ASD Denies Elderton Charter School’ Application

Read ASD Solicitor’s 17-page document by clicking here.

Read the Everlasting Elderton Charter School response to ASD’s denial of their application by clicking here.

Armstrong School District Solicitor Lee Price explained to board members that all had to vote to accept or deny the Everlasting Elderton Charter School application presented. Before the votes, Price presented school directors with a 17-page document as a response for reasons why the application was denied if that was their final vote. D. Royce Smeltzer voted to approve it, but his vote was not matched with a second to require roll-call. Board director Paul Lobby and Christopher Choncek both motioned for its denial, leading to an 8-1 vote to not approve the application.

by Jonathan Weaver

The Armstrong School District Board of Directors formally voted 8-1 to deny the application of the founding board members to create Everlasting Elderton Charter School.

When the item was to be voted upon, Solicitor Lee Price gave board directors a 17-page document of nearly 30 reasons why the charter school application was denied if in fact that’s how they voted. Price indicated a similar document was also provided at last week’s open caucus session.

Individual reasons were grouped under four categories, including that the application did not meet educational requirements set by the Charter Schools Act, did not demonstrate sufficient community support at the December public meeting or through letters, and did not satisfy a portion of Charter School Law in regards to its intended lease at the Elderton Towne Hall.

“Based upon the inefficiency of the (Everlasting Elderton Charter School) application in meeting the legislative intent for the formation of a charter school…the Armstrong Board of School Directors believes that (Everlasting Elderton Charter School) has not met the standards for the issuance of a charter school,” the document concluded.

Such reasons are also to be mailed to founding board members by the end of the week.

Board Director D. Royce Smeltzer voted to approve the application after the documents were handed out, but his view was not matched to require a roll-call vote. Director Paul Lobby and Vice-President Christopher Choncek then motioned for application denial.

Smeltzer explained his vote.

“I’m pro-choice when it comes to education. I think that a student, child or individual should have all opportunities as to which way they want to go in life, and I think (Everlasting Elderton would have added) a feature in that area – I think that would fill a void in education and offer another choice,” Smeltzer said.

Similarly outlined in the document, Choncek had many questions regarding the charter school that led to his vote.

“I did read the application and addendum and attended the public hearing, and there are still so many questions with regards to education outstanding that I (voted) to not approve the charter school,” Choncek said. “There are a lot of services that currently exist in ASD that I did not see or that were very vague in the charter school application, such as: AP courses, services for gifted, dual enrollment and partnerships with other universities that students currently have.”

He also called the proposed-MicroSociety theme and co-op opportunities “the vaguest of any of these items.”

“I’m not confident that students world get added benefits, that they would get increased opportunities, and ultimately I don’t feel they would get a better education through this charter school philosophy,” Choncek concluded.

Region III Board Director Linda Walker added her concern for special-needs, a teacher policy during required meetings and lack of textbook selection.

“I don’t think the Everlasting Elderton board has an understanding of what it takes, like with the special needs students. I’ve been in the buildings, and those teachers work their tails off,” Walker said.

Earlier in the meeting, Bill Glover of Rural Valley said all information provided exceeded State requirements and an addendum answered questions asked during the public hearing.

Glover said then seven founding board members – all of which in-attendance Monday night – have not heard from the school district since with any further questions or to discuss leasing the former-Elderton Jr.-Sr. High School building.

He predicted the vote might cause students and families to leave the school district attendance areas.

“We (needed) the charter school to try and stop the hemorrhaging of students and families and all the good that comes with them from leaving the area,” Glover said.

After the meeting, Price confirmed all documents were available to the nine board directors, but they were not required to follow-up with the founding board applicants.

Charter school founding board members expressed their disappointment in a more than 500-word press release to media outlets following the public meeting.

“The Everlasting Elderton Charter School Founding Board of Directors is disappointed by Armstrong School District’s decision to deny our charter. We have submitted a plan that offers increased educational opportunities for all students in ASD which would improve upon the learning environment contributing to our student’s achievements. Our mission is to provide parents and pupils with expanded choices in an enhanced public school setting. Unfortunately at this time, ASD does not feel that their students or taxpaying parents deserve another choice in education,” the release stated.

It goes on to read that board directors will review the charter with Mechanicsburg attorney Joshua Pollak and resubmit the application to the school district. If denied again, founding board directors would appeal to the state Charter Appeals Board in Harrisburg – which founding board member Amanda Bartosiewicz addressed in her comments to school directors.

“We don’t want to appeal our application to CAB -the Charter School Appeals Board – but we are prepared to do so,” Bartosiewicz said. “(ASD gave) us no choice.”

Bartosiewicz predicted ASD would have to spend $100,000 to send an attorney to Harrisburg for such proceedings.

“We have full intentions on keeping the community informed about the actions we are taking. The communities in Armstrong and surrounding areas affected by the denial of the charter should not be discouraged. The ASD denial of our charter is a setback, but it was anticipated, and we will continue fighting until another educational option is placed in ASD in the form of Everlasting Elderton Charter School,” the press release concluded.

Smeltzer was also confident those in his district would move past last night’s denial.

“I’ve had disappointments for the last four-or-five years. I wasn’t expecting anything else, to be honest, but I think that strong community will move forward in a positive direction for the betterment of education,” Smeltzer said.

Brainstorms for Everlasting Elderton originated nearly a year ago at a Towne Hall meeting when board directors were considering closing Elderton Jr.-Sr. High School. A formal application was presented November 14, 2012 and a public hearing December 27.

In other news, school directors unanimously approved royal blue and orange as the school colors for the new junior-senior high school in Manor Township. The colors were selected by more than 60 percent of students surveyed.

