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D-26 Express Concerns on Potential Charter School

Parents, community members and board members poses questions to Vision Group.

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-frame

Board 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.

ellis bell February 22, 2012 at 01:12 PM
No kidding its not a scientific poll. I've just voted 5 times. Just re-open the page and you can vote all day long. If you have no life. lol
Katie February 22, 2012 at 01:25 PM
If you didn't attend the meeting last night, you missed a lot of hostility and anger from both sides... acting like this, neither side is going to look good, and we are going to get no where in D26.
Mary Jo McArdle Marshall February 22, 2012 at 02:03 PM
The Vision Group basically said they are going to open a school here whether the BoE approves them or not. They are assuming that the community wants them to do so. After last night if any parent was thinking about enrolling they are changing their mind real quick. This was stated by more than one parent last night. This meeting was so awful. They took turns throwing punches at each other. If the group wants to do this they should put it on a ballot and see if the community wants it or not.
Scott E. February 22, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Coming into the meeting last night I didn't believe there was any way this could work financially, but I was going to be open-minded. However, the Vision Group did not represent themselves very well last night. They came off as arrogant and confrontational. There was no plan, just that they believed they could do it better and more efficient.
MrTatuś February 22, 2012 at 02:33 PM
From the boards actions and choices as to what's best for D26, I would like to really move out of this town :( Taken out needed programs for our kids future "yup they don't care". I was there and it was the board that casted the first stone. Just signed up my kid for K and wow 30 kids 1 teacher and maybe a TA in 1 room!
Dean D February 22, 2012 at 02:46 PM
The "Vision" Group sure wet themselves with the opportunity they had to present to the community of Cary a well prepared, meaningful proposal. If I had children of age, this would be the last place I would be sending them based on the representation and antics displayed. I believe the BOE had a right and obligation to challenge all that was being said and felt the did so in a professional manner, especially after Mr. Trobiani started the night pointing fingers and making accusations. After last night's display and the overwhelming negative reaction received, these business people should "see" now is not the time for their endeavor to be successful in this community. As Mr. Trobiani pointed out, what will make them successful is they have a business background and when things are not going well, the business "bleeds" and they can stop it. The bleeding already started last night! The problem in this case is that representation from this group has no skin in the game, they are going to bleed using taxpayer dollars! Then again, if they still did not get the message loud and clear, they could always consult the astrological charts and tarot cards.
Mary Jo McArdle Marshall February 22, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Thanks for my morning laugh Dean. That was the funniest part of the evening.
KJK February 22, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Tatus- if you think that the BOE likes the choices that have been made and the impact they have had, I think you are sorely mistaken. Delivering education costs money. We all know the challenges that we now have. If you don't like what the board has done, what would you do differently?
MrTatuś February 22, 2012 at 04:57 PM
"Tatus- if you think that the BOE likes the choices that have been made and the impact they have had, I think you are sorely mistaken. Delivering education costs money. We all know the challenges that we now have. If you don't like what the board has done, what would you do differently?". For one I would not definitely NOT take away from the school/Kids! Challenges that we NOW have from poor thinking skills made by the BoE. There should be no reason as to why Vision Grp not be expected. The BoE came up in such a draconian style as a parent I feel there is no hope. Besides it seemed the avg bleacher bum last night has a child that will not take part in the Vision Groups proposal. I bet your all in for maple wood to be taken down along with the baseball fields and playgrounds. Yup no arts, no P.E, no music (key development skills) "sorely mistaken" was there even any more talk of other options?
KJK February 22, 2012 at 05:44 PM
I get that your child is suffering in the current climate. Mine too. But it doesn't sound like you have a very complete understanding of the situation. The only thing I can suggest is that you take some time to learn about what has happened and why. Our situation is not rooted in the 7 board members that were sitting at the table last night. They are the clean up crew after a 10 year problem. This charter school is not the answer. And by the way, your kids and mine are getting PE, art, and music. In a perfect way, no, but it is a myth that these subjects are not in the curriculum. I can tell you that my child's teacher does a fantastic job of delivering these subjects.
Brucer February 22, 2012 at 07:15 PM
I went into tonight with an open mind & to be honest very interested in an opportunity of getting my kids into a program with smaller class & specials. That said, I came out with two opinions. 1st a Charter could be bad for D26 & Cary as it would force millions of dollars of cuts onto the kids not in the Charter, including the Charter kid once they transition to the Jr High, and this would only further depress educational services & home values. 2nd, if D26 were to have a charter, CCA is not group to do it.
KJK February 22, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Brucer- I think you are spot on in all regards. I see elements of the charter school system that are beneficial, and I'd like to see the district explore things that are found to work as elements of the future of D26. The other things that struck me last night were 1) they would be setting up a duplicative admin function (directors of curriculum and special education)...for one school! 2) they could hire retired teachers...so the district could be paying a pension and salary at the same time 3) I think this group is looking for a way to be employed 4) I am not convinced that they were forthcoming about future ideas for the property they would own.
JAS February 22, 2012 at 11:46 PM
I attended the meeting last night and I have children who attend District 26 presently and more will in the future. The proposal was very very ill prepared and lacked any educational plan. When questioned the Concord Academy could not answer any of the educational or financial plan wholes in their Swiss cheese of a presentation. If this is any indication of how they would run a school ,I would vote No! I feel feel very strongly that Cary dose not need a charter school in its community. Especially Concord Academy.
