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Proponents of charter school vow to press on
Question states process, timeline for application
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Forsyth County News

It’s not over. For parents on the International Charter School of Atlanta’s board of directors, the recent rejection by the state is incentive to tweak their application and return next year with a plan to open their school in 2015.

“We felt like we had a really good plan in place, had a solid group of people and we only think we can improve,” said Marisa Kashapov, a board member. “We’ll go back and revise and refine and in the end it’s going to be a better product.”

The school, which touts language immersion in Spanish, Mandarin, French, German and English, drew interest from hundreds of parents in the community. But the school is also a place board members hope to send their own children.

“It’s important for the future of my children too,” Kashapov said. “It’s an increasingly global economy and to remain competitive in business, we have to be more international. And part of that is understanding other cultures and also understanding language.”

In the meantime, Kashapov’s children, ages 5 and 6, attend private schools and are tutored in Spanish and Russian.

The state Charter Schools Commission cited four primary reasons for denying the application last month. Those included: inadequate governing capacity; a budget that created financial uncertainty; and no plan to implement the school’s “extremely rigorous academic program."

Other reasons given were a failure to present strategy to recruit and retain teachers who would meet the International Baccalaureate designation the school seeks, and the unlikelihood it would be able to meet the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, particularly in implementing the IB program.

But Tara Newton, who attended the charter meeting in October, said she was surprised by the denial.

“It wasn’t what we expected at all,” she said. “The process, we felt, was really, really lacking and it wasn’t just us.”

Newton and the board had about six months between when they submitted the application and the decision. During that time, she said, there was little collaboration between the board and commission staff members.

“If they had concerns or reservations … and those would have been communicated to us, we could have worked together in a collaborative way,” she said. “We had the students that were ready to go and we had the parents behind us … it’s just frustrating.”

Newton said she’s also frustrated the board has to wait a full year between applications, saying the changes recommended by the commission were minor and wouldn’t take long to address.

Newton contends they could still open this summer if allowed to reapply now, instead of next year.

“It’s just not necessary to move at a snail’s pace,” she said.

But Bonnie Holliday, commission executive director said they “only approve start-up charters in the fall because they need as close to a year as possible (from the time of approval to the time of opening) to apply for and obtain start-up grant funding and procure a facility.”

“As a result, the next application deadline will be early summer 2014,” she said.