DCSD works to improve charter renewal process

School board renews three charter schools

Posted 4/8/19

For seven months, Douglas County School District staff and legal counsel have worked together to clean up the district's charter school renewal process, which in the past has been described by some …

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DCSD works to improve charter renewal process

School board renews three charter schools

Posted

For seven months, Douglas County School District staff and legal counsel have worked together to clean up the district's charter school renewal process, which in the past has been described by some community members as ambiguous, unpredictable and potentially detrimental to enrollment at neighborhood schools.

The Charter Schools Act — which became Colorado law in 1993 and paved the way for charters — called for “smaller environments to experiment with educational programs and develop innovative ways to educate at-risk students.” The schools receive the same per-pupil funding as public schools but generally operate with more autonomy and flexibility. In Douglas County, there are 18.

The school district's refined contract process outlines specific parameters on dispute resolution — should there be a disagreement between the school district and a charter school — financial reporting and the district's obligations to charter schools, according to a presentation made by district staff at an April 2 board of education meeting.

“We do believe it captures an agreement between the representatives of the school district, as well as the charter schools, with respect to the obligations and compliance with state law,” Mary Kay Klimesh, the district's general counsel, said at the meeting.

New language is also in the works around automatic state waivers, in which charters aren't required to submit a Rationale and Replacement Plan outlining how it will comply with the objective of an automatically waived state statute or state board rule. Which, for example, could be a governing board's duties concerning staff and pay or policies relating to in-service training and official conduct, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

“For us, we will require a rationale replacement plan,” said Danny Winsor, the district's director of schools and choice programming. “It has been an exhaustive process to make sure we set a good foundation moving forward and we give a lot of credit to our general counsel.”

The following are three charter school contracts that were renewed at the April 2 meeting under terms of the new contract process.

Ben Franklin Academy

The board of education unanimously approved a five-year contract for the school in Highlands Ranch. The charter school, which opened in 2011, serves kindergarten through eighth grade with a focus on STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

North Star Academy

The board of education unanimously approved a five-year contract for the K-8 school in Parker. Opened in 2006, the charter school offers a core knowledge education with an integrated Spanish language program.

Hope Online

The board of education voted 6-1 to approve a two-year contract for the K-12 school, which offers online instruction in learning centers throughout Colorado. The school has been under scrutiny for its rating by the state department of education as “priority improvement” for low academic achievement.

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