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Mon Schools says ‘no apprehension’ in going before state Supreme Court to defend charter school denial

Call it equivalent of the old-school assignment that required a student to stand up in front of the class to deliver a book report.

Only this one involves a proposed new school, that, though initially denied, could still possibly happen.

And instead of a teacher and classmates, those listening and making notes for a grade will be the justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court.

On May 4, officials from both Monongalia County’s school district and the state Department of Education will stand before the court – and defend their call last November to deny the application of what would have been the Mountain State’s first charter school.

The West Virginia Academy would have been based in the Morgantown area, drawing students from across Mon and a portion of Preston County to make up its K-12 enrollment.

Last November, though, Mon’s Board of Education unanimously denied the application, saying it missed 7 of 10 state-mandated benchmarks for an academic green light.

Preston’s BOE followed shortly thereafter with what was basically the same vote.

The neighboring district was required to address the charter as well, since the West Virginia Academy would have recruited from Bruceton Mills.

A number of students from that community 15 miles from Morgantown attend University High School, as per an agreement with the two districts.

The application was already in dispute far before it was on the meeting agenda of both boards.

It was filed by the academy’s board of directors last July 24, which meant the meter was running from then on, according to state code.

Subsection 18-5G-6(d) requires a school board to approve or deny any charter school application within 90 days of its submission,

Missing that deadline, the code states, means a de facto approval of the application.

That meant the deadline was the end of October, to allow for plenty of interaction between the schools of Mon and Preston and the directors of the West Virginia Academy.

Such discussions, academy president John Treu said, didn’t happen, though Mon Schools did host a public forum on the merits of the school Oct. 22 at UHS.

When the BOE denied the application last Nov. 30, that decision came 129 days after the original filing of the West Virginia Academy’s application.

State Schools Superintendent Clayton Burch also publicly sided with the local district, saying in a letter that Mon’s district had operated well within the statute.

Treu disagrees.

Both boards, he said, blew off the deadline – and did not meet with their counterparts at the academy, as required by law.

He also questioned the Mon district’s review of the 371-page application, saying the deficiencies called out by Mon’s district were “vague and largely subjective.”

Mon Schools Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. countered and said there were simply too many gaps in the document, including a failure to adequately provide for special-needs students.

“We’re very confident in the process we used to review the application,” Campbell said Friday.

“Our administrators pored over the document and we had consultants in. There won’t be any apprehension in going before the court.”

Treu said he’s hopeful the high court rules for the academy. If not, he said, the charter school will re-file.

Either way, he said, there will no animosity the local school boards.

“While we certainly disagree with the way the boards of education conducted themselves during our charter application review process, our governing board and the boards of education share a strong commitment to improving education in our community,” Treu said.

“We’re hopeful that this shared goal will enable us to work with them in spite of any prior disagreements.”

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