Board Requests More Information

Board Requests More Information

Charter School Provides Small School Environment

After the Tuesday, June 27 School Board meeting, the Blue Hills Foundation realized it had a lot of work to do.

The foundation's Hasan Burk made a presentation on the Sterling-based corporation's proposed charter school, Loudoun Science Academy. However, Burk failed to answer the 24 questions Loudoun County School Board and administrators issued the foundation after reviewing its proposal.

After several board members went back and forth with foundation representatives, Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick intervened, saying the foundation failed to answer the most import question: "What is missing from the public-school program?"

"I don't believe that fundamental question has been answered in the application and I don't think it has happened yet," Hatrick said.

Hasan estimated the Blue Hills Foundation would have the School Board's questions answered sometime in late July.

THE BLUE Hills Foundation is a nonprofit corporation that assists educators, business owners and residents to start up charter schools in Northern Virginia. In the case of the proposed Loudoun Science Academy, Blue Hills foundation president Brigit Akpinar, vice presidents Necmi Mutlu and Hasan K. Burk and secretary Emre Ozkan, and George Mason University French instructor Gregory Hamilton and Loudoun County Public School teacher Rana Isa came up with the idea for a charter school in the county. Mutlu described the group as "educators."

"This is the area we are good at," he said. "Education is the best contribution I can make to society."

Mutlu said he and the others want to offer Loudoun County residents options.

"There is nothing wrong with Loudoun County Public Schools. We try to emphasize we are not competitive," Mutlu said in a phone interview Thursday. "We are saying an opportunity has been given to us to open a charter school. We would like to utilize the opportunity to give people a choice within the education system."

The Blue Hills Foundation has been approved for a $275,000 loan, contingent upon the application’s approval. The foundation was also approved for a $500,000 federal grant. It is also receiving money from three corporations, Fairfax Marble and Granite of Chantilly, Graniser LLC of Alexandria and Auto Century of Alexandria.

At the public hearing, School Board member J. Warren Geurin (Sterling) asked Burk what kind of options the Loudoun Science Academy would offer residents.

Burk described the proposed school as a "college prep, science and math oriented school," with smaller class sizes, individual attention and after-school and weekend programs.

Geurin pointed out a number of inaccuracies in the charter school application.

"What evidence do you have to convince anyone that we are not currently serving students who desire to enroll in AP [Advanced Placement] courses?"

Burk said the application was based on 2003 data, before Dominion High School's Advanced Science Academy was built.

"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."

THE CHARTER school's main objective is to motivate average students to become great students, Mutlu said Thursday.

"Loudoun County does a great job. Look at the statistics," Mutlu said. "We are claiming we have a different approach at teaching the same material."

In addition to the regular curriculum, Mutlu said the charter school will offer students a place to go after school and on the weekends to work on math, science and global language projects with their peers.

At the School Board meeting, Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run) asked the foundation about transportation.

Mutlu said the charter school plans to be a small, neighborhood school with a maximum of 300 students in grades six through 12.

"We've asked Loudoun County to provide buses. They've said no. We respect that," he said. "We will hire a third-party company or ask parents to pick up and drop off students, or a combination of both."

The foundation will conduct surveys in neighborhoods throughout Loudoun County to determine the school's location.

"During the first three years, we will develop a transportation system," Mutlu said. "We would like to see how people respond to our small, neighborhood school."

The Blue Hills Foundation has a few kinks to work out before returning to the Loudoun County Public School Administration Building in Ashburn.

"I think there has to be a limit to the amount of time we can divert from the public-education system," Hatrick said.

"We expect the application back A.S.A.P.," School Board chairman Robert DuPree (Dulles) said.