A state board has narrowly rejected Kaleidoscope Charter High School’s application, but supporters aren’t giving up hope that the school could open in Morrisville in the fall of 2018.
That’s because the same board unanimously recommended a new policy Tuesday that would allow schools on the cusp of approval to tweak their applications and re-apply on an accelerated schedule.
Eddie Goodall, a charter school consultant and former director of the N.C. Charter Schools Association, said the new policy has been approved by the state Charter Schools Advisory Board and will likely see a vote from the state Board of Education in June.
If it passes, and Kaleidoscope meets the policy’s eligibility criteria, Kaleidoscope would be in position to open by the fall of 2018 if its application is approved.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
The advisory board voted 5-4 on Monday to not advance the school’s application to the state Board of Education, which has the final say in granting charters.
Mark Stohlman, Morrisville’s mayor and a member of Kaleidoscope’s executive board, said the advisory board voted down the application mostly because of stated goals for students’ performance on ACT college-entrance exams. He said the goals exceeded the Wake County average but not by enough to satisfy members of the board.
“Some (board) members would feel more comfortable recommending this charter high school to the State School Board if educations goals were not so under-stated,” board member Alan Hawke said in an email. He supported Kaleidoscope in Monday’s vote.
“A couple of other clarifications and differences recommended last year would also make these folks more comfortable recommending this much-needed public high school for Morrisville,” Hawke added.
Kaleidoscope, which hopes to practice “student-centered learning” methods similar to those used in Montessori schools, has applied for a charter each approval cycle since 2014. The school would be Morrisville’s only high school.
Last month, the Morrisville Town Council passed a resolution that called in general terms for the state’s support in establishing new middle schools and high schools in town.
“We want to make sure everything is right before you get the approval, but we don’t want you to have to wait a whole extra year, because we do see a great need,” said Steven Walker, vice chairman of the advisory board. “That’s the case with Kaleidoscope. The support they have from the community is important in this.”
Other criteria listed in the draft proposal include progress toward securing a building for a charter school and a demonstrated need for a charter school in applicants’ community.
Charter schools receive public funding but aren’t required to comply with some regulations that public schools face, including offering transportation and meals.
In January, Kaleidoscope’s application was initially halted when a subcommittee of the advisory board took issue with academic goals it found insufficiently ambitious. The school’s application was put back on the docket when a member of that subcommittee had a change of heart in March and made a successful motion reversing the earlier decision.
“There are lots of things on these applications that they can hone in on, and they got on something that I thought we had a good answer for, but they didn’t quite like it,” Stohlman said. “But they were very complimentary of the board itself, of our mission, of the fact that Morrisville needs a high school.”
Last year, Kaleidoscope’s application advanced out of the advisory board with a split 7-3 vote recommending approval, but that wasn’t enough for the state to grant a charter. For this reason, Stohlman said, a preliminary denial that allows Kaleidoscope more time to work toward approval by the state board “could be a blessing.”
“If it was flipped and they’d let us go through on a middle-of-the-road vote, not a full unanimous endorsement, there’s a good chance the state would have declined it,” Stohlman said. “In a way, this might have worked out for us.”
Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan