News and Tribune

April 30, 2013

Charter school makes another swing at approval

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

CLARKSVILLE —

A local educator is taking a third swing at starting a charter school in the region.

Becky Kischnick, a teacher at Parkwood Elementary School in Clarksville, has a proposal for the York Academy of Discovery pending with the Indiana Charter School Board. 

Her charter for the school was rejected by Ball State University’s Office of Charter Schools two years ago, then again last year by the Indiana Charter School Board. 

She said she thinks some of the major deficiencies in the last two applications have been addressed by her team of educators and professionals.

“Anytime that we’ve done the proposal, we’ve gone through it with a fine-toothed comb to address anything that seemed deficient or what they had mentioned,” Kischnick said.

She hopes to open the school in August 2014. The state charter school board will review her application in May.

Claire Fiddian-Green, executive director for the state charter school board, said the last application from Kischnick wasn’t as solid in governance and finance as her board hoped.

“Our board did not feel as if they had made significant gains in planning for a solid board of directors or staffing a school,” Fiddian-Green said. “... There were concerns about the budget that they submitted and whether the school would be financially viable as presented.”

Kischnick said she thought this application addressed those concerns more thoroughly.

But Kischnick and her proposed board have had difficulties in selecting a site for the school. She said with a budget of about $300,000, they’ve had a hard time finding a place both suitable and affordable.

“With the budget, it’s very hard to pick a building that can be within it,” Kischnick said. “Our first choice is in the Clarksville area and the second choice would be in Jeffersonville.”

She said Clarksville is the first choice because of the school’s namesake. York was a black slave who was a member of Lewis and Clark’s expedition.

She said she hopes to attract a diverse student population at the school and use a curriculum that incorporates foreign language, arts, athletics and a “rigorous” academic program.

“We really want to have a school that motivates kids to learn,” Kischnick said. “That was our major reason for trying to have a school was that we wanted to nurture kids in a way that would make them want to come to school and make them want to learn.”

But a public meeting at the Jeffersonville Township Public Library’s Clarksville Branch last week, a local district weighed in on the matter and why they didn’t support the school.

Andrew Melin, superintendent of Greater Clark County Schools, said in a statement that bringing in another charter school to the area would further tighten budgets in an already difficult financial environment.

“Adding another school in Clark County, in our opinion, is not only academically unnecessary, but also would wreak financial havoc on what we consider to be a great school district — the Greater Clark County Schools,” Melin’s statement says. “We respectfully ask that you decline the approval of the York Discovery Academy application for charter school status in Clark County, Indiana.”

Bill Wilson, board president for Clarksville Community Schools, said he attended the meeting along with administration and board members from his district. He said while they mainly wanted to get information about the school at the meeting, he’s not sure they’ll get a charter because they don’t have a place for the school yet.

“I think it would be kind of difficult to grant a charter to anybody that didn’t have a building at least set up in mind,” Wilson said.

Fiddian-Green said the state charters board would have a recommendation on the proposal on May 24 and interview all charter applicants. 

Kischnick said without a site, she understands that makes it more difficult to secure a charter, but she remains hopeful she’ll be able to open her school this time.

“We want to look at the whole child and meet those needs rather than just a piece,” Kischnick said. “That’s what we tried to do when we made the education plan for the proposal.”