Community, Education, Latest News

Preston Board of Education denies charter school application

Click here to read more about the Monongalia County Board of Education’s response

KINGWOOD — The Preston County Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to deny a charter school’s application.

West Virginia Academy, Ltd., sought approval from both the Preston and Monongalia County boards. Its plan is to site a school in Mon County but also serve northern Preston County. The Mon County Board of Education also denied the application Monday.

Preston Superintendent Steve Wotring recommended that “Given the location of the charter school as stated in the West Virginia Academy application and for statistical ease,” the board “defer to and adopt the decision of the Monongalia County Board of Education regarding the approval status of the charter School application.”

When Board President Jack Keim asked for a motion, silence fell over the room. He than made the motion Wotring recommended, so that the matter could be discussed. Board Member Bruce Huggins seconded the motion, with the understanding that he was not binding himself to vote in the affirmative.

“It makes no difference. We could vote no, we could vote yes, and it still makes no difference because … Mon County is still going to be able to take students from Preston County,” Keim said.

That’s because of the state policy that rubber stamps transfers between counties as long as the receiving county approves them.

If Preston voted yes and Mon voted no, could the charter school simply build here, Keim wondered?

“It needs to matter to our Preston County students and residents that we care about them and will fight for them … I say we stand strong and fight for our kids and try to keep them here,” Board Member Pam Feather said. “I don’t want to defer anything to any other county.”

The board then voted 2-3, with Keim and Jeanne Dreisbach voting yes, for the motion. Feather and Huggins then put forth a motion to deny West Virginia Academy’s application. It passed 5-0.

The action was applauded by teachers in the audience.

The Preston board did not mention any deficiencies with the academy’s application, but Thomas Bane, West Virginia Education Association regional representative, mentioned five areas of concern for his members Monday and asked the board to deny the application.

“The biggest difference that they are offering,” is an international baccalaureate, Bane said. That may be fine for international students or children whose parents teach at WVU, but most Preston County students would benefit more from Advanced Placement (AP) courses, Bane said.

He also said the application does not appear to show enough funding for years two through four to fund school counselors and spec ed teachers. “That draws concern for me that this is not going to be all inclusive instruction.”

Also, “It appears they do not have dedicated funding to be solvent in years one through three,” Bane said. There is also some belief that the Joe Biden administration will not support federal funding for charter schools, Bane said, eliminating another funding source.

Most importantly, he said, there’s nothing in state law that sets minimum requirements to be a teacher in a charter school.

The academy’s president, John Treu, argued earlier that both boards of education gave up their rights by not responding to the application by deadlines set in state policy.