Well, since we last made updates to this page, much has happened. We were denied the Colorado Department of Education grant, which in itself was crushing. It was surely an experience to write a grant, and we know what we need to do for next year's application! Then, in early November, the Jeffco School Board denied our application for four reasons, which are discussed below. While we were grateful to the Board for the consideration they gave, we respectfully disagreed with the decision, and with encouragement from a variety of people (some of whom who are top charter people in Colorado), we appealed the decision to the Colorado State Board of Education. This process has taken a long time, but we believe we have reached an acceptable agreement through a facilitation meeting with Jeffco. From that meeting, Jeffco and Cornerstone agreed to four conditions for our approval, and the Jeffco School Board agreed to that on February 6, which was VERY exciting!
The four conditions were the ones mentioned in our denial...I will state the condition and then provide some commentary in italics. All of these must be complete by April 24, so the Board could vote for approval of the charter on May 1st.
1. Cornerstone will provide a balanced budget which will be acceptable to the district. First, we need to fix some calculations for Special Ed that weren't clear beforehand. Of the four, this is the biggest hurdle to overcome, as we budgeted getting $215,000 from the grant, so we are looking at the items we budgeted for and are finding alternatives (such as getting discarded desks rather than purchasing new, etc.).
2. Cornerstone will secure a tentative lease on a building deemed acceptable by Jeffco. This was impossible to complete last August, as agents and owners weren't interested in talking about a school for July, 2014. We are currently working with a building owner, who is willing and ready to work with us to find a great place for our school. I toured a great possibility last week, and it is exactly where we need to be at the Hampden and Wadsworth targeted location.
3. Cornerstone will provide Jeffco information regarding parent involvement and how the founding CAC board will transition to the governing Board of Directors. They want to ensure that parents are involved, and now have a more clear understanding of that. Jeffco also wanted board members to be elected, but the two lawyers and I said that this is not considered best practice by CDE and the League of Charter Schools at this point. It is better to have a 'self-replicating' board, which then selects the new members coming in, which maintains consistency and adherence to the mission and vision of the school.
4. Cornerstone will provide a plan for educating Special Needs students. Our plan in our application is pretty good already and feel it's going to be more focused on our children's needs than ever. However, we will be more explicit and detailed in our description of our plan. Jeffco also stated that we had special needs students working with teacher's aides and not a special ed teacher, but I pointed out that we had special education personnel (teacher and other supports, such as speech, etc.) in the budget, so they agreed that that was a mistake on their part. This critique, as well as a few others in their review of our application, was a misunderstanding on the reviewers part, and it was nice to clear this up in a face-to-face conversation.
So, we are off to the races for getting all our ducks in a neat little row. I actually would like to have our answers to the four above conditions to them a month earlier so we can have an additional month for purchasing and focusing on getting more families into our school.
Will you also spread the word to families of children who are entering kindergarten to 5th grade next August?
Have them visit our website and contact me if they'd like more information!!