Charter school review stays on track
The School Board voted 6-3 during a Jan. 23 against the Loudoun Math & IT Academy applicants’ request to postpone the board’s two-month review period by 90 days.
The academy, which will serve sixth through 12th grades, is modeled as an IT/STEM school with a capacity for 672 students.
Ali Gokce, president of the charter school’s founding board, wrote a letter on the applicants’ behalf to the School Board last week.
In it, he asked for a 90-day delay in the application, stating they wished to take time to improve after the board’s Select Committee voted to recommend disapproving the application.
“We will recruit more Loudoun County residents to LMITA board; additional time will be necessary for the orientation of the new board members,“Gokce said. “We will also review all other applicable areas suggested by the select committee and modify the budget, transportation and technology equipment in our application. We will also reach out to the business, government, and higher education organizations to obtain fundraising, consulting and partnership pledges.”
The Select Committee criticized the lack of detail in the application’s curriculum, the decision not to provide bus transportation and the applicant’s lack of involvement in the public school community.
School Board members Bill Fox (Leesburg), Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run) and Select Committee Chair Jeff Morse (Dulles), voted to allow the delay. The rest of the board voted against it.
Kuesters said that because the board had not begin its full review, he did not feel comfortable impeding the applicant’s ability to produce a better application.
“For those of us who haven’t been involved, we cannot prejudge the applicant until we’ve gone through the review process our self,” Kuesters said.
Morse called the applicants’ efforts encouraging and said he was willing to wait three months for the them to improve and that the extension cost the School Board nothing.
“I’m inclined to let them go three more months to allow them to gather more information,” Morse said. “I, like Mr. Kuesters, don’t believe we have it all yet.”
Vice Chair Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) and Brenda Sheridan (Sterling), who both sat on the Select Committee were critical of the applicants and voted against the 90-day delay.
Turgeon said that her opposition was nothing personal, but that she was hoping for more “go-getter” personalities from the group.
“My concern is that the deficiencies that I saw in the application were pointed out and shared at the state level, they were shared with the staff review and they were shared at the committee level,” Turgeon said.
Sheridan said all the ways the applicants were going to improve their application could have begun in December after the Select Committee took its vote.
“All that could’ve been going on already,” Sheridan said.
She said the application should have come complete.
“I think we need to send a strong message with any potential charter applicants that come before the Loudoun County School Board to be a strong application and be complete and show why we’re providing something better than Loudoun County already is for their students,” Sheridan said.
Fox said just because some board members other members of the public opposed the application didn’t mean that the applicants shouldn’t be granted an extension.
“I would actually like to see an improved application,” Fox said. “That doesn’t mean the improved application is going to pass muster. I’m not willing to say I am never going to consider any application by these applicants because I have something against the applicants.”
The School Board’s first work session for the application approval process is Jan. 31.