Catasauqua Press

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Charter school vote is postponed

Wednesday, August 14, 2019 by Samantha Anderson sanderson@tnonline.com in Local News

Innovative Arts Academy administrator presents board with action plan

The Catasauqua Area School District Board of Education delayed a vote on the renewal of Innovative Arts Academy Charter School at the Aug. 13 meeting. Following the hearings May 21 and 22, the question remained whether or not the board would approve the charter.

IAACS was originally approved in February 2016 for a three-year charter. The school is now seeking a five-year charter renewal. According to a Jan. 16 letter between the charter school and CASD, grounds for charter nonrenewal would include the school’s failure to meet Pennsylvania Department of Education standards.

One of the biggest concerns the board had during the hearings was the lack of verifiable and trustworthy data from the charter school. Bradley Schifko, interim CEO at IAACS, said the people responsible for reporting the scores to PDE did not give the correct information. He added the people who incorrectly reported the scores no longer work for the school, and IAACS is working with a private consulting firm to try and fix the mistakes and prevent future reporting errors.

Following the hearings, Schifko reached out to Robert Spengler, CASD superintendent, and requested the board give the charter school administration another opportunity to present the correct data on test scores, attendance, etc.

At the school board meeting, Schifko presented the board members with an action plan including more information about the school and its goals; contextual data including the evolution and progress over the past three years, attendance goals, course and academic offerings and professional development plans; goals for academic achievement; and plans for student growth.

“Please take a look at the information, and we welcome any comments or questions,” Schifko said.

Schifko noted the most recent PSSA scores were not yet included in the packet. Carol Cunningham, board president, asked him to provide that information as soon as it is available for them to review.

Ernest Batha, director of curriculum and instruction for the charter school, talked about some of the updated data. He noted school administrators are taking more steps to track and evaluate student progress and staff effectiveness. They are doing more professional development with the staff and teachers, according to Batha.

He added their future plans include having measurable goals and taking steps to keep track of students’ growth and progress. During the May hearings, Donald Panto, school board member, had asked if the school would be willing to work with the district to create a clear and understandable standard metric for measuring the success of the students.

Batha also briefly discussed part of the charter school’s action plan. He reported administrators are working to revise the math curriculum. The reported mathematics scores for the school are on the lower end of the spectrum. After the math curriculum, they are going to update the English/language arts curriculum, according to Batha.

During the May hearings, Schifko noted the school is taking proactive steps to address the problems at the school. Acknowledging the school is only 3 years old, Schifko said they are still learning how best to help the students.

“I can’t thank you enough for allowing us to come and present this information,” Schifko said at the August board meeting.

Spengler invited Schifko to attend the September meeting so the board members can ask any questions they have after looking over the new information.

According to Spengler, the vote on the charter school’s renewal could happen at the Sept. 10 board meeting. The meeting starts 7 p.m. in the board room in the district administration building, 201 N. 14th St.