Douglas district votes against sponsoring future charter schools

About half a dozen parents and grandparents explained to Douglas County School Board members Tuesday night how Sierra Crest Academy has "done wonders" for their children.

"My grandson had a rough time," said Patrick O'Hara. "After going to Sierra Crest Academy, he pulled up his grades."

O'Hara said his 14-year-old grandson has shown quite a bit of improvement since enrolling at the Minden-based public charter school, the charter of which is set to expire June 28.

"If there is any way to keep this type of school available, I'd like to see it done," he said.

Renee Sweeney, who has a ninth-grade son at Sierra Crest, acknowledged the difficulties the school has experienced over its six years of operation.

"My son needed extra help in a different classroom structure," she said. "Without that, he might not succeed. If this school can help them, it's worth the struggles."

In a previous interview, Sierra Crest Principal David Brackett said the charter school's board voted last month not to commence the charter renewal process, although they took no specific action to close. The Douglas County School District has sponsored the charter since its inception in 2004.

Brackett said Sierra Crest has struggled with compliance in the past, specifically in areas of reporting, but that corrective action has been taken. Unfortunately, he said, the school and its 71 seventh-12th-grade students cannot switch to state sponsorship, as that requires a clean track record of compliance for three years.

District Assistant Superintendent Lyn Gorrindo told school board members Tuesday that Sierra Crest has until March 28 to submit its renewal application. If Sierra Crest pursues renewal, the district will have to decide whether to revoke the charter. If Sierra Crest chooses not to renew, the charter will expire on its own.

Gorrindo recommended the board refer all future sponsorship requests to the Nevada Department of Education.

"The state has more capability to do this," she said.

Gorrindo said monitoring a charter school requires annual audits performed by several departments, which take "an enormous amount of time on our part."

"The question," said Interim Superintendent John Soderman, "is if there is an advantage for the school district to sponsor a charter. There doesn't seem to be one. The benefits conferred to the students are the same under the district or the state. It doesn't make a difference."

District trustees voted 6-1 to approve a resolution stating they will support charter schools in the future but no longer sponsor them.

"We want to open every avenue we can for kids, but the problem here is governance," said Board Clerk Keith Roman.

Roman said that while the district can audit charter schools and develop corrective action plans, they cannot enforce standards other than through revocation.

"Until the state gives us that authority, I can't support being a sponsor," Roman said.

Board member Karen Chessell, who voted against the resolution, questioned whether the state is in a better position to monitor charters, given the current budget crisis and impending cuts.

"I'm uncomfortable with this recommendation because I feel it's closing the door on an educational opportunity for our kids," Chessell said. "It's a benefit to our students. Our district has high standards, and I wonder if the state will have the resources to monitor charter schools."


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment