The Oregon State Board of Education unanimously voted Thursday to deny sponsorship for Riverside Charter Academy, a proposed charter school for Brookings.
"The proposal did not contain the minimally required criteria for opening a charter school in the state of Oregon," said Susan Inman, Oregon Department of Education director of Learning Opportunities, Options and Supports. "They just didn't quite meet the standard in their proposal."
Thursday's vote came after a lengthy appeals process that included the Brookings-Harbor School Board voting against the proposal in November, 2011.
Organizers of Riverside Charter Academy nearly two years ago proposed a school for grades five through eight that would have emphasized an alternative learning method.
In an email to the Curry Coastal Pilot Thursday, Riverside project director Annette Klinefelter-Dingle wrote "Denial was not surprising, fewer than 3% of charter schools are sponsored by the Oregon Department of Education.
"As for next steps, the Riverside Board is on pause; eagerly awaiting community-support to further the vision for educational choice in Brookings-Harbor. If you believe in the vision of Riverside, be heard and shape its future direction. Email firstname.lastname@example.org."
The State Board, all elected officials just as is the local school board, voted against Riverside at the recommendation of ODE staff. A team consisting of ODE personnel, charter school developers and sponsors, individuals with expertise in curriculum, school finance, governance and alternative learning environments reviewed the proposal, according to an ODE memo.
According to the memo, the charter school's review team did not meet the minimum proposal requirements in four areas of ORS 338.045 (2) or the requirements in five areas of ORS 338.055 (2), Oregon charter school laws.
"They came back with the indication that the proposal did not meet allof (the) criteria," Inman said. "They had some issue with the fiscal pieces, their budget, pieces primarily with low-achieving students and special education, and those are big areas. If they can't articulate in their proposal that they can provide a comprehensive instructional program, that's a big deal. We want to make sure that the investments made in those charter schools can move forward. They are receiving state funds, your tax dollars ... so we really want to make sure that they are investments that move students forward in academic achievement."
Before making a decision, the State Board asked a number of questions and talked to the proposed directors and founders of the school, according to Inman.
While it is not unusual for proposals to be denied, each application is considered on its own merit based on compliance with state law, Inman said.
There are currently four charter schools in Oregon with state sponsorship. Inman wasn't sure of the exact state approval rating, but said in the last couple of years five to seven applications have come to the State Board, and a couple of those have been approved.
"It's a high standard for approval," Inman said. "Really they're going to start a school, so we want to make sure that all of those components are there and ready to go before we actually enroll students, and it's very clearly articulated in the legal statutes what conditions they need to meet.
"I thought that they had a good concept and a decent proposal, they just didn't quite meet the criteria that's outlined."