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.
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