Select Committee gives two votes down to proposed charter school
If it were up to the Select Committee, the Loudoun Math & IT Academy’s (LMITA) application might have come to end Nov. 13.
None of three School Board committee members – Chair Jeff Morse (Dulles), Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) and Brenda Sheridan (Sterling), voted to recommend the charter.
Turgeon and Sheridan said they were unable to recommend the charter’s approval and Morse said he would “delay for cause,” meaning he believed the applicants could take the time to improve their application.
“Disapproval means that there’s no chance for them to do this,” Morse said after the meeting. “And I think that there’s a chance.”
He said the group needs to reform the school’s governing board to include residents who have lived in Loudoun for a longer period of time and had more experience working with the school system.
Committee members, including Morse, were very critical of the application, including the proposed curriculum and the choice of Chesapeake Science Point Academy (CSP) as a model.
CSP, a STEM/IT school in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, serves as a starting point for the proposed Loudoun charter school and two of the applicants for LMITA, Baltimore IT Academy principal Fatih Kandil and Ali Bacik, helped run the school.
Kandil was principal from 2006 to 2011 and Bacik was one of the school’s founders.
Turgeon said using CSP as the only model was a failure because the School Board only had one example to consider for how the school might run.
“The concern I had was the validity of how well these governing practices work, just because there has been so much association with only one particular charter school,” Turgeon said.
She said it would be better if LMITA was modeled on multiple charter schools.
Morse was equally critical of CSP’s record, referencing the progress report by Anne Arundel County Public Schools that cited a number of problems with the school.
“The five-year report reads like a Greek tragedy,” Morse said.
School Board members also took issue with the curriculum. The original application presented only a vague outline of IT courses and the updated application said the applicants would spend $25,000 on a curriculum for the school.
“I’m looking for something better and more substantial, because that’s the whole premise of having a charter school,” Sheridan said. “Again, I’m still looking for the details.”
Turgeon said the applicants hadn’t made a strong enough effort to describe their curriculum or how it differed significantly from the school system’s.
“I always hoping for more of application processes, educational philosophy, the way in which the curriculum who be shared with the students,” Turgeon said.
She pointed out the school only would be purchasing 24 computers in the first year, which would leave it with a lower computer to student ratio than existing schools, which she said had a 1:5 ratio. Applicants hope to start the school with about 192 sixth and seventh graders, according to the application, giving LMITA a computer to student ratio of 1:8.
Kandil, who attended the meeting with the school potential executive director, Ali Gokce, said it represented an opportunity for a better discussion of charter schools with the School Board.
“I think there’s an open mindset in place for more understanding on how charter schools operate,” Kandil said. “We need to provide more details, more facts. Not only in our application, but at the same time but how charter schools are operated. That’s what I have as a goal in my mind.”
The application will now be considered by the School Board as a whole, which will take another two months to review it and make its decision. During that time, the applicants will be able to submit more information to the board, which will hold at least one more public hearing.