Jul. 5, 2012
A group of Kitzmiller area residents met with the Garrett County commissioners on Tuesday morning to discuss their plans to start a public charter school and learning cooperative. They requested use of the former Kitzmiller Elementary School for those initiatives.
“We believe that our students in Kitzmiller deserve to go to school in their own community,” said group spokesperson/town councilman Matt Paugh.
Faced with significant state funding cuts in recent and upcoming years, the local board of education recently decided to close Dennett Road and Kitzmiller elementary schools, effective this fall. The board had previously closed Bloomington Elementary School as a cost-saving measure.
When the new school year begins next month, former Dennett Road students will attend either Broad Ford, Yough Glades, or Crellin elementary schools, while Kitzmiller students will be redistricted to Broad Ford. The Dennett Road and Kitzmiller school buildings will eventually revert to Garrett County government.
“While no one questions that our children will receive a quality education at Broad Ford Elementary, or at any other school in the county, we truly believe that a smaller school closer to home is going to be the most beneficial to our students,” Paugh said.
He also indicated that the town’s strategic plan, well-being, and sense of community all hinge on having a school in Kitzmiller.
After learning in April that Kitzmiller Elementary would be closed, a group of concerned residents met in early May to discuss various options for keeping students and some type of educational system in the town, including establishing a private religious school, private nonsectarian school, homeschooling cooperative, and/or a public charter school.
“We’ve formed a nonprofit organization called the Kitzmiller Charter School Initiative Inc. and submitted our letter of interest to interim superintendent Sue Waggoner on June 8,” Paugh said.
The group has not heard back from the Garrett County Board of Education yet, he noted, possibly because it was waiting for the new superintendent, Dr. Janet Wilson, to come on board.
Paugh said public charter schools are designed and operated not by a school board, but by a group of founders, which include parents, educators, and community leaders who have flexibility in deciding budgets, curriculum, and teaching methods. In addition, charter schools are tuition free and open to the public, employe certified teachers, and participate in state testing requirements.
The Maryland State Department of Education web site notes that state law:
• Allows new start-up schools and existing public schools to become charter schools.
• Identifies the local board of education as the primary authorizer of charter schools.
• Identifies the state board of education serve as a secondary authorizer as a result of an appeal decision or for a restructured school.
• Requires that charter schools receive funding that is commensurate to funding received by other public schools.
• Gives charter schools the right to appeal decisions made by local boards of education.
• Requires that charter schools have a right to appeal decisions made by local boards of education.
• Requires that charter school employees are public school employees of the local school board.
• Requires that local school boards adopt a charter school policy.
The Kitzmiller Charter School application must be submitted to the local BOE by Sept. 1 in order to begin operation in the 2013-2014 school year. Dr. Brenda McCartney, former BOE assistant superintendent, is helping the Kitzmiller group with the application process, which Paugh described as rigorous.
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