UPDATE: Charter School Proponents Try Again; Founder Responds To NCSD Criticisms
The parents and educators who unsuccessfully tried to start a charter school in the Natrona County School District last year are trying again.
The Guild Charter School resubmitted its application to the Natrona County School District's board of trustees last week, said Wendy McGregor, one of its founders.
The charter school plans to open in fall 2017. It will offer a classical education for students from kindergarten through the 12th grade who want individualized learning plans, challenging curriculum and other programs.
The proposal will need the approval of the Natrona County School District's board of trustees and state educators.
The Guild made a similar proposal last year, but the trustees unanimously rejected it.
Trustees chided the organizers for their unwillingness to work with the district to incorporate their ideas into existing programs.
They didn't like The Guild's unwillingness to name prospective teachers, nor did they think teacher training and staff development were adequate. Trustees said governance and school discipline plans were not well defined, nor were its business plans and methods of financing.
McGregor said The Guild organizers have responded to many of those criticisms.
Some of the criticisms were misunderstandings of what the The Guild stated in its previous application about special education, and training and payment for teachers, she said.
Board trustees were especially harsh in their criticism of what they saw in the previous application as an unwillingness to accept the Natrona County School District's existing schools-of-choice program that offer many programs The Guild was proposing.
But Guild-friendly parents, McGregor said, have told its organizers that the district doesn't have what they want such as a classical education in literature and a traditional liberal education in the arts, sciences and literature.
The district does offer a lot of those programs, but they're not offered together in one school and there's no guarantee that a student will be able to enroll in a school that does offer them, she said.
The Guild also responded to the criticism of its business model, McGregor said. "We went ahead and simplified the budget as the board has requested. The Guild's bases its finance model on that of the Snowy Range Academy charter school in Laramie.
Funding can be a problem because charter schools are publicly funded through the state on a per student basis, McGregor said. However, the schools receive less money because they have less overhead and administration, and so must seek other funding sources such as grants, she said.
Wyoming and its school districts are at a disadvantage in understanding charter schools, McGregor said.
She taught in Idaho, which has a state charter commission to review applications and school development, which gives some distance between charter school proponents and opponents on local levels, she said.
"The people that make the decisions about the charter school have the expertise to understand what a charter school is, what an application is required to have," she said. "They have a little bit more impartiality."
To promote the new proposal, The Guild will hold informational meetings in the Natrona County Library's Crawford Room at 6:30 p.m. Thursday; 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27; and 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12.
More information can be found at The Guild's website.