Board votes to table charter school study

Large crowd of parents and community members voice opposition to plan.

“I think more people were there to talk about the charter school than the guns,” said Matt Davis, a Springboro parent, noting the close to 500 people in attendance and a separate agenda item about arming teachers. “Based upon the crowd reaction, the residents have no interest in looking at this (charter school study).”

The board had proposed to enter into a study with The Callender Group, a consulting group based in Concord Twp. that specializes in charter schools, to see whether opening a conversion charter school would make sense academically and financially for Springboro Community City Schools.

Conversion charter schools are sponsored and overseen by traditional public school districts, but have charters and finances that are separate from that district. There are 59 in Ohio and two in the Dayton area.

Community members who spoke at Thursday’s meeting said they did not see a need for the conversion charter school study for multiple reasons, including: because the district already was excelling academically and they said this could fracture those efforts, because the board had not identified a demographic in need that this school would serve, and because the study would cost the district $15,000.

“We have a really good school down here and I don’t know why we need a charter school,” said Ron McKay, a Springboro parent. “I think some of these guys (on the board) are trying to justify it, but I think it would only take away from the resources we have in the district.”

Springboro has been rated “Excellent” or “Excellent with Distinction” by the Ohio Department of Education since the 2004-05 school year. In 2011, Springboro High School was named a National Blue Ribbon School for academic achievement.

“If you look at the (academic) data from Springboro schools and the data from charter schools, this makes no sense,” parent David Bowman added.

Springboro board member David Petroni presented the plan at a December board meeting, and voted to approve the study Thursday. He said he wanted to commission the study to investigate ways to provide more opportunities for Springboro students, and whether this conversion charter school could be a revenue source for the district.

Board member Don Miller, who suggested that the item be tabled, said he did not think the district had an unmet need that could be addressed with a conversion charter school. Board President Kelly Kohls and board member Wendy Kull also voted to table the issue Thursday.

Miller, whose comments were met with applause, added that if the board really wanted to investigate all options, it should hire a neutral company or let the district’s central office staff ascertain the needs of the district and the ways to address those needs.

“I think we can always do better (academically), but we have a fabulous central office staff,” Miller said. “Let’s give these guys the opportunity to see what they can come up with.”

But Jim Rigano, the board’s vice president who voted against tabling the issue, said Friday that the study was always intended to determine options for the conversion charter school, not general options for addressing academic need. He said that’s why The Callender Group was identified.

“The idea is that we have a facility that would be available, and what could we do with that facility,” Rigano said. “We are looking specifically at the conversion charter school option. The only way it has a chance to be financially viable is to use the financial mechanism of the conversion charter school option.”

The facility that would be used to house the conversion charter school is the former Jonathan Wright Elementary School, which the district closed in 2009. The facility, at 40 Florence Drive, is currently being used as a community center/food bank and by Living Water Lutheran Church.

Rigano said he wasn’t sure Friday whether the study proposal had been killed or if it could be reconsidered with an adjustment to the language in the contract. He said that would be a matter of discussion among the board members.

According to state law, conversion charter schools have to be adopted by March 15 prior to the school year in which that school intends to open.

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