Colorado Springs charter school likely to get second chance

October 23, 2013 Updated: October 24, 2013 at 8:19 am

Colorado Springs School District 11's Space, Technology and Arts (STAR) Academy is likely to be granted a reprieve.

In lieu of revoking the charter school's contract and closing it because it has not met conditions of a probationary period, D-11 likely will add another year to a two-year probationary contract for the struggling school. The current contract expires June 30.

D-11 Superintendent Nicholas Gledich told the board of education Wednesday that he agrees with the recommendations of an administrative team to extend the probationary contract to June 30, 2015, and set new academic performance provisions the school must meet.

"Last year, STAR's academic achievement in the state performance framework jumped several categories. It's approaching financial accountability and has done its due diligence in terms of its lease," Gledich said.

D-11's board of education will decide Nov. 13 whether to approve the recommendation of both the administrative team and the superintendent.

"They're trying. They're showing improvements," said Kris Odom, D-11's executive director for procurement and contracting. "How do you close a school that didn't meet the marks but that had a good jump?"

The goal of lengthening the probationary period is to "show sustainability," she added.

Principal Eddy Liddle told the board that the school is working hard on improving academic performance among elementary school students, one of the conditions that were not met under the current contract.

"Our middle school did very well on the state performance framework," he said, "and we're looking at their strategies and practices to incorporate in our elementary school."

STAR Academy opened in 2007 with 112 students and has grown to 449 students in kindergarten through eighth grade on two campuses. D-11 board member Al Loma, who is running for re-election next month, helped start the school.

In November 2011, the school requested its contract with D-11 be renewed for another five years. But the board opted only to extend the contract for a two-year probationary period, citing concerns over finances, a high teacher and principal turnover and low standardized test scores.

STAR Academy has not met three of the conditions of the probationary contract:

? -Academic progress for elementary students was down in math, reading and writing in 2012-2013.

? -The school failed to reduce its lease payments at the 2520 Airport Road location, which houses kindergarten through second grade.

? -STAR Academy started but did not complete a "common language" plan to ensure the community and students have a clear understanding of the instruction and focus.

While the elementary school fell below expectations in academic performance, the middle school has made strides in growth in math, reading and writing. The school also improved its financial standing by working with its management company, Mosaica, to reduce its debt, according to Odom.

To prevent closure, STAR Academy will need to continue improving academic performance and meet or exceed both state standards and the district's annual performance review.

If the board approves an extended probationary contract next month but the school does not meet the conditions during this school year, the district could close the school on June 30, 2015.

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