Thursday, August 17, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
The Illinois State Charter School Commission (ISCSC) voted late last month to deny the appeal of Elaine Lee, a Maywood-Broadview-Melrose Park District 89 school psychologist, who was seeking to open a new charter school this academic year.
The charter school, called Mastery Academy Charter School (MACS), would have been located at Rock of Ages Baptist Church’s T.H. Wade Center on 14th Ave. and Madison St., and would have served 135 students in grades six and seven in the fall of 2017 before growing to 225 students in grades six through eight by 2019-20.
The school would have opened under Lee’s nonprofit, Mastery Academy Charter Schools, according to a document detailing the commission’s decision to deny the appeal.
MACS sought “slightly over 100 percent” of D89’s current per pupil funding level of $7,743.67. That totals just over $1 million, with all of it coming out of D89’s budget. That meant that funds dedicated to serve students in area public schools would have been diverted to Lee’s charter.
On April 13, the D89 school board voted to deny the MACS proposal, but Lee appealed to the state charter commission in May. The commission has the power to overturn the decisions of local school boards.
In June, the commission’s staff along with a team of experts conducted capacity interviews with representatives from D89 and MAC. That month, the commission also held a public hearing in Maywood.
“Representatives from MACS and District #89 provided statements and presented arguments favoring their respective positions on the appeal,” according to the commission document.
“Approximately 72 people attended the hearing and 47 people provided testimony (42 on behalf of District #89 and 5 on behalf of MACS) at the hearing. The Commission also held open, for seven days, an Email Forum following the public hearing for additional public input and comment.”
According to the commission, 16 emails were received — 13 in support of D89’s decision to deny the charter proposal and three in support of the MACS proposal.
Among the commission’s rationales for voting down the MACS appeal included the group’s belief that, while the expeditionary learning model that MACS was based on “may offer a unique and innovative option for students,” the proposed charter “lacked sufficient detail to convey how curricula and standards would be developed at the school and implemented through the EL projects, across grade levels and content strands.”
The commission explained that the proposal “failed to demonstrate how the school would ensure the academic program was rigorous and would lead to improved academic outcomes for District #89 students.”
In addition, the commission found that the charter’s financial plan “was not viable,” with confirmation of that finding in the fact that MACS representatives “admitted the figures provided in the budget were inaccurate.”
The commission also found that the charter proposal “lack clarity and details regarding oversight and accountability for the school board and school leadership. The proposal did not identify a plan, criteria or timeline to recruit and select a school leader; and the identified governing board and design team have limited capacity to oversee school management.”
During a public hearing held on July 25 at the Melrose Park Civic Center, 1000 N. 25th Ave. in Melrose Park, six of the nine commissioners voted to deny the MACS appeal. Two commissioners were absent.
Read the commission’s full decision below.