Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Friday, December 14, 2012
Sunday, December 9, 2012
From the Loudoun County Public Schools website – dedicated to the “proposed” Gulen Charter school in Loudoun County http://www.loudoun.k12.va.us/domain/13676
Proposed Math and IT Academy
To speak on the charter application at a subcommittee meeting, please call
(571) 2521020 FREE
Staff Responses to Questions from the Select Committee - Click here to view.
- To ask questions about the LMITA application, click Charter@lcps.org
- Updated LMITA application (November 7,2012)
- Application - To view a copy of the application, click here.
- Attachments - To view a copy of the attachments, click here.
- Preliminary Staff Comments to Application - To view a copy of the comments, click here.
- NEW POSTING - LMITA Response Document to Staff Review Report, Click here to view.
Fatih Kandil and Ali Gokce, the lead applicants for the Loudoun Math and IT Academy charter school, take questions from School Board members Thursday evening
School Board Committee: 'Great Concern' Over Proposed Charter School
Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012 9:43 pm
At an anticipated meeting Thursday, School Board members known as outspoken proponents of charter schools and school choice offered a list of concerns for the proposed math and IT charter school application that only seemed to grow longer with each of the applicants’ rebuttals.
“There are missing pieces,” School Board member and chair of the Loudoun Math & IT Academy Charter School Committee Jeff Morse (Dulles) said at one point.
The meeting was the first at which any School Board member had offered an opinion about the application for the Loudoun Math & IT Academy, which is designed by a group of Loudoun parents to serve about 575 sixth- through 12th-grade students.
After 45 minutes of questions about the proposed school’s teacher requirements, funding plan and lack of curriculum details from Morse, Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) and Brenda Sheridan (Sterling), it was clear the School Board members were not impressed by the applicants’ answers.
Sheridan told Fatih Kandil and Ali Gokce, the lead applicants, their comments only heightened her initial concerns.
“I believe you said, ‘the teacher uses art to teach stuff.’ In reference to the teacher handbook: ‘I don’t have time to deal with that,’ and ‘it’s hard to open a school,’” Sheridan said. “I’m being really honest with you. As someone who’s looking for us to approve your charter school I would think that you would come with the best answers possible and the most information possible… and those answers cause me great concern.”
Turgeon, a former Loudoun County second-grade teacher, told Kandil and Gokce she was surprised to see so many holes in the instruction and curriculum plan.
The curriculum plan will be developed after the charter school is approved, if it’s approved, Gokce told Turgeon.
“In my mind, if I were looking to start a charter, the catalyst for that should have been the curriculum,” Turgeon responded. “I think the curriculum needs to be really, really strong before we can move forward.”
Sheridan stressed that charter schools are supposed to supplement what a public school system is not providing. Since the Loudoun Math & IT Academy application went public early this year, the applicants have touted their plan to provide free Saturday tutoring, field trips, career days and heavy parent involvement.
But Sheridan said Loudoun’s public schools already offer that, and there is never a promise that parents will be engaged in their children’s school. “How is it going to be different and more opportunistic for the students?” she asked. “For me, the proof’s in the pudding.”
Gokce told her that, because Loudoun Math & IT Academy will be a school of choice, parents will be more willing to get involved, which will provide students with unique opportunities. “What we envision is to create an academic powerhouse where the students who want to learn will come to this school, and the environment will be conducive to learning. And all of these extra curriculum activities and clubs will be centered around that.”
The School Board members also asked Gokce and Kandil why they looked to only one charter school—Chesapeake Science Point in Anne Arundel County, MD—as a model when designing Loudoun Math & IT Academy. While Chesapeake Science Point boasts student assessments 26 points above the state’s average and a close-to-perfect attendance rate at 97.3 percent, it also has been cited for financial missteps in a report by Anne Arundel Public County Schools Superintendent Kevin Maxwell.
“The problems at CSP do not have to be repeated here in Loudoun,” Gokce said, adding that he looked to the Maryland because it’s a successful, working model.
Kandil, a South Riding resident, is a former principal of Chesapeake Science Point.
The current School Board has been most outspoken about their support for the possibility of opening a charter school in Loudoun. Six School Board members were elected last year on pro-school choice campaigns, and n June, the board adopted a new process to vet charter applications that is more charter school-friendly.
In a public hearing at the end of the committee meeting, the outspoken group in opposition to the charter school was visibly enthusiastic by the School Board member’s comments. They cheered one another on as they offered comments of their own—some for sixth or seventh time in the past three months—about why they do not support the charter school.
Several of their concerns still centered around allegations that the group of parents behind the charter school are tied to a Turkish cleric named Fethullah Gulen, who preaches modern Islam and is believed to be behind a large movement of charter schools across worldwide. Others offered concerns about the lack of answers about the school’s academic plan.
Michelle Edwards, who has four children in Loudoun’s public schools, said the school system’s focus should be instead on reinstating some of the program cuts that have been made in recent years. “I’ve watched funding be cut for summer school classes and special education… I’ve paid for tutoring out of my own pocket,” she said. “If there is going to be a surplus, it is clear it needs to be put into LCPS.”
About six individuals, however, spoke in favor of the charter school, and more specifically to a program that would expand Loudoun’s information technology curriculum.
South Riding resident Dean Stiles, who’s son has applied to Academy of Science and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, said the county needs more opportunity for students who do not make it into one of those sought-after schools.
“I’m trying to understand how this is bad for Loudoun County,” he said, adding that the School Board should be willing to set aside money to help launch the school. “I want to see an investment in STEM here in Loudoun.”
At least three speakers indicated they worked in the information security field and are desperate for young people with the skills to work in the industry.
“This is where this charter school needs to be and we need more students coming out of this area to fill these jobs,” Tiffany Rad, who has children in Loudoun schools, said. She told the committee that her support for the Loudoun Math & IT Academy is not just about a gifted program or a charter school, but about an emphasis on information technology. “That does not exist in Loudoun County right now.”
Karlo Arozqueta, who identified himself as a professional computer hacker for a federal agency that is constantly short of qualified employees, had similar comments: “I don’t know if this is the answer, but something needs to be done. Someone needs to come up with an answer, and very quickly.”
The select committee will hold its next public hearing and meeting on the application at 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, at the LCPS Administration Building, 21000 Education Ct., in Broadlands. It is scheduled to make a final recommendation to the full School Board Dec. 13.
WEBSITE BY CONCERNED AMERICAN VIRGINIANS ABOUT THE PROPOSED GULEN CHARTER SCHOOL
Americans fighting the Gulen Movement
PETITION TO SIGN AGAINST THE PROPOSED GULEN CHARTER SCHOOL