BOE defends charter school denial

MORGANTOWN — Members of the Monongalia County Board of Education are defending the rejection of what could have been the first charter school in the state.

After an hour-long meeting midday Monday, the board unanimously rejected the application by the West Virginia Academy, which envisioned a charter school that would’ve served students in Monongalia, Marion and Preston Counties. Much like the neighboring Preston County, the Monongalia County School Board rejected the proposal on several grounds.

“We all had different viewpoints from our own review of all the materials that West Virginia Academy had given us, the interviews, other things that we have researched on our own,” said Monongalia County School Board President Nancy Walker about the decision. “And there was not enough evidence to support the school,” she said.

Walker stated that there were seven standards that weren’t met by West Virginia Academy’s application. This included a difference in the values of West Virginia Academy’s curriculum, including a desire to follow different honors programs, as well as questions regarding technology and teaching efficiencies at the facilities. Those, compounded with outdated evidence presented at the application hearing, made saying no a lot easier for the Monongalia County School Board.

“If one of our elementary schools would’ve come to us with this plan, as a board we would have said ‘no, we think you need to work with the administration and do some things a little differently,” Walker explained.

Even though Walker, and many other members of Mon County’s school board have had reservations about charter schools before the vote, only one member of the board flatly rejected West Virginia Academy’s application outright. After hearing the proposed charter schools’ presentation, there were several aspects pointed out in favor of the charter schools’ approach, mainly due to the similarities seen in Monongalia County public school curriculums. With seeing the positives of charter schools already seen in action, Walker and other members of the board felt that complicating the school system for minimal gains were not ideal.

“We’re stewards of the tax payers dollars,” said Walker on MetroNews Talkline Tuesday. “If they come to us and say we’re going to do A,B, and C and A,B, and C does not appear to be evidence based or need base, it is going to create a different kind of oversight for us that does not meet student need,” she said.

Despite the rejection of West Virginia Academy’s application, this is not expected to be the last one heard in front of state school boards according to Walker. The movement to add more charter school’s to West Virginia’s education system, has increased since the passing of an omnibus education bill passed by Gov. Jim Justice in June, 2019 despite objections by several members of the public education community. Even with public education’s concerns over the passage of charter schools, Walker says that the Mon County BOE is ready to hear any application put in front of them.

“I do not think that this is the last charter application that boards of education will be considering in the state, so I think that’s all still on the table and open,” she said.