Board Shoots Charter School Down

Board Shoots Charter School Down

After months of review, the School Board unanimously denied Loudoun County’s first charter school application Aug. 8.

School Board member J. Warren Geurin (Sterling) made the motion to deny the Sterling-based nonprofit Blue Hill Foundation’s application. The plan failed to offer the school system anything it didn’t offer.

"We already do everything of major importance that they do in their application," Geurin said. "I’m disappointed."

IN FEBRUARY, the Blue Hills Foundation, an organization set up to assist educators, business owners and residents start charter schools in Northern Virginia, submitted a charter school application to the School Board to open the Loudoun Science Academy.

Under their plan, the publicly-funded, tuition-free, nonselective, nonreligious school would offer Loudoun County residents rigorous math, science and college preparatory classes, a peer mentor program, individual attention, small classes, online student progress reports and language classes.

In March, administrators recommended the School Board deny the application based on gaps in the plan.

At a June public hearing, Blue Hills Foundation vice president Hasan Burk failed to convince the board of a need for the alternative school.

The Blue Hills Foundation defines its mission to provide a sound foundation in science, mathematics and technology to a diverse population in an enriched environment and to boost the number of students to be placed in higher education institutions, in its application.

"I do not believe you have any idea what courses are actually taught in the 10 Loudoun County Public School high schools or any concept of AP [advanced placement] courses," Geurin said in June.

Geurin pointed out that 43.46 percent of white students, 20 percent of Hispanic students, 21.8 percent of black students and 49.3 percent of Asian students are enrolled in AP courses. Fifty-one percent of Loudoun County public high school students graduated with advanced-placement degrees.

"What evidence do you have to convince anyone that we are not currently serving students who desire to enroll in AP courses?" he asked.

Burk didn’t have any answers to the board’s questions at the public hearing, but said he would get back to them as soon as possible.

Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick, at the June public hearing, assured Burk that Loudoun County Public Schools has always offered rigorous math, science and college predatory classes.

"We’ve had college preparatory programs since 1963 when I was a student in this school system," Hatrick said, "and it has been in place ever since."

AFTER THE PUBLIC HEARING, the School Board gave Burk and his team an opportunity to go back and revise their plan.

On Tuesday night, Deputy Superintendent Ned B. Waterhouse said he reviewed the Blue Hills Foundation’s answers to a list of questions and advised board members to deny the plan once again.

"Our opinion is the same. It’s unchanged," he said.

John A. Andrews (Potomac) said he is not opposed to charter schools.

"I was hoping that the first charter school application would have met more of our guidelines and policies," he said. "I look forward to future charter school submissions."

"This is really about the deficiencies in the application," Geurin said.

Blue Hills Foundation representatives were not at the meeting to comment.