Washington State Charter Commission Gives First Place until June 15th

Update: the process is the Charter Commission really bending over backwards to help First Place Scholars stay afloat.  This is NOT the process for revocation of their charter.  If these items are not completed to the satisfaction of the Commission, then the revocation process would probably start.  (Both the Commissioners and the Director of the Commission have given FPS repeated chances to get their ducks in a row and apparently, the Commission has not seen enough progress on those stated issues.)

end of update

I'm listening into a special phone meeting of the Washington State Charter Commission.  The top agenda item is  First Place Scholars charter school.

The Commission is giving First Place until June 15, 2015 to finish corrections that the Commission needed to see to keep First Place as a charter school.  It is quite a lengthy list of items.  (This comes from a 5-2 vote of the Charter Commission whether to give FPS these corrections conditions (5) or not (2).  It's not clear to me whether the two Commissioners who voted against the corrective conditions want to revoke FPS' charter.)

This is a draft that the Commission is wordsmithing today.

Since November 4, 2014, the Commission has been working with First Place in an effort to ensure that it is satisfying its obligations to its students and the citizens of Washington.  This has resulted in probation, corrective action, notices of concern, and  multiple meetings and requests for documentation.  It has also resulted in the Commission identifying resources to help support First Place and providing First Place with assistance of a professional with expertise in the field of special education

Commissioners and staff have carefully reviewed your responses to the Commission’s inquiries regarding special education, English language learners and the academic program. Although key staff have been hired, special education policies and procedures have been put in place, and evidence of an English language learners program is beginning to emerge, we are still missing critical information in several key areas outlined below that the Commission requires in order for Commissioners to vote in favor of you maintaining your charter. Several deficiencies deliberated at length at our meeting included: 
  • Lack of fidelity to key components of the Education Program under the charter contract including student level data regarding academic learning over the course of this school year;
  • Lack of special education services as required by law including a lack of fidelity, and capacity, to implement the school’s general and compensatory services special education plans; 
  •  Lack of evidence that First Place has satisfied legal requirements for serving English language learners (ELL), including a lack of an ELL programmatic plan and evidence that required assessments and services have been provided to students; and
  • The financial viability of the school.  
First Place replies - or at least their head, Dawn Mason, via her blog - saying the Governor should stop any efforts to revoke their charter. 

Let the Commission know that any charter school needs at least two years to demonstrate the school can be governed and operated with positive outcomes.

They also note:
  • The Superintendent of Public Instruction has approved the Special Education Plan and First Place Scholars has had a Special Education teacher on staff since January.
  • The U.S. Department of Education came for a  two day site visit with three evaluators and found that First Place Scholars and released $200,000 in start up funds for charter schools educating special needs students.
Also in Washington State charter news, the minutes from the last Washington State Charter Commission meeting are quite revealing.

Chair Sundquist noted that he had received a call on May 8 from the Fauntleroy Church office manager – Chair Sundquist is a member of the church’s congregation. The office manager stated that she had received a call from a Summit Public Schools (Summit) supporter noting that Chair Sundquist was a member of the church’s congregation and that he was a “huge supporter” of Summit. The caller requested that the church support a signature campaign in support of the proposed Summit school nearby. Chair Sundquist instructed the office manager via email to take a negative stance on the signature campaign and communicate that to the caller, as well as clarifying that Chair Sundquist’s affirmative vote on both Commission-Authorized Summit schools’ application during the 2013 Request For Proposals (RFP) was not an indication that Chair Sundquist was a “huge supporter” of Summit. Chair Sundquist then attempted to contact Jen Davis Wickens, Chief Regional Officer for Summit, with his concerns.  They connected that weekend, with Ms. Davis Wickens noting that the contact was likely initiated by a volunteer  Summit supporter. To date, no signature gatherers have approached the church.  

Chair Sundquist noted that he did not feel the above presented a conflict regarding his vote on Summit’s 2015 RFP application. Ms. Miller noted that the Commission had established protocols for communications with applicants and their supporters during the Commission’s annual RFP. These protocols will be re-released to Commissioners. 

This does not surprise me.  Summit and Green Dot are pretty aggressive charter organizations.  At the open forums that were held last year on their charter applications, both had flown in parents from California to sing their praises.  The parents' expenses were paid and no one would tell me if the parents were paid to attend.  

I don't mean to say that whoever called the church had been paid/told to do this but it seems in keeping with how zealously these charters court parents.


Anonymous said…
Looks like the minutes have been un-posted.
West parent
TheGoodFight said…
I think this action puts to rest the misinformation that charter schools do not have to provide special educational services. I'm not talking about the effectiveness of the service just the fact that there's no exemption from the IDEA for any publicly funded schools in WA. I attend a meeting last year and while discussing the possibility of creating a charter version of Hamlin-Robinson a group of anti-charter citizens were misinforming parents claiming charter schools do not have to follow the IDEA.

