applications to climb. Members of the panel offered different reasons for rejecting the delay.

Jill Turgeon, a former teacher and member of the school board as well as one of the three members of the select committee, said that she remains concerned not only about the curriculum planned for the academy but also that the applicants did not respond adequately to criticism made months ago about the curriculum.

She said: “When I was in the classroom and I saw my second graders weren’t responding to my curriculum, are you kidding me? I’m going to wait until Dr. Hatrick [the superintendent] comes to my classroom and says, ‘You know what, Mrs. Turgeon, your curriculum isn’t sufficient?’ No, that’s not how it works. That’s not the type of educators I want to see in LCPS. You need to be a go-getter. You need to be a self-starter.”

 

 

 

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | January 23, 2013