Kittanning Junior High School Principal Kirk Lorigan confirmed a meeting of student and faculty committee members was held following school Monday and that a survey is being developed to have students vote on the new school’s name and mascot.

  • By krazykrileys, March 12, 2013 @ 10:03 AM

    Armstrong School District! You are threatened by the success of Charter Schools. Everlasting Charter School will be a success with or without you. Many in our communities do not understand the importance of homeschooling/ cyber school as an option. I have 1 child in cyber school. The other 2 are in traditional homeschool curriculum. Our country was based on hands on teaching. Since, Elderton and surrounding areas want a charter school, I say GO FOR IT! Elderton Everlasting Charter School will be beneficial with or without Armstrong School District. EEC did you really want to be involved with the ASD drama?
    Let I not mention, I am not a resident of Armstrong School District. I am a resident of Armstrong County and the decisions ASD School Board Members make effect my community good or bad.

  • By Simpledeb, March 12, 2013 @ 2:27 PM

    I have never post on here before so I hope I am doing this right. The one thing I would like to say on the denial of the charter school is, at least our taxes won’t won’t be going up and they can pull their exemption that they filed with the state. They said it would be the charter school that would raise taxes.

  • By Flamingo1, March 12, 2013 @ 3:28 PM

    So the Everlasting Elderton folks knew they would be denied—they had the press release ready–and they are threatening an appeal that will cost by their estimate $100k. This looks like a smarmy blackmail. Notice that cost was not one of the reasons the charter was denied. It was just not a good educational option.

  • By player24, March 12, 2013 @ 3:52 PM

    That name just makes me laugh every time I hear it `everlasting elderton` hahahaha

  • By Elderton Parent, March 13, 2013 @ 9:44 AM

    Flamingo, having the press release ready is called planning ahead. I am sure there was one ready had it been approved. Also, “cost” cannot be a reason to deny a charter school. Do your homework.
    Simpledeb, The charter school would not be the reason taxes would have been raised. Poor financial management, poor Administration, and a poor School Board would be to blame.
    In the past, how many kids left ASD for private, charter, or cyber school? We really don’t know because it was never an issue. Now it’s an issue because its Elderton that wants to start a Charter School.
    All it is is a delay tactic on the part of the board. The longer it is delayed, the less likely the Charter School would open this fall. Ridiculous! Just sayin’

  • By fly-by nighter82, March 13, 2013 @ 12:36 PM

    I am so tired of hearing about Everlasting Elderton. The school was shut down for a reason. I am glad ASD voted it down. If they would have voted to support it then it would be like just leaving Elderton open as it was. Parents need to accept change,quit living in the past and let their kids have a better oppurtunity.

  • By whoknew, March 13, 2013 @ 12:50 PM

    Flamingo1, you find it interesting that eecs had a prepared statement incase of denial? How about the solicitor having a 17 page document outlining the reasons for denial prior to the vote taking place?

  • By cartman, March 13, 2013 @ 12:51 PM

    The rejection of the charter school is great news. We may be spared of further waste of taxpayer dollars. The news is even better for the Elderton kids, who will finally get the education they deserve. Although my preference for consolidation into existing buildings was ignored, some sort of consolidation was a must. It is time for Elderton to get real.

  • By Simpledeb, March 13, 2013 @ 1:44 PM

    @Flamingo1 I think you should read pg 15 and 16 of the denial, part of the denial was based on cost.

  • By Concerned Parent, March 13, 2013 @ 3:47 PM

    Obviously ASD Board Members didn’t understand that they are not permitted to use cost as a reason for denial. Imagine that…ASD Board Members not understanding something, sort of like when the residents said they didn’t want a new school and didn’t want the money, but here we go new school being built. Thank you ASD for listening to what Armstrong County taxpayers want. I say take this to state because you already know State is going to approve it…quit wasting time with these morons.

  • By Elderton Parent, March 13, 2013 @ 4:45 PM

    Just to clarify what I said above. Cost cannot be the reason for denial. They can include it in their “prepared” reasons.
    whoknew, good point to flamingo. If it would have been approved, those 17 pages would have been worthless other than the cost to prepare.
    fly-by good point, maybe they should just reopen EHS. It would save them money. Just sayin’

  • By jorn jensen, March 13, 2013 @ 9:01 PM

    whoknew – Excellent post of of 12:50 PM, March 13. The board was loaded for bear.

  • By worthingtonman, March 13, 2013 @ 10:05 PM

    @eldertonparent.

    Seems like cost in the pretext that the lawyers put it makes sense. How can you raise taxes more than you are allowed by state. And it seems like cost was the least of the reasons it was shot down. How about the crappy education you were prepared to offer your kids? Really crappy planning particularly for the special needs students. Wake up and smell the dog crap you just rolled in.

  • By Flamingo1, March 14, 2013 @ 12:30 AM

    @simpledeb
    Just to be clear: the charter school could not be denied due to cost. That is a given. If you think otherwise, you are sadly mistaken. The whole premise of the Charter school was the mistake. The curriculum was for primary students and not for K-12. I did talk to board members who could see what it was—a poorly conceived program. You may not like their decisions, but they do get it when it comes to education. Everlasting Elderton just seems like a futile exercise in denial. And finally the numbers did not add up.
    @krazykrileys–only one fifth of charter schools do as well as the local school. Most perform very poorly. The ASD board saved us money and a poor educational outcome.

  • By Simpledeb, March 14, 2013 @ 3:34 PM

    @Flamingo1 I didn’t say anywhere in my post that I was for the this charter school. What I was pointing out was that when they discussed the budget a couple of meetings ago they made reference to the fact that if they approved this charter school they were going to have to raise taxes to cover its cost. Now that they have denied it they won’t have to raise taxes, unless they were just using that as an escape goat.

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