I would strongly support a well funded charter version of Hamlin-Robinson, because there is a great need for one.
Last Chance said…
First Place is asking for community support. They want First Place taken-off of probabion. Isn't that asking a bit too much?

Eric B said…
Heh. They need two years to demonstrate that they can follow the charter contract that they created, not to mention Federal law? Nice try, but no cigar.
mirmac1 said…
Two years lost for those students.
mirmac1 said…
So WHO will pay for the compensatory education owed the students with disabilities? What will it take to compensate them for a year lost? The taxpayer? I thought we paid for it through state funding?!

Hey, I have nothing but the utmost admiration for FP Scholars in the past. But I won't cut them slack. SPS has gotten slack for at least a decade and they will milk it until it's dry.

Sorry. If you're not cut out to serve the neediest kids (yeah, you Summit) then get the H*** out of the kitchen.
Apparently Dawn Mason believes a charter school can fail for _at least_ two years before the charter commission should take notice. I would not trust Dawn with my child's education to be honest.
"Chair Sundquist noted that he did not feel the above presented a conflict regarding his vote on Summit’s 2015 RFP application". Good to see Steve fully investigated himself and found nothing to be concerned about.
TechyMom said…
Closing them before the end of the school year would probably do more harm than good for the kids in the school. Whether they should be allowed to re-open in the fall is an entirely different question.
Anonymous said…
The Good Fight - this is ONE charter in WA that is providing sped services...or is supposed to be. It is under close scrutiny, but what happens when we have more charters? One of the issues with charters is that the rules vary from state to state, and governance and enforcement is lax in most. Sure, in many states charters are required to provide sped services, but they do such a nice job cherry-picking students or counseling sped kids out, they frequently don't have to provide sped services. If your kid has any needs beyond a mild speech impediment, the majority of charters in this country will find a way to get your kid out of their school. Sometimes it's nice..."we don't think our school is the best fit for your child". Sometimes it's not..."your child has been suspended for the 3rd time for refusing to do work, so we are expelling your child". And sometimes they just make the application process so laborious and difficult that the majority of parents dealing with kids with special needs aren't going to bother. Google the Pennsylvania charter that handed out their application 1 time a year, at a country club. Guess what the population of their charter school is like? There was one in Utah that handed out its application at the wardhouse, and another that conveniently placed itself on the rich side of town, just slightly out of town so that walking was not possible. There are many ways to keep the kids you don't want out of a charter, and just as many ways to get rid of them once they're in. Look at Ohio, NYC, AZ - lots of stories abound. It is not misinformation: it is fact derived from 20 years of charter school fraud in other states.

TheGoodFight said…
I'm not discounting the problems with charters, just clarifying, that at least in WA charters are mandated to follow the IDEA. Unfortunately if the largest and most prosperous district won't follow the IDEA then why would other smaller less funded entities.
Call it a charter or creative approach school, regardless of the classification, I will support the creation of a public version of a Hamlin-Robinson. I have exhausted myself trying to persuade SPS to properly serve SLD students. I'm now going to take the path of least resistance and try my best to fulfill my promise to all the SLD students I've met, which is to invoke real change. I will seek out public/private funds if that what it takes to create a place where services can be provided without parents selling their homes and needing lawyers.
Good Fight, are you being naive or do you truly not know? There is NO charter law in any state that does not mandate following the IDEA. That would be illegal. That so many other states have huge issues with charters (including sped) means yes, it could happen here.

I think there are a handful of charter schools in the U.S.like the one you are describing. It would be great if one were here in Washington State but I'm not counting on it.
TheGoodFight said…
If you read a little of what I've posted you would understand that I know all publicly funded schools are technically required to follow the IDEA, but many do not.
Like I wrote, if SPS can get away without following the IDEA what's to stop others? And BTW, how is the FP IDEA violations any more egregious than SPS? What about Stevens? Why doesn't OSPI shut down Stevens?

As I wrote, a few years ago WEA and SEA members where telling SPED families that charters would not have to provide services to students with IEPs. It was part of the anti-charter movement organized by WEA and SEA.

I would like to see those two groups try and argue against a charter school like HR in SPS. I'll wait.
Well, and no one argued against FPS and yet they are having issues. Being able to do it in private school is no guarantee for a public school.
seattle citizen said…
TheGoodFight, please cite evidence of WEA/SEA members telling families charters wouldn't have to provide for IEP students. Maybe a couple of teachers fid, but you link it to the unions, as if it was a union position. Please back that up, or retract. You're allowed to be pro-charter, anti-union, but you're not allowed to claim the union was saying something it wasn't. Was it just a couple of teachers? Or the union?

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