January 18, 2012
Financial and student achievement concerns may derail STAR Academy’s bid to renew its contract with Colorado Springs School District 11 for five years.
Instead, a probationary two-year term was recommended to the D-11 school board at a work session Wednesday.
The proposal details specific gains in student growth, as measured by standardized testing. Finances would also have to improve.
“One year builds on the next,” said John Griego, D-11 charter school liaison, adding that if STAR Academy can’t meet the goals, the charter would not be renewed.
Some of its challenges grew out of the rough start the school went through, STAR and district officials said.
STAR Academy has been working closely with the district on a self-improvement plan, said Glenn Gustafson, District 11 deputy superintendent and chief financial officer. The board ordered the same approach for GLOBE Charter School, he said. The results have been positive in both cases, he said.
“The first three years were kind of rocky,” Gustafson said. “We’re seeing improvement.”
Early on, STAR Academy borrowed funds from Mosaica, the school’s management company.
The long-term debt stands at nearly $1 million.
Board members voiced concern over fluctuating test scores and asked asked about potential for growth.
The school and the district have met monthly for a year, said Eric Dinnel, regional vice president for Mosaica. Staffing changes and other adjustments have been set in motion, he said.
He said STAR Academy is doing the best it can.
“Something that could decide the fate of the school depends on two different groups of students,” Dinnel said. “If the district schools don’t meet the standards, they don’t close.”
STAR Academy opened in 2007 with about 112 students and has since grown to about 445 students in kindergarten through eighth grade on two campuses, including the former Adams Elementary building. The student population tends to be mobile, and future growth is restricted by space.
Dinnel said current facilities could handle 525 students at most.
D-11 board member Al Loma helped start the school, and former D-11 board member Willie Breazell leads the STAR board.
The school submitted its request for a five-year contract renewal at D-11’s Jan. 11 board meeting. Several parents and a teacher praised the school during a public hearing.
The D-11 board is expected to vote on the charter school contract at its Jan. 25 board meeting.
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