Cumberland Times-News

February 7, 2013

Garrett rejects charter school application

Board of ed cites ‘fiscal implications’

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— OAKLAND — Garrett County Board of Education members voted unanimously Thursday to accept Superintendent Janet Wilson’s recommendation to not approve application for Riverside Academy, the proposed charter school to be located in Kitzmiller.

Mike Pula, Garrett County Education Association president, urged the board not to approve the charter school application.

“I was quite impressed with the thoroughness of Dr. Wilson’s analysis of the application merits, as well as her discussion of the fiscal implications you face,” said Pula, who is also a teacher at Northern Middle School. “I believe it would just be irresponsible to open a new school with our current fiscal situation.”

Under Maryland law, a county’s board of education must fund a public charter school with an amount “that is commensurate with the amount disbursed to other public schools in the local jurisdiction,” according to the state Department of Education.

“I understand the people in Kitzmiller want their school back but that decision was made and nothing about our fiscal situation has changed since then,” said Pula. “Approving this charter would do nothing short of reaching right into the employee pocket to balance the budget again.”

The doors to Dennett Road and Kitzmiller elementary schools closed permanently in May of last year and Bloomington Elementary closed in 2011.

Brenda McCartney, Kitz-miller Charter School Initiative Inc. board member and former Garrett County assistant superintendent of schools, said that the KCSI board was not notified of the Apex Company LLC visual inspection of the former Kitzmiller Elementary School building.

“We were somewhat perplexed and concerned that we were not apprised of the inspection in advance,” said McCartney. “The condition of the building has not changed since it was turned over by the Garrett County government in the fall of 2012.”

McCartney said the board would have taken the required remedial action to fix the issues with the building.

Wilson said in her recommendation that granting the application for Riverside Academy would increase the financial burden on the school system as a whole and would result in the need of further school closings, student redistricting, reductions in force of staff and the continued inability to meet negotiated employee pay scales.

“What is clear and compelling is that there will be a significant impact to all Garrett County public schools and all students should Riverside Academy become a reality,” wrote Wilson in her recommendation.

Wilson has 30 days to provide written notification of the board’s decision to KSCI founders, as well as to provide written notification to appeal the decision to the Maryland State Board of Education.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.