Duquesne charter application faces uphill climb
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A Duquesne charter school will not open this fall as had been the hope of school director Connie Lucas, who filed a charter application in May with the state board of control overseeing the district.
And it's unclear if the school could be up and running by fall 2013, given that the district's administration listed 107 problems with the charter application at a public hearing Thursday.
Ms. Lucas filed the application in late May in hopes of starting the school in fall of this year. But state legislation requires a charter application to be filed by November of the year prior to the proposed opening.
Now Ms. Lucas said she will work toward a fall 2013 opening, but she has no location, no funding and no full curriculum.
Duquesne superintendent Paul Rach pointed out that the charter school does not have a valid location as the charter application uses the Kennedy Avenue address of the current Duquesne Elementary School, where grades K-6 will be operated next year.
Duquesne students in grades 7-12 will attend either East Allegheny or West Mifflin Area schools.
In addition, the application lists no curriculum for grades 7-12, even though it outlines plans to found a K-12 school, and it has no proof that the K-6 curriculum is in line with the state's common core standards. Mr. Rach also questioned the content of an agricultural curriculum the charter board has proposed.
Mr. Rach said that although Ms. Lucas has stated that she intends to found a brick-and-mortar charter school, her application includes 27 references related to cyber schools, making it confusing to determine what kind of program will be operated. In fact, he said, it appeared the entire reading curriculum is online.
The application refers to regulations that are out of date and in one place refers to a student/teacher ratio of 15-1, yet in another section states there will be 12 teachers for 400 students, which makes the ratio closer to 33-1, Mr. Rach said.
Even though the application states that parents of Duquesne students have signed petitions in support of the school, no petitions were attached to the application.
Furthermore, no parent or community resident spoke in favor of the school at the hearing.
In addition to Ms. Lucas, the founding members of the school who spoke at the hearing were elected school director Calvina Harris and Duquesne resident Larry Hassan.
None of them addressed specifics of how the school would be financed, where it would be located, how it would be staffed or what the curriculum would entail.
Mr. Hassan said his comments "come from the heart" rather than getting into formal specifics.
He, like Ms. Lucas and Ms. Harris, said that Duquesne students need a better education than that currently being offered and that the Duquesne Charter School would offer that.
About 25 people attended the hearing. No one other than the charter school founders spoke in favor of the school.
Elected school director Burton Comensky spoke against the school and the involvement of elected school directors in its formation.
"I'm not for Duquesne forming our own charter school. I think the cost is extremely prohibitive. We as a school board should not be getting into a [fight] with the board of control or state Department of Education," Mr. Comensky said.
Siri Law, a McKeesport resident who is a Head Start teacher in Duquesne, said the school directors who submitted the application should be commended for their effort.
"It means a lot that people want to care and make some changes," Ms. Law said.
Under state law, the board of control must deliberate the application for 45 days and vote on it no later than 75 days from its submission.
Board of control chairman Francis Barnes said the board would vote by Sept. 18.
First Published July 6, 2012 12:00 am