Now in its eleventh year, the charter school is up for renewal since its one-year extension from the SUNY Board, granted last year, expires in June.
It's not looking good for New Covenant Charter School.
To be clear, I have not seen the preliminary renewal findings from SUNY's Charter Schools Institute (CSI) containing its recommendation for renewal (or non-renewal). The SUNY Board will have to make a final determination at its meeting in January. The New York Charter Schools Association has taken no position on the school's renewal question.
What I have read is the not-so-subtle statement from the SUNY Charter Institutes's Director, Jonas Chartock, quoted in today's Albany Times Union: "While the school has made some progress, it has not met the goals of its accountability plan or the academic conditions of its renewal." He went on to say: "Specific areas of concern include student performance in math, English and science. In addition, the school's financial condition continues to deteriorate."
Like I said, it doesn't look good for New Covenant.
This is not the statement of someone who intends to recommend renewal of this charter school. That this unusual statement was issued at this juncture is significant--and unprecedented--since the process, as I understood it, was for CSI to issue privately its preliminary report to the school, allow an opportunity for it to respond, conduct a public meeting with the parents (which will occur this Tuesday); then consider such responses and prepare a final report for the SUNY Board to act upon. Mr. Chartock has made up his mind where he's going, and wants the public to know it - now.
New Covenant On the Brink
Whether New Covenant should remain open or be closed is hard to discern at this point. The school has indeed made progress since the takeover in 2006 by its management company, Victory Schools, Inc., which operates several other charter schools in the state. Viewed against Albany district schools, New Covenant's comparative position has improved as its state test scores have improved. It appears to be a "turnaround" story -- but is it enough of a turnaround?
More than any other school, New Covenant Charter has been the topic of more charter authorizer meeting agendas than any other school, by far; and not just because it's one of the state's two oldest charters. It is because it has changed management companies twice, been put on probation approximately three times, and faced renewal twice. Moreover, the Regents have refused to approve the school, so it's been sent back to SUNY for constant re-votes.
The last time SUNY acted on New Covenant, the school barely survived one year ago when the Institute sought to close it and the SUNY Board gave it a one-year reprieve, laden with conditions. Any slippage from these conditions, which Chartock now claims, may not garner flexibility or sympathy from the SUNY Board this time around.
New Covenant may have exhausted its quota, as any turnaround may have arrived too late in its history to be determinative in its favor. The final decision on continuing this school resides with the SUNY Board, not the Institute, and the school has a due process right to make its case. It's already begun, so it's not a done deal. This story will get more interesting real soon.
for The Chalkboard
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