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Thinking clearly about SVRCS

RICHARD MORRIS

Lock Haven

Nov. 22 this year marks the 20th anniversary of the decision by the Charter School Appeals Board (CAB) that a charter should be awarded to the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School (SVRCS). This decision came after Keystone Central School Board (KCSD) had four times denied the granting of a charter.

KCSD, of course, appealed this decision to the Commonwealth Court, where in May 2002, the school district lost. Nevertheless, the board voted not to renew the charter in 2004, and likewise in 2009.

Both times the decision was reversed by CAB.

The definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing while expecting a different result.

So in 2014, good old KCSD again refused to renew the charter, opting instead to hire two consultants at a cost of $10,000, to review SVRCS’s performance and bringing up a specialist attorney from Harrisburg to conduct a series of public hearings on the issue. At the close of these proceedings, fearing that they might have worn out their welcome at the CAB, the board reversed themselves and the charter was renewed.

Now we have to witness the same sorry pageant all over again.

This time KCSD has managed to get by with only one consultant, but the fee went up 55% to $15,500. The contract language for his assignment betrayed the deep loathing that KCSD feels toward the charter school, since it lists six areas in which the consultant is to look for “violations” of the charter school requirements.

A more even-handed contract would have specified examining compliance with those requirements, and it appears from his report that the consultant took it upon himself to interpret his contract in that light. Nevertheless, if you pay a chap 15 big ones to look for violations, he will likely find violations … and so the renewal is once again denied.

Board President Bo Miller assures us that this vote to deny the charter is not a vote to deny the charter, but simply the start of a process.

I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s speech after the battle of El Alamein, “Now, this is not the end, nor is it the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

I cannot begin to understand the financial gymnastics that fund SVRCS, but I am willing to concede that they are a concern to the KCSD administration and board. But I have never seen anyone take into account, when discussing the cost to the district of having a charter school, the offsetting benefits of not having to provide for the education of its 400 or so pupils by other means.

It is time to end this two decades-old uneasy relationship.

KCSD has failed eight times to kill off the red-haired orphan and should have the grace to acknowledge that an attitude of mutual acceptance and support will better serve the needs of all our children.

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