School Board Rejects Guild Charter School Application; Organizers Intend To Appeal
The Natrona County School District's board of trustees unanimously rejected the application of the Guild Charter School at its meeting Tuesday.
"I do not see this as an educationally and financially responsible request," Paula Reid said.
Other trustees said the approximately 900-page application either did not meet the requirements of state law, such as expanding learning opportunities and teaching methods.
That's because the district has been doing those things for years, they said.
After the vote, charter school organizer Tiffany Leary said she was disappointed, but not done.
"They had valid points," Leary said. "So, hopefully we can appeal to the state and go from there, maybe fix what they decided was not complete."
School district attorney Kathleen Dixon said the district has 45 days to document its response to the application. The applicants then have 45 days to respond and appeal to the State Board of Education, she said.
The Guild intended to offer a Kindergarten through 8th grade program, with the long-term goal of adding 9th through 12th grades. It wanted to open a year from now, and needed to find a building. The Guild apparently shut down its website to the public after the meeting.
Supporters and organizers said at a previous board of trustees meeting it already has about 150 students willing to enroll. The school would test students before they entered so parents and teachers can determine their needs for an individualized learning plan.
Brandis Sunday, a parent of four children, on Tuesday pleaded with the board to give her children the opportunity to learn in a different environment and program than what the district now offers.
Many trustees appreciated the passion of parents such as Sunday, and complimented the efforts of the charter school's organizers in preparing the application.
But that was far from good enough, especially in light of the district's history.
For decades, it has offered "schools of choice" that gives schools the leeway to develop their own programs and parents the opportunity to choose where to send their children, such as the language immersion programs at Park and Paradise Valley elementary schools, trustee Dana Howie and others said.
Those programs received broad and deep support from educators and parents, Howie and other trustees said.
But Guild Charter School did not. Only 54 people attended eight Guild meetings this year, they said.
Elizabeth Horsch and other trustees chided the organizers for their unwillingness to work with the district to incorporate their ideas into existing programs.
Charter school organizers also refused to name teachers who were interested in the program, Howie said.
Several of the trustees have been teachers, and they said they were alarmed at the inadequate training and staff development required to meet the needs of the students.
Trustee Rita Walsh said governance and school discipline plans were not well defined.
And operating a school is expensive, and the organizers grossly underestimated the costs, Reid and other said.
Trustee Clark Jensen said he was troubled by the lack of experienced people who would be running the school, especially with none of the organizers having any experience in school administration.
The applicants also did not adequately develop a responsible financial plan, Jensen said. If the school were a private venture, he wouldn't invest in it, he said. "How can I, in good conscience, invest taxpayer dollars into a venture that I would not be willing to support if it were a private venture?"