Arundel school must comply with still-to-be-negotiated charter or be dissolved

EducationSchoolsHigh SchoolsScienceAnne Arundel CountyCharter SchoolsOdenton

The Anne Arundel County school board voted Wednesday to allow Chesapeake Science Point to expand its high school but placed it on two years' probation as part of efforts to address concerns about the charter school.

The board also said it would dissolve the entire school, which has grades six through 10, after the coming school year if it does not comply with terms of a revised charter.

The 8-0 vote was the culmination of contentious open discussions about CSP, which since its inception has gained a reputation for high-performing students but has been marred by concerns about administrative record keeping and transparency in such areas as report cards, student transcripts and student selection.

"The administrative and management side is the only area that we've ever expressed concern about," Superintendent Kevin Maxwell said. "I'm very frustrated, and this was a big step to remove some of the points of contention that [have] caused frustration by many people.

"When these children are graduating from high school in a couple of years, they can't have a transcript that doesn't show the correct teacher or the correct grade."

Among the board's directives for CSP: It must use the school system's student data management system for scheduling, attendance, report cards and online parent access as well as an external contractor to conduct an enrollment lottery.

Wednesday's three-hour school board meeting followed a six-hour meeting May 16 that included public testimony regarding management practices at CSP, which opened in 2005 as an agreement between the school system and the nonprofit Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation. The school is slated to add an 11th-grade class next year and a 12th-grade class the following year.

The school board voted that CSP could continue to conduct middle and high school programs if its total enrollment does not exceed 462 students. The board voted to put its high school program on probationary status for two years and said it will decide by the board's meeting in February 2014, upon Maxwell's recommendation, whether to permit the high school program to continue.

The board also voted to negotiate a revised charter agreement with the Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation that would be submitted to the board for approval at the July 11 meeting. The board said that if the Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation does not agree to the conditions, or if agreement cannot be reached, CSP will continue to operate for 12 months under the current charter, then be dissolved.

CSP would submit plans to dissolve the school within 120 days of the end of next school year, and the school system would create a plan to relocate CSP students.

Spear Lancaster, CSP governing board chair, said the school will comply with the board's demands.

"They've got a gun to our head. We're going to have to make some concessions," Lancaster said. "This school is so important to so many people. For us to get stiff-necked and say that we're absolutely not going to do anything, we're under the gun. We're going to have to make some changes."

Debbie Lazo of Odenton, who has a seventh-grader at the school, said she is pleased that the school will be allowed to continue. Asked whether she believes the school will still be open when her child reaches high school, she said, "Today, I'm just glad he will have the opportunity to finish out middle school at that school. I can't say what's going to happen for him beyond that."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

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