|Fatih Kandil and Ali Gokce attempt to freeze their charter application for 3 months. |
The Loudoun County School Board Tuesday night denied a request from charter school applicants for more time to perfect their proposal for the Loudoun Math & IT Academy.
In a 3-6 vote, the board voted to push forward with a review timeline that has the final decision whether to approve or deny the opening of what would be the county’s first charter school scheduled for Feb. 26.
In an email sent to School Board Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) last week, Ali Gokce, lead applicant and president of the Loudoun Math & IT Academy founding board, asked for a 90-day freeze in the review process. The delay would give the applicants “additional time to adapt the application based on the valuable feedback that has been provided thus far in the process and ensure the best application possible can be presented to the full School Board for its consideration.”
The seven applicants, most of whom are Loudoun County parents, are aiming to open a sixth- through 12th-grade charter school for 575 students, with a focus on math, science and technology.
In October, after a two-month review of the application by the county school system’s senior staff, Deputy Superintendent Ned Waterhouse told the School Board the proposal lacked a viable financial plan, offered little detail about course instruction and, at that point, did not provide students sufficient credits in the required areas to graduate from high school.
“There are a lot of details missing,” Waterhouse said.
Two months later, the School Board’s charter school select committee’s review ended on a similar note. Citing similar gaps in the proposal, the committee voted to recommend the full School Board deny the application.
School Board Vice Chairman Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge), noting the state Board of Education’s similar concerns over its cursory curriculum plan, said she was “disappointed” the applicants hadn’t filled in some of those missing pieces.
“When you have a formal process like this—when you have to go to the state, then the [LCPS] staff and now the select committee, and you’ve heard the same thing time and time again—I would think they’d get right on that to improve that,” she said.
Only Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run), Bill Fox (Leesburg) and Jeff Morse (Dulles), who chaired the charter school select committee, supported freezing the review process for three months.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the best possible application from this applicant,” Fox said, “and I’d like to see it,”
Chairman Eric Hornberger, who opposed the extension, said if at the end of the full board’s review there is “sufficient interest” from board members to take more time with the application, they can.
“We owe it to the applicant, and to the public, to go through the process and make a decision, and not stop the process midway,” he added.
In October, Mindy Williams, the spokeswoman for the seven Loudoun parents behind the charter school application, said that the applicants purposely left some of the details open.
“We had always anticipated a dialogue with school staff and the School Board so that we can be able to have a school that reflects their input and feedback,” she said.
In the email to Hornberger, Gokce said additional time would allow him and his fellow applicants to “improve and add details to the LMITA curriculum section, extend our parent/community outreach and to work to obtain fundraising p
ledges from the business community to help demonstrate there is support among the business community for our math and IT-focused charter model.”