Denise L. February 23, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Please do not be mistaken. The reason Concord Academy gave such a poor presentation was because they are not interested in bringing a school to our town. It became more apparent as the night went on that it is a very thinly veiled attempt to take advantage of a small, vulnerable school district. Even when it was presented to them that opening a charter school will end up doing more harm for the majority of children in the district, their answer was it was not their problem. They were going to do it anyway, even if they have to petition the state. I believe that this was their intention all along. Why else would they have been so unprepared, so rude and so belligerent? Now we have to steel ourselves for a long, ugly battle with this group. Like we don't have enough things to worry about.
MrTatuś February 23, 2012 at 03:28 AM
LoL they are a business. What else do you expect? That just might be the best for our kids needs. How did they lack any educational plan?? They might have been rude to the fact when told charter schools do damage to the town (hence for the rejection) but than said later they will except other charter schools offer. The heck was that?
Tim February 23, 2012 at 02:04 PM
How exactly has it cost 50k for Alfie to properly educate her children? She is blaming the school board for her spending upwards of 50k and getting herself in debt. Thank goodness she is not on any board or we'd all be broke. I know parents who took it upon themselves to pick up the slack and are doing a great job in educating their children in art and music. Doesn't the park district offer music programs? Yeah it may not be ideal but how are you spending 50k on PE? Maybe go outside with your child and throw and kick a ball or jump rope...it's all free. Even if we still had art, music and PE a parent should still be active in those areas with their children and not rely on the school to do it. That was just a ridiculkous statement Mrs. Alfie
MrTatuś February 23, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Well I'm not Mrs Alfie but her current life status is non of you business. The fact that we as tax payers paying for that elective education that the BoE took out is robbery. The park district is 1/2 to near double and with less of a time frame for the classes than its neighboring townships offer! You should be playing with you kids outside of school in sports, arts, music, math, reading ect.. Regardless even if this was a perfect world! Tim do you have kids? I think she was referring to take her kids to Trinity which is $8000 and since she has 5 kids.... If you take 8x5 Tim which is 40. In this issue it's 40k don't forget to add tax now....
KJK February 23, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Tatus- you still don't seem to understand the equation. The school district is funded by taxes. The board negotiates a contract with teachers. Prior boards spent more than they could afford. They did not either cut costs or increase revenue. Then the economy went south making a sizable tax increase that the community would have to approve by referendum near impossible. Teachers would not renegotiate their contract with our current board so the district laid off teachers to get expenses in line with revenue. Since there are core teaching requirements that are required, special subject teachers were the ones that were cut. If you have a different understanding of history, I am all ears. If the end game for you is special subjects back...right now, then ask the board to bring a tax increase referendum to the community. I am not sure how much support you are going to see for that given the state of the economy. Having said that, the board's position in the recently settled new teachers contract has put the school system in significantly better shape. It will take time, but we are on the path to seeing specials restored in Cary schools.
Denise L. February 23, 2012 at 04:11 PM
You must have missed the end of the meeting (11:00pm!) I asked the Board if they are specifically looking to put a charter school in Maplewood. Their answer was a resounding no. The reason other charter schools was brought up was Concord twisting it out of context. The BoE is looking for a national real estate broker to bring in prospective buyers. Out of a portfolio of 1500, 80 are charter schools. If those charter schools choose to put in a bid for Maplewood, they would be put under the same scrutiny as Concord. Charter schools work for urban, low performing districts. Cary, with the cuts still has the second highest test scores in McHenry county. There is no need for a charter school, especially when it will end up hurting the majority of the children in the district.
ellis bell February 23, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Art, music, and gym are still being taught in our elem. schools as required by the state. The state doesn't not require these to be taught by specially certified teachers at that level so currently in D26 they are not. They are currently being taught (and in some cases quite well) by certified classroom teachers. In addition several programs are in different schools by PTOs and volunteers as part of the school day such as Get Smart With Art. If you wish to add to this as a parent, that is your choice. Most parents in Cary added sports, music and arts to their children's education outside of the school day anyway.
MrTatuś February 23, 2012 at 08:16 PM
How about another financial expert from the Illinois Education Association to help again.. The end game... I talked to a few of the teachers that had gotten laid off and nothing was said about a "renegotiate of contract" KJK. The board was compelled to lay them off. Do you know what gets paid to what as a tax payer?
KJK February 23, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Tatus- I don't understand your comment about the IEA. Not sure how the state teachers union is going to help. In 2009 the school board asked the CEA to open the contract that existed at that time in an attempt to avoid get costs in line with revenue. I think they asked several times, but the union did not and thus the district used the only other means at their disposal to reduce costs- lay offs. I am not here to rehash the past, because in the latest contract, the teachers stepped up to the plate and really contributed. I will, however, try to educate and make sure the facts are properly understood. Where we are today is not just about the board. It is about past boards, the teachers union, and the community that stood by and let finances get as bad as they did.
KJK February 23, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Delete the word "avoid" from the first sentence of the second paragraph.
CLM February 24, 2012 at 01:29 AM
I'm glad to hear so many who attended the other night are being critical of Mr. Trobiani and scrutinizing his Concord Charter School proposal. It doesn't sound like the community nor the board are being snowed by his magic "cure-all". He was very vague as to the "teaching methods" they would use (perhaps that's because he's not an educator and knows NOTHING about current teaching methods), and I'm relatively sure the only ones who would benefit from this proposal are Mr. Trobiani and his business associates. However, if our board wisely rejects this proposal but they get approved by the state, our only way to show them we're not on board is by NOT ENROLLING our children, and then we can "watch them bleed" like a business, (as he put it)!
Denise L. February 24, 2012 at 02:38 AM
True, but in the meantime, District 26 will be compelled to finance them and will lose money that would otherwise, go to the current schools.
CLM February 24, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Yep, Denise, you're right.

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