An audience of nearly 100 parents and community members had the opportunity to listen and ask questions of the formally proposed Concord Charter Academy Tuesday night in the Cary Junior High School gymnasium.
The charter school would operate within Cary School District 26, accept all students, with district students being accepted first but would act independently of the District 26.
According to the National Education Association, "charter schools are publicly funded elementary or secondary schools that have been freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools, in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each charter school's charter."
Board member Chris Jenner said the purpose of the meeting was to gather information about the charter school functioning in Cary.
This is the first time a charter school has been proposed, Jenner said. "We are all new to this," he said.
Jenner said the next time the board should put out an "RFP" (Request for Proposal) for other charter schools in the future.
Vision Group president, Terry Trobiani presented for the charter school, outlining plans and goals the group hopes to accomplish.
Alternative choices, smaller class sizes, offering specials and using a collaborative parental involvement model were among the main points Trobiani spoke about Tuesday night.
With the goal of beginning the charter school in Fall 2012, the majority enrollment would be kindergarten through second grade, Lou Bellson, Vision Group representative said.
The charter school group is looking at a potential of 300 students, with students coming from district schools, Trinity Oaks Christian Academy, St. Peter and Paul, outside districts and new kindergarten students.
Vision Group plans to operate the school under the name Concord Charter Academy at the vacant Maplewood School property.
“We’re not proposing to fix the financials of school district’s financial,” Trobiani said. “We are not here to fix financial problems, we are here to promote competition, it doesn’t cost them anymore to have us here.”
Scott Epstein, community engagement committee member asked T. Ferrier, director of finance and operations, if she has ran district projections with the Vision Group’s proposal numbers.
[Using the potential 300 students from the group's propsoal] Ferrier said, in fiscal year 2011 tuition cost for a student is about $8,000 and losing 300 kids from the district, would send $2.4 million to the charter school.
Along with losing students, the district would cut 10 teachers, at an average salary of $80,000, potentially close a building and cut an administrator, at their average salary of $96,000, she said.
The maximum cost savings to the district would be $956,000, Ferrier said. However, the rest of the students will face cuts of $1.5 million just to make the charter school, the director of finance and operations said.
Ferrier said even taking out all of the students from the district, “we would still have to pay for bonds.”
Jennifer Norton, Community Engagement Committee member has concerns about the charter school’s transportation plan.
“I think in a community like downtown Chicago, where you have public transportation, it’s a great thing but here in Cary, we’re very reliant on the buses,” she said. “For a school, where the parents are going to be driving the kids to school, I really think you’re going to skew the demographics of that school.”
Bellson said once approved by the district, the group hopes to work something out with the district’s transportation system, so it’s not a financial stress and the district would not have to close down a bus route. He also added that "carpooling" would be utilize and the academy plans to connect families together to help with transportation.
After a couple of hours of presenting and questioning between Vision Group and the Board of Education, members of the audience had an opportunity to express concerns and ask questions.
“I pay the school district to educate my children, you say you balanced the budget, but you balance it at the expense of my child,” Angela Alfe said Tuesday night.
Alfe moved to Cary with her family in 2006 because of the great schools. However, Alfe says she should have the choice on how to spend her own tax money for her children’s education.
“You took out art, you took out music, you took out P.E., so she does not get a well-rounded education, and I should, as a parent, have the choice to send my child elsewhere, without having to put myself in debt of 50,000 a year just to get my children the education that they deserve and the education that I moved here for.”
“And if you guys deny this, then I’m already thinking you guys have already denied it and this whole thing is just a circus.”
Former Mayor Kathleen Park, said Cary is a small elementary school district and does not have the tax base that district 47 or district 300 has, Cary’s a small property area.
“You may see businesses with a 60013 zip code and might think that money from that business is going to district 26 but it’s not,” she said. “District 26 has a lot of land off the tax-rolls because of the conservation district areas.”
“Therefore, when we think of someone coming in and they give you a long fuzzy talk and they’re licking their chops over 16 acres of potential condominium development but we’ll call it a charter school for one piece of property on it, they’re not thinking of the benefit of district 26, they are thinking of the benefit of themselves," former Mayor Park said.
Once the formal application was submitted by Vision Group, the district had to follow Illinois Charter School Law, prompting the public hearing on Tuesday night and within 30 days, the board will either grant or deny the proposal of the charter school.
The district's administration will put forth a recommendation about the charter school proposal and the board will vote on March 19.
Vision Group had the option of getting their charter school on the referendum but needed to gather at least five percent of the voters' signatures in district 26 but they chose not to do so, board president Chris Spoerl said.
Charter School Timeline Proposal
The first three actions have occured, now the board has to vote.
Action Time-frameBoard holds a public meeting to obtain information in its decision to grant or deny proposal Within 45 Days of receipt of proposal Board publishes notice of public meeting in community newspaper and school district Not more than (10) nor less than (5) days before the meeting Board posts copies of the notice at the location of proposed charter school, all district schools and district office Not more than (10) nor less than (5) days before the meeting Board votes at a public meeting to either grant or deny charter school proposal Within (30) days of the public meeting Board files a report with the State Board of Education granting or denying propsoal Within (7) days of meeting where Board took action on charter proposal If Board approves the proposal, ISBE reviews proposal to determine if it is consistent with charter law Within (30) days of receipt of Board report If Board denies the proposal, applicant can appeal to the State Charter School Commission Within (30) days of Board's denial vote
The commision can affirm or reverse the board's decision and a party may appeal a decision of commission in court under the Administrative Review Law.