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Geneva denies K12 virtual charter school

Published: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 5:45 p.m. CDT

GENEVA – Geneva School District 304 board voted unanimously Monday to deny a request from K12 and the board of the nonprofit Virtual Learning Solutions to establish a virtual charter school program.

"We are not against online learning," board member Mary Stith said. "We need to be reassured a little bit more."

"We have concerns and need feedback," board president Mark Grosso said.

President of Virtual Learning Solutions Sharnell Jackson said she would appeal the denial to the state charter school commission.

About a dozen representatives of K12 and VLS presented an overview of how their program would work, a far cry from when the district held its hearing last month and no one attended.

Charter schools receive money from local districts for each student that attends. K12 estimated they would get $8,000 for each student among the 18 districts to which they applied. 

The nonprofit filed notices with 18 school districts that it wanted to form a single, shared charter. If one board votes to deny the charter, officials said they will appeal to the state charter commission.

Jackson explained that they formed to respond to interest from the public on creating a virtual charter school.

The nonprofit's board members, Jackson said, "are not compensated for their service in any way, shape or form."

K12 teacher Leah Rodgers, Margaret Jorgensen, the chief academic officer, and Randall Greenway, vice president of school development for K12, all vouched for the program's academic rigor and service to students in online programs across the country.

"They take the same tests as all public school students take," Greenway said. 

"K12 is a research-based organization," Jorgensen said. "All our policies and plans are driven by data. If they work for students, we use them. If they don't work, we move on."

But board members questioned how they handled their charter applications and responsiveness to local school districts. 

"You formed your charter in January, then it was rush rush rush," board member Mary Stith said. 

Stith said she attended other district's public hearings, noting the K12 representatives could not answer most of the questions put to them. 

"You did a disservice to all these boards," Stith said. "You did not have enough people [at the hearings]. That is a big red flag for me ... I can't support it when I don't think it was thought through."

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