McKeesport Area School Board denies charter school application
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Although the board of the McKeesport Area School District voted at a special meeting Tuesday to deny the application of the Young Scholars of McKeesport Charter School, the matter is far from closed.
Young Scholars' official Melih Demirkan said after the meeting that the nonprofit will appeal the decision to the state's Charter Appeals Board.
The vote to deny the application was 6 to 0, with directors Steven Kondrosky, Joe LoPretto and Mark Holtzman absent.
In his presentation prior to recommending denial, superintendent Timothy Gabauer detailed problems he said he encountered in reviewing the application, such as: budgeting miscalculations; lack of reference to the state's Standards Aligned System to increase student achievement; materials copied verbatim from published sources; no community members expressing support at a Dec. 28 public hearing; enticement for support signatures, such as tickets for a raffle; and no founding members living in the area.
He also said the reading scores, Pennsylvania System of School Assessment math scores and the Adequate Yearly Progress percentages at the proposed school's sister --Young Scholars of Western Pennsylvania Charter School in Baldwin Township -- are lower than in comparable district schools.
Mr. Demirkan disputed the remarks after the meeting. He said the Standards Aligned System and board member residency are not charter school requirements; the use of volunteers lowers operating costs, hence the budget figures; the 400 support signatures are legitimate.
He also said there has not been adequate time to improve scores in relation to students' previous performances at the Young Scholars of Western Pennsylvania school because it opened in fall 2011.
"It is kind of sad for us in that the district is bringing up reasons that have no legal basis," he said.
In 2012-13, the district spent $4.3 million for about 400 students to attend some 20 charter schools, only one of which is housed in McKeesport.
Once a charter is drafted, the school becomes a separate school district. Districts pay tuition for each student within the district who chooses to attend.
If approved, the new charter school would be located in the vacant school building of St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church on Sixth Street in McKeesport.
Mr. Demirkan said the school hopes to open in fall 2013, with 140 students in grades K-4 -- with grades up to 8 added over the next few years.
Young Scholars administrators said the charter aims to foster awareness of cultural differences and uses foreign language teaching to overcome barriers.
To that end, students must take two language classes, besides fulfilling state requirements for mathematics, science, social studies and other subjects.
After the meeting, board members Mary Jane Keller, Thomas Maglicco and Terri Kisan pointed to the deficiencies highlighted in the superintendent's presentation for their votes.
"The superintendent made a clear point of the curriculum and AYP being lacking. As a former teacher, I'm all about academics," board President Patricia Maksin said.
First Published March 14, 2013 12:00 am