Cary News

Kaleidoscope Charter might get a second chance to make its case

The application for Kaleidoscope Charter High School has been rejected four times in recent years, including last month. But the board members behind what could become Morrisville’s first high school are optimistic it will be reconsidered.

Last month, a subcommittee of the state’s Charter Schools Advisory Board did not grant Kaleidoscope the approval it needed for the next step in the application process – an interview before the full board.

But Janet Littlejohn, president of the board of directors, said she heard that the subcommittee might reconsider the application again. She said the board is organizing an email- and letter-writing campaign to advisory board members urging them to do so.

“We heard from one of the advisory board members who has been supportive of us that one of the other members had a change of heart,” Littlejohn said. “I don’t know who it is, but I’m hoping the board will reconsider.”

Alex Quigley, chair of the Charter School Advisory Board, confirmed that board member Alan Hawke, who voted in favor of Kaleidoscope’s application, asked at a recent meeting about the possibility of revisiting it.

The board’s rules of procedure allow a decision to be revisited if someone who voted with the majority – in this case, a member who voted to deny the application – makes a motion to put the item back on the table. The vote was 4-2 in rejecting the application.

Quigley said he didn’t know who had changed their mind among the four-member majority.

Charter schools, which receive public funds and don’t charge tuition, aren’t restricted by many of the guidelines traditional public schools follow.

But the state conducts a rigorous approval process before a school can open.

The decision on Jan. 12 was the fourth time Kaleidoscope has had its application for a charter rejected. It was also earlier in the process. Last year, the application had won approval from the full advisory board in a 7-3 vote.

This year, subcommittee members took issue with the application’s proficiency goals, which they said weren’t ambitious enough.

Littlejohn and her team said they were blindsided by that critique of their application, which had been adjusted in response to other criticisms from previous years. But Littlejohn said the school’s academic goals hadn’t been among those.

In an effort to secure a second interview at the subcommittee’s regularly scheduled March 6 meeting, former Morrisville Mayor Margaret Broadwell, a member of Kaleidoscope’s advisory board, encouraged current Morrisville Mayor Mark Stohlman, a member of Kaleidoscope’s executive board, to propose a resolution in support of a high school in town.

Stohlman, who raised the idea of the resolution at the Morrisville Town Council’s Feb. 14 meeting, said it would express the council’s general recognition of the need for a high school in Morrisville. Most students in Morrisville attend high schools in Cary.

Though the resolution would not name Kaleidoscope, council members Liz Johnson and TJ Cawley raised concerns about crafting such a resolution for a privately run charter school board.

“I think this is really a pointed ask in support of something asking for special treatment,” Cawley said. “No matter how much we broaden it, the ask is still, ‘Will you support our school?’ 

Town Manager Matha Paige was directed to begin crafting the resolution and send it to council members for their review. It could be on the council’s agenda at the Feb. 28 council meeting.

Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan