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Pa. District Won’t Renew Charter for Growing School

New Hope Students Having Fun in GymWhen New Hope Academy Charter School in the School District of the City of York (Pa.) welcomed 800 fifth through 10th graders for the 2012-2013 year, it celebrated an 11 percent enrollment spike and a 95 percent retention rate.

While the students still attend New Hope Academy, the district decided in July not to renew the school’s five-year charter after several hearings because the school doesn’t meet state testing adequate yearly progress requirements and the management company has allegedly mismanaged finances. “We haven’t met AYP in five years, but the district hasn’t met AYP in the last 10 years,” says Karen Schoonover, New Hope’s chief academic officer, adding that 22 percent of the enrollment is special ed pupils and about 23 percent are English language learners.

But New Hope Academy showed progress on state value-added assessment scores, which measure academic growth. For the last two years they were “significantly higher” than the district, says Schoonover. “Clearly our students are making at least a year of growth academically, every year.”

The district also focused on the charter school’s finances. Educational management company 3Cord, Inc. developed the school’s model, hired administrators and teachers, and—through its company, I Anderson Real Estate—owns New Hope’s physical location. The school’s revenue comes from the district, which pays $8,957 to the institution per student, every year. Some of the revenue is paid to 3Cord and I Anderson. The school board and some community members question whether 3Cord should be able to profit from the services. “That’s a questionable practice for a lot of people who don’t understand how charter schools are funded and managed,” Schoonover explains.

New Hope Academy is awaiting written adjudication of the revocation decision from the district. The school plans to apply to the state DOE’s Charter School Appeal Board, which will overturn or uphold the decision.

Pennsylvania DOE Press Secretary Tim Eller says that because New Hope is a brick-and-mortar school, the state does not hold the school’s charter. The charter was granted and is held by the York City School District.

Deborah Wortham, York’s superintendent, could not be reached for comment.

Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer.