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Charter decision stalled


Parents, students and teachers at a beleaguered Anne Arundel County charter school will have to wait another three weeks to learn its fate, Board of Education members said this week after receiving a critical report on the school's progress.

In the meantime, school officials will discuss a contract renegotiation with representatives of Chesapeake Science Point Charter School in Hanover and develop an accountability plan for the school, which has been beset with problems since August, when it opened its doors five days late.

The result of those talks, along with additional information about the school's finances, will be presented to the Board of Education at its July 12 meeting. The board could decide then whether the school remains open.

Though the county school system installed its own administrators in the school's top two positions in March, a year-end report on Chesapeake Science Point's progress, which was presented to the school board Wednesday, was largely negative.

"The challenges began in August and persist today," said Kathy Lane, the county's director of alternative education.

The report lists the standards set forth in the charter agreement and whether or not the school is meeting, or making progress toward meeting them. Chesapeake Science Point did not meet the school systems' standards in special education, student support services, student records and reporting, personnel and fiscal matters.

The school also lacks a leadership team. After the school's dean of students resigned and director Jon Omural was removed by county school officials, the school installed David Hill, a former principal of Glen Burnie High School, as acting dean of students, and Karen Keyworth, a former principal of the Anne Arundel County Learning Center, as acting principal. The two were hired on a temporary basis.

Chesapeake Science Point board members want to replace Omural with Fatih Kandil, who most recently opened a charter school in Ohio. However, like Omural, Kandil does not hold state certification to be a school administrator. And at Wednesday's school board meeting, Lane questioned Kandil's experience. Kandil stayed at the Ohio charter school for less than a year before coming to Chesapeake Science Point, where he has been working on a volunteer basis because he has not officially been hired.

"Where is the documentation of his successful running of a charter school?" Lane asked.

The woman who would be principal of Chesapeake Science Point - Judith Henry, a former principal in Prince George's County - also has not been officially hired. It was revealed at the board meeting that although Henry has a contract with the school system, which was signed by interim Superintendent Nancy M. Mann, concerns were raised in a subsequent interview between Henry and school system officials. Details of the concerns are not public because it is considered a personnel matter. Representatives of Chesapeake Science Point were scheduled to meet with Mann yesterday.

Most of the questioning by board members focused on fiscal management of the charter school, and at times, board members took on an exasperated tone.

Walter Federowicz, the school system's auditor, told the board that it has been difficult to get appropriate documentation from Chesapeake, though the school's spokesman, Spear Lancaster, has said that Chesapeake will continue to accommodate the school system's requests.

Lane said a renegotiation of the charter between the school system and Chesapeake Science Point could address "oversights" in the current charter. The accountability plan, she said, would require more regular reporting to the school system. Board member Eugene Peterson asked for those plans to be completed before the July 12 meeting, so that the board could make a decision then.

When pressed by Chesapeake Science Point's representatives for a definitive answer on whether the school would be allowed to open in the fall, school board member Konrad Wayson encouraged them to wait.

Said Wayson: "I don't think you want an answer today."

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