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|03-19-03: Minster will try to make history
|By JANIE SOUTHARD
The Daily Standard
MINSTER - Minster Local Schools board of education gave the go-ahead to
seek charter school status for the entire school system, a move that could make state
history, and in its wake, more than a few big waves in Columbus.
At Tuesday night's special meeting, board members gave unanimous
authorization to district Superintendent Halver L. Belcher to continue procedures to enter
into agreement with the Ohio Department of Education to become a charter school. The
official vote to submit the application is expected within the next two weeks.
Application deadline is April 6 and Belcher assured board members that
all paperwork is in order to proceed.
Although both New Bremen and New Knoxville boards of education recently
nixed charter attempts for their districts listing nonspecific risks and uncertainties,
Minster board President Carol Ranly said the only way to know if it can be done is to do
Belcher and board members say their research has been careful and
thorough in ferreting out what can be known regarding this unprecedented action, but
acknowledge ODE sources are becoming more obstinate.
ODE has advised the three school districts against moving forward with
the plan, but Belcher easily recalled another time a dozen or so years ago when the state
gave the same advice.
"When several school districts went together to form Tri Star
Compact, the state didn't want us to try it because they said it couldn't be done. Tri
Star is thriving and, in fact, the state later used it as a model for other Ohio
compacts," Belcher said.
Belcher did not discount that state legal action may loom somewhere
along the way, but he said the local school system is protected by a simple fact of the
"The attorney general could bring a lawsuit on some technical
issues. But, that would only continue until we back out. The charter law allows us to
immediately reconvert to a public school. Plus, I don't see us spending any huge amount on
a lawsuit," he said.
Representatives of the Minster Teachers' Association voiced concerns
about how charter status would affect their union contract and working conditions.
No change, Belcher said.
The same response applied to the only parent in attendance when she
asked if her children's school life would change if they went to the charter school or to
the public school.
"They'll be in the same classrooms, same teachers, same building.
The only difference would be in state funding. We receive $1,606 per student from the
state as a public school. As a charter school we would receive $5,058 per student,"
said board member Ted Beckman.
There will still be a public school in Minster because it has to serve
as a sponsor of the charter school. Only one third of the student population will need to
convert to the charter school in order for the total system to break even in funding,
school officials said.
As for athletics, Belcher said he would recommend all students grades 7
through 12 enroll in an English class in the public school, thus satisfying public high
school eligibility requirements.
In summation, Belcher said reasons to move forward with the charter
plan are threefold: additional state funding will enhance students' learning and
development opportunities, reduce local reliance on taxpayers, and make for more equitable
and adequate state funding.
If the conversion of an entire school system to a charter school truly
cannot be done, Belcher said Minster's action would at least force the state to produce
the laws that say so.
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