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Consultant to present assessment of SVRCS

Special Keystone Central meeting is Wednesday

MILL HALL — The Sugar Valley Rural Charter School (SVRCS) in Loganton will be the center of attention at Wednesday night’s special meeting of the Keystone Central School Board.

The school’s five-year charter is up for renewal in 2020.

With that in mind, a special meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, at the Central Mountain High School Auditorium.

An independent consultant, Harry Mathias, was hired by KCSD to evaluate the charter school’s compliance in the areas of governance, business and education.

In advance of tomorrow night’s meeting, Keystone Superintendent Jacquelyn Martin issued a lengthy press release outlining her beliefs and her work leading up to Wednesday.

Martin revealed that she recently toured the charter school with Chief Academic Officer Tracie Kennedy and met with the Sugar Valley Concerned Citizens at their Oct. 29 board meeting.

“I completely understand the purpose and origin of the Sugar Valley Charter School. I have respect for the school charter, its staff, students and governing body and do not wish to see the school closed unless there is conclusive evidence of fraud, illegal activity or educational malpractice,” Martin said.

The Sugar Valley Rural Charter School was established in 1999 when the original charter was approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The Sugar Valley Rural Charter School is a public school option available at no cost to families and is located within the Keystone Central School District.

While the KCSD Board of Directors is responsible for authorizing the charter to operate for five year increments, the charter school is governed separately by a seven member Board of Trustees who are elected to serve their community school.

The Keystone Central School District budget of $73 million is reliant on funds from local revenue, state subsidies and federal awards. The revenue is comprised of 46% local sources, 51% state sources, and 3% federal sources. The Charter School budget is comprised of approximately 96% local revenue sources which are received through tuition that is charged to the home district of the students who attend. The tuition rate formula is dictated to the schools by a calculation through the Pennsylvania Department of Education and includes all budget expenditures for a district minus the expenditures for federally funded programs, Ready to Learn Block grant programs, transportation, and other debt service expenses.

However, the tuition expense payments sent to Charter and Cyber Schools is included in the calculation for the tuition cost per student. For students who receive special services such as speech and language instruction, or other special education services, there is an additional calculation that increases the tuition rate. In the 2018-19 school year, the Keystone Central School District forwarded total tuition payments to the Charter School in the amount of $6,635,797 in which the tuition rate for a regular education student was $11,235 and a special education student was $31,327, Martin explained in her release.

Approximately 385 students from the KCSD attendance area are enrolled in the Charter School, as well as students from Jersey Shore, Penns Valley, Midd West and Williamsport.

Students enrolled at the Sugar Valley Charter School is approximately 490 students in grades Pre K-12.

“I believe that all parents should have a voice and choice in their children’s education, but I have serious concerns about the current charter school funding formula and charter school laws. There has to be a better calculation that is fair to both the school districts and charter schools across the Commonwealth,” she said.

“The KCSD Board of Directors and the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School Board of Trustees have never mutually agreed to any revisions to the original charter that is now 20 years old, therefore the nine elected members will be tasked with voting on the renewal of the original charter,” Martin said.

Wednesday’s meeting will be followed by a special voting meeting the next day, Thursday, Nov. 7, prior to the board’s regular work session, which will also be held at the Central Mountain High School auditorium.

Those Thursday night meetings begin at 6 and 7 p.m., respectively.

According to the release, the KCSD Board of Directors and the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School Board of Trustees have never mutually agreed to any revisions to the original charter that is now 20 years old. Therefore, the nine elected members will be tasked with voting on the renewal of the original charter. An independent consultant, Harry Mathias, was tasked with evaluating the charter school’s compliance in the areas of governance, business and education. He will present his findings on Wednesday evening. The special meeting is open to the public and the board is allowing time for public comment for district residents who sign up in advance of the meeting, according to the release.

The Sugar Valley Rural Charter School was established in 1999 when the original charter was approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The school is a public school option available at no cost to families and is located within the Keystone Central School District.

The last renewal took place in 2016.

According to the district release, Keystone Central paid more than $6.6 million for nearly 400 students in the Keystone attendance area who attended the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School during the 2018-19 school year.

Wednesday night’s special meeting is open to the public and the board is allowing time for public comment for district residents who sign up in advance of the meeting with the board secretary, Tracy Long.

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