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PENNSYLVANIA: Board upholds decision to deny application from MaST charter school

charter-schools-deniedIn a 5-4 vote Monday, the Neshaminy school board voted to essentially uphold its decision to deny the application from MaST Community Charter School to open a K-12 school in the district.

The application was denied during a Feb. 11 hearing by a 4-3 count. Monday’s vote approved the finding of facts and the conclusions of law prepared by the district’s solicitor in reference to that original decision.

Board members Ritchie Webb, Scott Congdon, Irene Boyle, Susan Cummings and Mark Shubin voted in favor of upholding the decision while Mike Morris, Kim Koutsouradis, Anthony Sposato and William Oettinger voted against approving the the findings.

Last week MaST officials filed a lawsuit in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas accusing the school board of violating state law by holding an executive session before the Feb. 11 vote. Officials also plan to file an appeal of the decision to the state’s Charter Schools Appeal Board once the findings of fact are released to the public.

Several Neshaminy parents that support MaST’s application — which would emphasize a curriculum based on science and technology — spoke out Monday.

Parent Deb Harker, who is also on the founding board of the proposed MaST school in Neshaminy, said she was disappointed that she was not able to read the findings before Monday’s meeting. She added the district had the opportunity to bring “one of the best schools in the state into our own backyard.”

According to Boyle, her decision to vote against the application was based in part on giving all children in the district the same educational opportunities.

“MaST is well regarded,” she said, “but for those of us that care about all the children we need to try to preserve the public school system as it is.” If there is a lottery to determine which students are able to be enrolled at the school, Boyle said she worried that “a lot of kids would be left behind.”

Monday’s meeting also saw the school board, as a whole, speak out against the 201 side agreements between teachers union officials and former district administrators that have been factored into previous labor contracts. Most of these so called “side letters” were approved without board knowledge.

Many residents also used their time during public comment to decry these agreements. The room applauded when Webb said he will soon make a motion to prohibit any such deals in the future without board approval.

In response to a statement regarding the side letters issued by the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers Monday morning, Webb said he has no desire to “haggle out” each of the agreements in future negotiation sessions.

“As far as we are concerned,” he added, “we do not recognize these (agreements) as part of the future contract we are negotiating with you.”

Some board members and residents were upset upon learning that some of the side letters had been approved since 2008 when the previous teachers contract expired.

If there is no teacher contract in place by May, the board will vote to remove teacher salary increases from the board’s latest offer for the current school year, Webb added.

Webb also reiterated his opinion that the majority of teachers would accept the offer if a secret ballot vote were held by the NFT.

Monday’s meeting also featured some tense moments. Shubin apologized to the audience after calling resident Charles Alfonso a derogatory term after his comments at the podium. Shubin said that he felt some of Alfonso’s comments regarding MaST and the proposed plans to build a large elementary school in the district were personal attacks.

After the meeting, Alfonso said he was humiliated by Shubin’s words and that he did not accept the apology as it was not personally directed toward him.

Source: phillyBurbs.com – by Christian Menno

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This entry was posted on March 19, 2013 by in Authorization, Charter Schools, Pennsylvania and tagged , .

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