SPARTANSBURG — Believing they have the community's support, members of the Spartansburg Educational Foundation are still contemplating going forward with plans to establish a charter school in the wake of a state-issued decision to deny the organization’s proposal.
On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera made a motion to deny the charter based on three criteria: insufficient curriculum, content not appropriate for ages of students and lack of integration of agriculture into the curriculum. A majority of the members of the state Charter of Appeals Board agreed in a 4-2 decision.
“We did this with and for the people in this room who have been helping us fight for the last three years,” said Spartansburg Community Charter School Vice President Andrea Chelton during a community meeting Wednesday night at the Spartansburg Fire Hall that was attended by 27 people. “We, as a community, will decide the next steps to take.”
The CAB has two weeks to provide a written decision to the attorneys for both Corry Area School District and SCCS. Following receipt of the written decision, SCCS has thirty days in which to file an appeal, should they choose to do so.
On Wednesday, Joshua Pollack, attorney for SCCS, discussed options with Chelton.
“Attorney Pollack said we have three options,” Chelton said. “One, we can pack it in and give up. Two, we can appeal CAB’s decision to the Commonwealth. Three, we can take CAB’s written decision and fix the problems, and resubmit to the Corry School District — basically starting over.”
Chelton said a final decision will require a little more time to review CAB's written decision.
“Attorney Pollack is ready to keep fighting if that is what our community decides we should do,” Chelton continued. “This, of course, depends upon his evaluation of both the written decision and the transcript of the public decision on Tuesday. Once he has received those, he will discuss our options further.”
Chelton and Scott Morton, president of the SCCS board, said the 4-2 decision was split upon gender lines. Female board members Julie Cook and Lee Ann Munger voted to grant the charter, while the four male members — Scott Miller, Jonathan Peri, Mitchell Yanyanin and Rivera — voted no.
“This was not a unanimous decision,” Morton said. “It was evident that they had read our application extensively. I never expected a split vote. I felt we would either win straight away or lose overwhelmingly and neither happened. Clearly there had been serious thought and discussion, and two board members sided with us.”
CASD Assistant Superintendent Sheri Yetzer and Special Education Director Denise Otteni were present for the decision — which took place in Harrisburg — as well as Morton and Chelton.
After CASD closed Spartansburg Elementary School as part of a consolidation of schools at the end of the 2013-14 school year, a coalition of Spartansburg-area residents began working to establish a school and formed a six-member board of trustees and the Spartansburg Educational Foundation.
A proposal for the charter school was brought to CASD for approval, but was denied three times. Vowing not to give up, members of SEF said they would take their case to the state level.
After being granted a chance to appeal, both sides traveled to Harrisburg on Oct. 18 to have their case heard before the appeals board. The charter was ultimately denied on Tuesday.
The next meeting of the SCCS will be held on Jan. 3, at 7 p.m. in the Spartansburg Fire Hall. All community members and interested parties are welcome to attend and voice their opinions and concerns about the future of the charter school application.