District drops charter school plan -- for now

Superintendent encourages Dinosaur committee to reapply in October

Though Dinosaur residents won't send their children off to a district-funded charter school this fall, other plans laid by the members of the charter school steering committee aren't poised for extinction.

According to Richard Blakley, chair of Dinosaur's charter school effort, the push isn't over yet to provide students some sort of community-based school in the fall.

"We're not just going to quit," Blakley said. "We're looking at other avenues."

He said the concept of offering a home-based charter school for Dinosaur children may soon go for a vote among 23 parents of local students. Blakley expected to know the outcome of the vote within the next two weeks. Dependent on the outcome of the poll was whether the committee would appeal the negative vote by the Moffat County School District board.

The plan to start up a charter school this fall set in place by Blakley and other members of Dinosaur's charter school steering committee, met its final blow July 24 from board members.

Last week, board members denied the Dinosaur mayor the opportunity of debating the issue at an upcoming special meeting. A future meeting would have posed an opportunity for the board to overturn its July 16 "no" vote.

It was a chance, Blakley urged, to bring together a newly hired lawyer and present the board with new evidence that a Dinosaur charter school could be on line in about a month.

But board members reluctantly disagreed that approval of the charter's blueprint was possible given time constraints and glaring questions over the proposed application.

"I think busing kids around is more beneficial than the possibility of poor delivery," said School Director John Wellman on the issue of whether the charter school would be adequately equipped with teachers who met district qualifications.

Yet the lengthy bus rides for students traveling from Dinosaur to Rangely and the inherent interest of re-establishing a community-based school have been a matter of contention for parents of Dinosaur students.

In early April, school board members decided Dinosaur students would continue at the Rangely school nearly 20 miles away. Furthermore, the spring decision didn't allow Dinosaur residents an adequate jumpstart on drafting direction for a new charter school.

Applying for a charter school usually takes about a year -- a process that committee completed in about two months. Applications to host a charter school for the 2004-2005 school year are due in October.

Yet when asked about the board's denial of repeated and altered submissions for a charter school, Blakley cited the board's actions as "ridiculous."

"Everything they've asked me to do, I've done," Blakley said about revising various application drafts according to the requests of the school board.

"Last time it was legal concerns," he said of a previous meeting. "This time it's educational and it's still not good enough."

But it's not only some members of the school board who believe the committee's proposal lacks specific details.

According to Lee Barratt, the executive director for the Colorado School Resource Center, the Dinosaur steering committee needed to invest in more planning before presenting the district with a comprehensive application.

At issue, he said, are a lack of clearly defined academic goals and a vision of the curriculum as well as "no real description of how or what they are going to do."

The director in charge of improving academic efficiency continued in a letter addressed to Superintendent Pete Bergmann, "...they need a strong leader to administer the program and teach at the same time..." and, "...they need to present a plan that will aid the students and presents long-term improvements."

The comments, sought from Bergmann, furthered the superintendent's resolve that the application for the charter school was not ready for acceptance.

Bergmann recommended the board deny the charter school application but added in a letter addressed to the steering committee, "that my recommendation was based on a realistic perception of the huge volume of tasks and requirements that needed to be in place prior to approval."

Unsubstantiated budget projections, fuzzy enrollment projections and an increasingly short timeline "that is ten times faster than designed to move through the system" are a few reasons he gave the steering committee a thumb's down for the fall, Bergmann said.

Still after submitting the charter school application to the board five or six times, Blakley fumed that the board's unyielding stance was an implication of something more than district protocol.

"I think they have the idea that if they get the kids at Rangely they'll like it and want to stay there," he said.

"I wanted the meeting to explain that all you got to do is open the doors and do the paperwork as it comes up. We adopted the curriculum to their suggestion. All of a sudden nothing's right."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or by email at ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

Contact Richard Blakley, chair of Dinosaur Charter School steering committee at 970-374-2744.

Contact Pete Bergmann, Superintendent of Moffat County School District at 824-6810.


HEY! USE THIS GRAPH TOO!


According to Superintendent Pete Bergmann, the plan proposed by the Dinosaur's charter school steering committee is deficient in the following ways. Committee members may reapply for a district funded charter school for 2004-2005 school year before October.

Bergmann's concerns include:

Uncertainty of enrollment-

à This data hasn't yet been determined by the steering committee; it becomes the foundation for all planning

Budget-

à Questionable enrollment and therefore revenues; numerous costs not figured in; assumptions that Moffat County School District will assume costs; the bottom line does not add up

Special Education-

à It will be difficult to provide services because of complex issues

Lack of academic goal and assessment plan-

à Vague goals; need detailed assessment plan, details of school improvement plan

Technology-

à Needs a clear focus for Information Literacy Plan as required by the Colorado Department of Education; uncertainty of Internet connection and services; ability to network data exchange with the district; no plan for security and filters

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