Changes in CSI's Portfolio of Charter Schools

Three Charter Schools to Open, One Charter School Closure

DENVER, CO (July 24, 2017) – As families and schools across the state gear up for the back-to-school season, the Colorado Charter School Institute (CSI), Colorado’s statewide charter school authorizer, has been busy with changes within its own portfolio of schools.

 

Three Charter Schools to Open this Fall

Among these changes is the opening of three charter schools, each with a distinct education model.   

 

Colorado Early Colleges (Aurora) will serve students in grades 9-12 and offers students the opportunity to start working on college level courses, so they can earn a combination of high school and college credits as they pursue both a high school diploma and an Associate’s Degree or higher. Colorado Early Colleges Aurora is a replication of the already successful Colorado Early College model that has campuses in Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Parker founded by former Senator Keith King.

 

Colorado Military Academy (Colorado Springs) will serve students in grades K-8 in a facility outside the north gates of Peterson Air Force Base. Colorado Military Academy offers a rigorous, hands-on curriculum in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) as well as character and leadership development.

 

Monument View Montessori Charter School (Fruita) will serve toddlers through 3rd grade students and offers a farm-based Montessori program that focuses on individualized discovery, a love of learning, and respect for self, others and the environment.

 

Executive Director Dr. Terry Croy Lewis shares, “Having been part of the founding team of two charter schools, I am keenly aware of the commitment and perseverance it has taken for these schools to get where they are at today. I am excited for each to step up to the challenge of providing not just another school option, but a high-quality school option, to the communities they will be serving.” 

 

As public charter schools, these three schools are open to children of all backgrounds and learning styles and require no special entrance requirements.

 

One School Closes

In addition to the opening of these three schools, the Youth and Family Academy (YAFA), an alternative education campus (AEC) in Pueblo that had a history of struggling performance, closed.

 

In December 2013, the CSI staff recommended that YAFA be non-renewed due to persistently poor academic, financial, and operational performance.  At the time, YAFA was entering its 4th year of having a Priority Improvement rating and showing a downward trend in student achievement and growth, was operating in a deficit, and struggled operationally.

 

In an attempt to keep an alternative education campus for high-risk students in Pueblo, the CSI Board chose to extend the school’s contract if the failing school agreed to restructure its school board and find a charter school operator. YAFA agreed.

 

When only one operator came forward during the call for charter school operators, YAFA chose to contract with the operator rather than face closure. That began over a year of financial and operational issues that ultimately led to CSI requesting emergency powers over the failing school and initiating revocation proceedings.     

 

However, the revocation process was halted when a negotiation between was reached. In April 2016 the YAFA and CSI Board’s mutually agreed to non-renew the charter school’s contract, effectively closing the charter school on June 30, 2017. As shared by Janet Dinnen, CSI’s Director of Data and Accountability Systems at CSI who was overseeing the revocation process at the time: “CSI conducted a comprehensive review of available options.  Non-renewal of the existing contract was determined to be in the best interests of the students and community as it could provide adequate time to both implement a thorough school closure protocol and for the community to consider and develop alternative options for YAFA students.” 

 

While the June 30th end date for YAFA’s contract with CSI was imminent, members of YAFA’s staff and board considered other options.  One option was to apply as a new charter school with Pueblo School District 60. The new school application was denied by Pueblo School District 60 and the district’s decision was upheld by the State Board of Education when YAFA appealed. 

 

The other option was to transfer to Pueblo County School District 70 and become a contract school. However, had YAFA transferred to another authorizer, it would still have been responsible for repaying the debt incurred from multiple years in which the school reported higher student counts than it had the documentation to back up—a requirement that falls on each CSI school and has historically followed CSI charter schools when they have transferred authorizers.  This repayment played a factor in the school’s decision not to transfer and become a contract school.

 

With neither option materializing, YAFA was in the same spot it had been just over a year earlier—it was without a contract for the 2017-2018 school year.  Dr. Croy Lewis commented: “To say we are disappointed that another option for high-risk students wasn’t realized for this community is an understatement. The CSI Board’s decision to non-renew YAFA’s contact was a difficult one as the impact of a school closure always affects more than the school’s students and staff. It impacts the whole community.”

 

“As difficult a decision as this was, CSI’s role as a charter authorizer is to maintain high standards for school performance, protect student and public interests, and ultimately to uphold the charter bargain by providing increased autonomy to its schools in exchange for increased accountability. When a school isn’t meeting expectations, additional interventions and supports are implemented, and when a school still fails to meet those expectations, only then is non-renewal considered. The CSI Board stayed true to the principles of high quality authorizing when it signed the non-renewal agreement a year ago and when it directed CSI staff to follow through with closure procedures over the last several months prior to the June 30th contract end date.”

 

This isn’t the first school that has had its contract non-renewed due to poor performance, but it is the first alternative education campus. “CSI is striving to be a model authorizer for AEC’s and to this end is developing an AEC task force to be led by Director of Evaluation and Assessment, Ryan Marks.“ Dr. Croy Lewis adds, “Additionally, our new school, replication school, and expansion school application processes will continue to prioritize applicants that demonstrate the capacity to not only serve at-risk populations but serve them well, and we are hopeful that applicants step up to this challenge of creating high quality AECs in Colorado.” 

 

With these changes to its portfolio, CSI projects continued growth with service to over 17,000 students in the 2017-2018 school year. 

 

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About the Colorado Charter School Institute (CSI)

CSI is a statewide charter public school authorizer in Colorado, currently authorizing 41 schools from Durango to Steamboat Springs, Grand Junction to Calhan and serving over 17,000 PK-12 students. As a charter authorizer, CSI focuses on the outputs—that is, the quantitative evaluation of academic, organizational, and financial school performance—providing schools the flexibility to focus on and make decisions about inputs like instructional strategies, educational programming, internal assessment system, facility selection, and staffing. The focus on outcomes rather than processes allows CSI to be neutral on educational model and maintain a diverse portfolio of school models, which include Classical, Early College, Alternative, and Montessori models. Learn more at www.csi.state.co.us and follow CSI on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CSIColorado/.  

 

 

Press Contact

Janet Dinnen

Director of Data & Accountability Systems

303-866-4643

janetdinnen@csi.state.co.us