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NH School Board Again Rejects Provident Charter School

The charter school planned to initially serve 96 students diagnosed with dyslexia in grades 3 and 4 in 2013.

For a second time, the North Hills School Board has unanimously rejected a request from to open a charter school for students with dyslexia on Cemetery Lane. 

The vote, Monday night, was 8-0. Board member Ed Wielgus was absent.  

 from Provident Charter School on Feb. 6, 2012. Subsequently, a revised charter school application was submitted to the district on April 27. 

According to a statement issued by the district, the denial of the revised application was based on the following factors:

  • That the Applicant, in its resubmission, failed to provide any additional or relevant information relating to the original Conclusions of Law adopted by the North Hills School District Board of Education on February 6, 2012.
  • That the resubmission of information related to the majority of persons evidencing support for the charter school residing within the school district where the charter school is to be located was not met. On the contrary, the vast majority of information provided indicated that the support, to the extent it exists, is from outside the North Hills School District. Further, the purported Petitions and signatures of support of residents of the North Hills School District are found, as a matter of fact, as well as a matter of law, to be misleading, and therefore inconclusive and insufficient to establish support in the community constituting the North Hills School District.

Curtis Kossman, President of the Provident Charter School Board of Directors, said the vote was not a surprise. 

“This is a disappointment, but not really a surprise since the majority of charter schools are turned down at the school district level and need to appeal to the state,” he said in a written statement. 

“Pennsylvania public education, and obviously the North Hills School District are behind the times when it comes to educating children with dyslexia. These children think differently and they need to be taught differently.” 

North Hills Superintendent Dr. Patrick Mannarino disagreed with the contention that the district was underserving dyslexic students. “We can educate these kids and we do a good job of educating the dyslexic students,” he said. 

“We might not use the specific program that they (Provident) is using, but our dyslexic students are getting a quality education here, they’re doing a great job.” 

Among the reasons the district based its original denial was, according to a statement issued by the district, “That Provident Charter School does not meet provisions of federal and state education law. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) requires students to be taught in the least restrictive environment.” 

“In a public school, in a public setting, it’s the least restrictive environment. In the least restrictive environment, keeping them with the peers every single day and we walk down the halls none of us are going to know who they are, which is what that law was designed to do,” said Mannarino. “It’s a special education issue in my opinion.” 

Charter and cyber charter schools are public schools.  The student’s home school district is required to pay tuition, which is determined by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, to the charter school. For the 2011-12 school year, North Hills School District pays $10,435.34 for every regular education student who attends a charter school.  For special education students, the cost is $19,215.27 per student.  

The charter school planned to initially serve 96 students diagnosed with dyslexia in grades 3 and 4 in 2013. Enrollment would continue to increase each additional academic year, with 336 students spanning grades 2 through 8 by Year 6 or 2018-2019.  

Regional charter schools are open to students from throughout the area, regardless of residency.  And, if any point of the home school district is within 10 miles of the charter school property, the home district is required to provide bus transportation.  According to information provided by Provident Charter School, 23 of the county’s 43 school districts are within a 10-mile radius of its desired Cemetery Lane location.  

Kossman said the district’s rejection would impact students well beyond the borders of North Hills. 

“It is unfortunate that this local school district cannot grasp what a groundbreaking opportunity it is for this region to have the first PA charter school dedicated for children with dyslexia within their school district, and the benefit it will serve the Greater Pittsburgh area,” he said. 

According to the state Department of Education, a charter school can appeal the denial if it gathers signatures from at least 2 percent of the total number of the local school district's residents or 1,000 residents, whichever is less.

The petition must then be presented to the Court of Common Pleas, which forwards it to the Charter School Appeal Board.

After the first rejection in Feburary, Kossman said an appeal was likely.

Do you agree with the school board's decision? Voice your opinion in comments below. 

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Stephanie Davis June 19, 2012 at 11:40 AM
Is anyone surprised???
Beth June 19, 2012 at 12:00 PM
I am not surprised but there are children that need be taught in a different way with dyslexia. It should be the parents choice what school their child could make the most gains. If the district was doing everything they could then the parents would not be looking to switch schools in the first place.
Stephanie Davis June 19, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Beth- I completely agree. It would be similar to a family practice dr. saying he/she could treat every illness. That's why professionals become specialized, including teachers. I highly doubt parents with dyslexic students are totally satisfied with the educational process at n.h. Choices and competition are what drives success in any field.
Mark A. June 19, 2012 at 07:27 PM
I'm glad they shot it down simply because Cemetery Lane is a horrible choice for a location. The morning backups are already insane without throwing in a bunch of extra school buses.
David Rosen June 19, 2012 at 09:46 PM
As an educator, who works with dyslexic children, I disagree with the boards assertion that no special needs are required for dyslexic students. Dyslexic students DO learn differently and most classroom teachers neither have the education to work with them (a few techniques does not help), nor the time or patience. So that circumstance , without taking into account the special needs here, is to me is " the restrictive environment.” What I feel is ,that the Board is trying to not label the dyslexic student, which while understandable, does not match up with what a dyslexic student feels when it is swept under the rug this way. I have worked with many dyslexic young people and adults, who when they discover what dyslexia is, and the fact that it is being also a plus of great creativity ( Charles Schwab, Pablo Picasso, Richard Branson, Tom Cruise etc.), become more relaxed andmuch more productive and motivated. The issues of the petition having the majority of signatures from outside the district, is another matter and more a point of procedures and rules. If the location is bad than that too can be handled, but again does not cancel the issue about dyslexia requiring a different approach.
HB June 20, 2012 at 02:18 AM
As a mother of a regular student, and a taxpayer, I am glad the North Hills School Board voted AGAINST this charter school proposal. We are a good school district and I feel confident that we meet the needs of dyslexic kids. If the state enacted financial guidelines to dictate that only the amount a family pays in wage and/or real estate taxes are to be given to charter schools, I might not have an issue with them. But, the 'assignment' of apx. $10,000/per regular student and $19,000/per special needs student to charter schools of the parent(s)' choice means that much more that is taken away from my child. When does she matter? Why should a parent(s) choice for their child take a financial priority over the cost of educating my child? And, the charter schools DO NOT have to meet the same standards that the public school district of North Hills must attend to. Does anyone know that the majority of costs associated with 'busing' required of school districts to parochial, private and charter schools remains under- and un-reimbursed by the Commonwealth of PA? Where is the North Hills School District going to get the monies to continue the state mandated parent(s) school choice welfare program? We're sick of paying for other people's kids' needs. Where does my daughter matter in the scheme of things?
CK June 21, 2012 at 11:59 PM
I do not believe the school board asserted "that no special needs are required for dyslexic students." The PA Department of Education recently conducted a detailed and thorough audit of the District's special education program, including the individualized education plans for dyslexic students, and found no violations. The District was actually commended for having an exemplary program. Therefore, I find it difficult to believe that a dyslexic student's needs are not being met.
HB June 22, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Beth-maybe you weren't at the first public meeting of the dyslexic charter school-but NO ONE from the North Hills School District indicated as a parent they need to switch schools for their dyslexic child-99.9% of the people in attendance were from OUTSIDE the NHSD area-some as far as Washington County! It's suspected the Cemetery Lane location was chosen so as to garner as many busing opportunities (which is mandated but NOT reimbursed to school districts in full) as there are school districts within a 10 (?) mile radius. I don't doubt dyslexic students require different teaching methods-but it doesn't rise to the special needs level the businessman Kossman is pitching.

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