Parkland Denies Circle of Seasons Charter School
School board president says proposed Circle of Seasons Charter School would not meet state standards.
The Parkland School Board denied an application Tuesday night for Circle of Seasons, a proposed Waldorf-method charter school.
Board members did not discuss the application prior to the vote, but the district issued a 65-page resolution in support of their decision.
“I cannot ask the taxpayers to fund something that does not meet state standards,” school board President Jayne Bartlett said after the meeting.
Bartlett said the proposal was “ambiguous” about the grade levels that the school would include, its curriculum wouldn’t meet state standards and its administrative staffing would be inadequate.
She also said that proponents of the charter school had not pinned down a location yet for the school.
Phil Arnold, who proposed the charter school, didn’t comment during the meeting. Later he said he needed time to study the resolution before deciding whether to reapply to the Parkland School Board or to appeal the board’s decision to the state Department of Education.
Arnold, who helped establish the Seven Generations Charter School in Emmaus, made his pitch for Circle of Seasons at a public hearing that the board held in December. At the time, Arnold said there were two possible locations for the school, the former Penn State building in Fogelsville and the Manito Equestrian Center in South Whitehall, with a September 2012 opening.
Arnold said Tuesday he had been waiting for a board decision on the application before deciding how to proceed on the site location.
Bartlett and Superintendent Richard Sniscak thanked members of the district administration and board solicitor Steven Miller for their work on the 65-page resolution that denied the application.
It says, in part:
- “There is no actual design for the school building.” Arnold confirmed at the public hearing that no sketch plans for a school at Manito Equestrian Center had been presented to South Whitehall Township for review.
- The proposed charter school’s curriculum for English as a second language is not aligned with state academic standards.
- The application “fails to identify a written policy aimed at identifying students in need of special education from the general population.”
At the public hearing, Arnold had explained that the Waldorf-method curriculum infuses learning with creativity, incorporating music, arts, drama and creative play. Instead of using conventional textbooks, the school would reinforce what children learn by having them draw a picture about a lesson, for example.
The school board vote to deny the application was 7-0. School board member Mark Hanichak voted by speaker phone. School board member David Kennedy was absent because he is out on medical leave.
School board member Jef Reyburn arrived too late for the vote, which was taken within the first 10 minutes of the meeting. But after the meeting, Reyburn said he agreed with his fellow board members to deny the application.
There are no charter schools within the borders of the Parkland School District, though there are several in the Lehigh Valley.
Charter schools are primarily operated with state and local taxpayer money, funneled through the school districts where they are located.
Sniscak was among superintendents from five area counties who issued a statement in December that condemned the use of public school budgets to fund charter schools. The superintendents also criticized charter schools for not being subject to the same government oversight and mandates as public schools.