Erie Rise Charter School Gets Notice of Non-Renewal - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Erie Rise Charter School Gets Notice of Non-Renewal

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The Erie School Board will issue a notice of non-renewal to Erie Rise Leadership Academy charter school after a unanimous vote at Wednesday night's meeting.

This comes after a searing review from the auditor general and several other infractions.

"The charter was set to expire on June of this year, in which case we would've had to make a decision to send a notice of non-renewal, or allow it to continue without question. But significant questions were raised by the solicitor and by the state auditor general," said John Harkins, president of the Erie School Board. 

Among the issues raised: 

Violation of policies that are at the very heart of Erie Rise's charter, such as small class sizes. The promise, 18 kids or fewer per class. Instead, the school's classes have as many as 33 students. 

"To hear everything that's being stated, in the end once again, the children - the students - are the losers for the failures of adults," said Michael Anderson, a member of the audience who live in Erie.

Erie Rise also failed to meet performance standards, their students testing low on standardized tests. They also neglecting to deliver promised classes, such as offering Spanish.

"Another challenge that we see from students who were at Erie Rise and then come back to the school district, is that they're months, sometimes years behind academically," said Matthew Cummings, communications director for Erie schools. 

The school has come at large costs to the taxpayer: $3 million dollars per year, totaling $9 million. However, the school failed to properly pay their some of their employees.

"The board can deny it (renewal) based on one finding, as you saw here tonight, there were several," Cummings said. 

In total, the school violated its own charter, Charter School Law, Public School Code, the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, Department of Education Regulations, Federal Law, not meeting performance standards, and not meeting fiscal/audit standards and requirements.

"You would think that just starting off they would've been really gung-ho and tried really hard to abide by everything and show us what a good job they've done. I think they've done exactly opposite of that," said Laura Bramblett of Erie, who urged the board to vote for a notice of non-renewal at the beginning of the meeting. 

 "The responsible thing for us to do was to have this notice of non renewal to set in motion the hearing process which we'll now embark on," Harkins said. 

The next step: the school will hold a public hearing  on May 7th for a chance to explain their side.

No representatives or parents from Erie Rise chose to speak at the meeting, which was opened with opportunity given to the public for commentary. 

After that hearing, the public will have 30 days for comment. Only then, will the school board vote whether to close Erie Rise, or renew it for another five years.

A renewal would also commit an additional $15 million in funding for the charter.

There are 275 students at Erie Rise who will be impacted by the board's next vote. 
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