On Wednesday, May 1st, 2019, the Connecticut State Board of Education (SBE) held its monthly meeting. You might recall that the April meeting was canceled, as the Board lacked a quorum (at least 6 of 11 voting members), as multiple members’ terms ended in February and the Lamont administration had not yet named new members. Subsequently, the Governor’s office indicated their intent to re-nominate two of the previous State Board members, Dr. Estela Lopez and Erin Benham, and as a result both participated in today’s meeting and quorum was reached. There are still two voting as well as two ex-officio positions remaining to be filled.

The agenda included the charter renewals for Achievement First Hartford Academy, Elm City Montessori School (New Haven), and Park City Prep Charter School (Bridgeport). All three schools were renewed for three years with conditions, including corrective action plans (details here). The meeting also included the charter management organization agreements for Great Oaks (Bridgeport) and Stamford Academy; both agreements were also approved unanimously.

During public comment, individuals representing parents, community members, board members and advocates from the schools spoke in favor of the renewals. During the State Board discussion, the State Department of Education (SDE) introduced the schools and each school presented highlights on their schools, which preceded the SBE’s discussion.

The State Board’s discussion on the charter school renewals included several important areas that the SDE has reviewed, including academic performance and growth, teacher certification, discipline, and test participation rates.

The SDE recommended 3-year renewals with conditions for all three schools to the State Board. Of particular note, Park City Prep proposed an alternative to a three year renewal; namely, that they receive an interim three year renewal, pending the results of their 2019 SBAC scores, after which point they could be eligible for a five-year renewal. The response from both SDE staff as well as SBE members was extremely critical, and even went so far as to suggest that the school could receive a shorter renewal as a result of their proposal. We were disappointed both by the tone of the response as well as any implication that a school could be penalized for offering an alternative proposal in this setting, notwithstanding the fact that this particular proposal was likely outside of the Board’s perview. While we appreciate the hard work that the SDE staff dedicates to ensuring that Connecticut charter schools perform at the highest level, we hope to help foster a more open dialogue about the accountability measures and processes that best support that shared goal.

The Board also voted unanimously through consent calendar on the charter management organization agreements between Great Oaks Bridgeport and the Great Oaks Foundation, and Stamford Academy and Domus.

As the 2019 regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly comes to a close on Wednesday, June 5th, 2019, please stay tuned for relevant updates. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.