What is a charter school and what purpose would it serve?
In Oregon, a charter school is a comprehensive public school that operates semi-autonomously under a contract (charter) with a sponsoring district. According to the Oregon legislature, the purpose of charter schools is to take responsible risks to create new, innovative, more flexible ways of educating all children within the public school system.
The purpose for Vernonia’s charter school proposal is to continue development and implementation of our current innovative K-12 programs, to obtain input from the parents and the community on the innovative school programming they would like to see implemented, to obtain funding to develop and implement those programs (supplies, materials, staff planning time), and to obtain funding to impact the long term financial stability of the Vernonia School District.
What are the teacher licensing requirements in a charter school?
Per the federal No Child Left Behind act, 100% of teachers in core academic areas must be “highly qualified” at the time of hire, and a minimum of 50% of the FTE of the charter teachers and staff must be licensed by the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices commission.
What are the benefits? Why is Vernonia considering moving to a charter school model?
Vernonia is considering exploring the benefits and challenges of pursuing a charter model as a school-of-choice for students and families. Potential benefits of the charter model include:
• Greater room to innovate and grow our K-12 Science/Technology/Engineering/Art/Math (STEAM)-based curriculum
• Increased ability to collaborate with local business and industry partners
• Better preparation for students to forge careers or paths to colleg.
• More staffing flexibility to better capitalize on local expertise
Another important consideration is an Oregon statute that presently enables public schools converting to a charter system to access state funding at close to twice the per-student standard public school level. This one-time funding would be used to implement the innovative programs of a charter agreement, and can also be applied to significantly reduce the District’s capital debt with no additional tax burden to residents. Current calculations estimate this extra charter funding at approximately $5.3 Million.
What are the challenges involved with setting up a charter?
One challenge for the Vernonia application is to determine whether to move forward with a “School Charter” or “District Charter” application. For Vernonia this really comes down to whether Mist Grade School is relocated to the Vernonia Schools building, or whether it remains its own school in Mist.
• Under a school model, Mist stays open while the remaining students in the district attend the “charter school” housed in the Vernonia Schools building.
• Under a district model all students would need to be housed “under one roof,” and there would be need for Mist Grade School students and staff to relocate to the Vernonia Schools building.
Why are we moving so quickly through the charter school development process?
Currently the state provides “double funding” for a charter school’s first year of operation. The Oregon Legislature is looking at closing this funding opportunity, and the VSD is working to have our proposal approved before this funding opportunity is taken away. Our deadline is to have a proposal approved before July 1, 2015, when these potential new rules would take effect.
Who is on the Steering Committee that is putting together the charter applications?
The following citizens have participated in the steering committee process to draft charter applications:
Jay Anderson, Sharon Bernal, Dan Brown, Gienah Cheney, Katie Cole, Brett Costley, Susan Ely, Camrin Eyrrick, Jack Finzel, Tobie Finzel, Charlotte Gilbert, Roxanna Heath, Linda Hobart, Joanie Jones, Terra Kemper, Greg Kintz, Heather Lewis, Navina Marks, Aaron Miller, Susanne Myers, Maggie Peyton, Jason Riddell, Jean Riley, Steve Riley, Quentin Skanes, Ben Skanes, Winter Snow, Susan Wagner, Ashley Ward, Rachel Wilcoxen and Rebecca Wright.
How has the public been notified of these meetings?
Information regarding these meetings has been shared through parent letters, notification through Vernonia’s Voice, postings on the District website and the District Facebook page, as well as by word of mouth.
What happens next?
The District’s Charter School Steering Committee has been gathering input from staff and community members to develop an application for the School Board by March 19. Following acceptance of a proposal a Public Hearing must be held for further input from the community.
These Public Hearings are currently scheduled for:
• Monday, March 30 from 7-8pm in the Vernonia Schools Commons
• Tuesday, March 31 from 7-8pm in the Mist Grade School Gym
Following the Public Hearing the Board then evaluates community concerns, and the effectiveness of the application. If deemed acceptable, the Board can then approve the charter application, and submit supporting documents to the Oregon Department of Education by mid-late April. If met, these timelines will ensure the VSD has a proposal in to ODE that could be approved prior to July 1, 2015, when funding rules for Charter Schools may make this opportunity less appealing for our community.