Cascade Locks Charter school committee files complaint against school board

July 12, 2011

Minutes of the June 16 meeting between George Fischer, Connie Kennedy, Mayra Walker, Liz Whitmore, Charlie Beck as well as information from the Oregon Department of Education on charter school proposals can be found here.

After a simmering war of words between the two sides, the Cascade Locks Charter School Committee last week filed a complaint against the Hood River County School district board alleging a violation of board policies.

The school board has 45 days to hold a meeting to respond to the complaint against it, after which time the complaint can be appealed to the state board of education.

Consultant Connie Buttaccio said she asked for permission in May to make a presentation during the school board's June meeting, but was denied. She instead presented for four minutes during the public comment session of the meeting.

At the meeting she was directed to meet with Beck to further discuss his concerns about scope and sequences for the courses that the school would offer.

According to minutes recorded by Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent Terri Martz and provided by Buttacio, the meeting between Buttaccio, Fischer, charter committee vice president Myra Walker and school board president Liz Whitmore did not go well.

The meeting quickly spiraled into a back-and-fourth with charter school advocates accusing Beck and the school district of stalling and Beck and Whitmore accusing the charter school advocates of making inaccurate assertions and rehashing old ground.

The core of the two sides' disagreement in the run-up to and during the meeting was over scope and sequence for classes to be taught at the school.

As of Monday, Buttaccio said she had yet to receive information from the school district for scope and sequence for its courses, which she originally requested in May. "There is no misunderstanding at all; I believe the district is using that as a stumbling block to stop the school from opening," she said Monday. "We have requested the district provide us with the scope and sequences and they haven't done that I and I don't know if they have them." Both Beck and Director of Curriculum Terri Vann were out of the office through July 15 and were unavailable to comment.

Whitmore said the board is continuing to wait for a complete application from the charter school before continuing. "We would like to see a charter school in Cascade Locks," she said. "When they have a complete application we'll review it and move forward."

According to the Oregon Department of Education, Oregon revised statues define scope and sequence as '"Scope" means depth and breadth of course content as evidenced through a planned course statement including content outline, applicable state content standards where appropriate, course goals and student outcomes. [2005 c.674 §1; 2007 c.567 §1]. "Sequence is the order in which the lessons are taught."

Susan Inman, Learning Opportunities, Options & Supports Director at the Oregon Department of Education, said "there is no legal requirement for charter schools to provide the "scope and sequence" in their application to a school district. Districts can, however, require any additional information the board considers relevant," including, but not limited to, a description of the curriculum of the public charter school.

During the meeting, Beck raised the suggestion of the school district paying for Peter Miller, who reviews charter applications for the High Desert School District and worked with Beck in the Bend-Lapine School District, to work with the charter school committee on starting over on its application.

Buttaccio said redoing the application was not necessary and said that when the state declined to sponsor the school it found that it met criteria in all but four areas and the school should simply be able to meet those. One of the reason's the state cited for declining to sponsor the school was a concern that the school's application did not provide comprehensive instructional programs.

Buttacio said the school had worked with Bob Dunton, the superintendant of Corbett Charter School, to develop its original proposal to the school board but that "Mr. Dutton quit in this process because it was just one thing after another he said he got so frustrated he said it was never going to happen." The school district board is not meeting in July this year and the board's next scheduled meeting is Aug. 10.

In addition to her complaint, Buttacio also sent a letter to State Sen. Chuck Thomsen and State Rep. Mark Thompson (who is also a school board member) asking for their assistance.

With the days ticking down until the start of the 2011-12 school year, Kennedy said the chances that the school could open in the fall are dwindling. "If I can get a meeting with a board it's still possible, say a 50 percent chance; but I have to be able to get a meeting with a board," she said. Prior to filing the complaint, Buttaccio said both she and Cascade Locks ex officio board member Bobby Walker contacted Whitmore about calling a meeting in July to discuss the charter school issue.

The request was denied. "July is usually a quiet month and hardly anyone comes and Charlie had recommended that we skip July," Whitmore said of the board making a previous scheduling decision to not meet in August. "Once the board approves a meeting schedule it's not really appropriate to slide in an another meeting."

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