School system not trying to sabotage Chesapeake Science

The Baltimore Sun

Much has been written and said in recent weeks about events surrounding Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School. Some of the comments have, unfortunately, sought to draw a connection between the ongoing review at Chesapeake Science Point and two recent disciplinary cases while others have questioned whether it is the ultimate goal of Anne Arundel County Public Schools to close Chesapeake Science Point.

On these two points I wish to be perfectly clear. First, there is absolutely no connection between the programmatic, financial, and facilities review presented to the Board of Education on Wednesday and the two personnel matters. Secondly, there is no agenda, hidden or otherwise, on the part of our school system to drive Chesapeake Science Point out of existence.

As we have stated publicly before, the recent reassignments of two Chesapeake Science Point staff members came about after allegations warranting temporary staff reassignment were brought to our attention. Those allegations were the sole impetus for the moves. Anne Arundel County Public Schools followed the same procedures with these cases as it does with all employees, but the timing of these allegations is something over which we have no control.

Confidentiality laws prevent our school system from discussing the specifics of any personnel issue. These laws protect the rights of all individuals involved in a case, including the person against whom an allegation is made.

With regard to the report presented to the Board of Education last week, some historical context is necessary. The Board of Education voted on Feb. 7, 2007, to continue Chesapeake Science Point on probation for the second half of the school year due to "repeated violations" of the charter agreement. That agreement, signed mutually in June 2005, spells out the obligations of Chesapeake Science Point and the role Anne Arundel County Public Schools plays as the responsible authorizing agency.

From the beginning, Chesapeake Science Point officials have expressed a fervent desire to operate as autonomously as possible. Anne Arundel County Public Schools has tried to allow that to happen. But while a charter school enjoys the independence, within certain parameters, to create its own curriculum and manage the day-to-day operations of the school, it is the responsibility of the school system to ensure the charter school's compliance with federal, state and local laws and policies unless a waiver has been approved. That responsibility, it is especially important to note, is not limited to the instructional areas of the program.

Our school system has spent an inordinate amount of time, energy, and resources to help Chesapeake Science Point throughout its 2 1/2 -year history, a fact that school officials acknowledged while testifying before the Board in May 2007 but one which seems to have been lost in recent public discussions.

Despite our assistance, there remain a series of business and management practices and other problems. Those issues led to the continuance by the Board of Education of Chesapeake Science Point's probationary status, and to the review of progress toward a corrective action plan in the areas of special education, human resources, facilities and financial management.

The school still has not secured nor submitted for the required review and approval of a concrete facilities plan and a supporting projected budget reflective of realistic relocation, construction and programmatic expansion costs necessary to support its commitment for continued expansion through 12th grade by 2011. Furthermore, the school has failed in its responsibility to provide special education and related services to students with disabilities for three straight years.

It is not now, and has never been, the desire of Anne Arundel County Public Schools to see Chesapeake Science Point fail. In the face of criticism and inaccurate accusations, our school system has fulfilled its obligations as the authorizing agency and we will continue to do so. Any assertion that we are out to sabotage Chesapeake Science Point is unfounded.

The writer is superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools.

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