A rendering of the proposed Business and Entrepreneurship Academy Charter High School in West Easton
Wilson Area School Board on Wednesday night unanimously rejected the proposed Business and Entrepreneurship Academy Charter High School in West Easton.
The school pre-enrolled only one student and failed to demonstrate sustainable support from parents and community members, according to the resolution passed by the board. It also failed to demonstrate that it would provide expanded curriculum choices and that it has partnerships with local businesses to provide the curriculum and teaching model it advertises.
Furthermore, the charter's application failed to address plans for teaching health, family and consumer sciences and music, among other "core areas," the resolution says.
Joe Lewis, former Bethlehem Area School District superintendent and a consultant for the charter's founders, said he wanted to read the resolution before responding to the board's reasons for denying the application. He said he wasn't surprised with the decision and that it was consistent with public schools' across the state being threatened both financially and on an instructional level by charter schools.
The founders will meet and discuss whether they want to appeal, look for a different location or re-submit to Wilson Area for the 2014-15 school year, Lewis said.
"Stay tuned," he said.
The charter school's founding board has 30 days to appeal the decision, Wilson Area solicitor Don Spry said.
If the school had been approved, it would have opened this fall for ninth- and 10th-grade students and eventually would have expanded into a four-year high school. It would have focused on core curriculum in the morning and featured an incubator program in the afternoon.
Students would have developed business plans and worked with mentors in the business community to cultivate their ideas. They would have had internships or externships, gone on career exploration field trips and participated in a 10th-grade career fair.
Before the vote at Wednesday's meeting, several supporters spoke in favor of the school, including developer Abe Atiyeh, who would have leased the building.
"The kids in this school are going to be motivated to be entrepreneurs, business leaders and doing the right thing," Atiyeh said. "I just can't see a real reason for you all to deny this application."
Lou DiRenzo, president and founder of Bethlehem chemical company Puritan Products, said a school focusing on entrepreneurship is "long past due."
"I've seen kids today that just, there's no entrepreneurial spirit in them," DiRenzo said. "There's no enterprising young children in the area."
School board members didn't make any comments before voting.
"I think the resolution speaks to the reasons why the board denied it," Superintendent Doug Wagner said after the meeting.
The school's financial plan was based on enrolling 175 students in its first year. Charter schools are free for parents because the districts they live in pass money along to the charter school. But aside from the one pre-enrolled student, the charter submitted only nine letters of parental support. Two were illegible, and none of the others were from Wilson Area parents.
No one who lives in the Wilson district wrote a letter of support for the school or joined the founding board.
Lewis and the school's founders have said throughout the application process that the charter is intended as a regional school, with few students coming from Wilson and the majority coming from Easton or other districts. The application included 28 letters of support, but 10 were from people involved in founding the school.
The proposed school had no formal, defined partnerships with local businesses because it said it needed its charter approved first. It was the first charter school to be proposed in the district.