By Michael Romain
The Mastery Academy Charter School, an initiative organized “by a group of local Maywood teachers proposing a middle school to serve 90 students [in Maywood, Melrose Park and Broadview],” according to the Illinois State Board of Education, will reemerge as a topic of consideration at an October 29th meeting of the District 89 school board. The charter school initiative is spearheaded by Dr. Elaine Lee, a full-time psychologist who works at Roosevelt Elementary School in Broadview.
According to a proposal submitted to the Illinois State Charter School Commission (ISCSC), the purpose of the school is “to address students’ academic needs through a focus in core content areas of mathematics, science, and technology…built upon a foundation of social and emotional learning and positive school climate in a whole child approach to education.”
The initiative has been a point of conversation at least since April 28, 2011, when the school board elected to deny Dr. Lee a charter (five board members voted to deny, while two abstained). According to the minutes from that meeting, “Board members overall said they are interested in the concept, but did not have enough information, based on Dr. Lee’s presentation this spring, to make a decision at this time. Too many financial concerns still exist and in light of the district’s financial condition, it would not be financially prudent to pursue. They encouraged Dr. Lee to continue to explore the concept.”
In November 2011, Dr. Lee went to the ISCSC to appeal the board’s decision. According to State law, the ISCSC has the authority to “reverse a local school board’s decision if the Commission finds that the charter school or charter school proposal (i) is in compliance with [the law], and (ii) is in the best interests of the students it is designed to serve. However, the Commission may not reverse a local school board’s decision if the campus of the charter school is to be located on a public community college campus.”
But according to a July 2013 summary of appeals document provided by the ISCSC, the Mastery Academy Charter School withdrew from the appeals process. Another ISCSC document, which summarizes the appeals process of three proposed charters, Mastery among them, states that appeals to the Commission may be “resolved in different ways.”
“The Commission may grant the appeal and become the authorizer for the new charter school. The Commission may deny the appeal and affirm the [local school board’s] decision. Or, like in any legal proceeding, the applicant may choose to withdraw the appeal for any reason, including withdrawing in order to continue working on the charter school proposal. Appeals also may be impacted by legislative or judicial actions.”
The document goes on to note that, “Ultimately, all three applicants withdrew their proposals before a Commission issued a decision, stating an intention to revise their proposals and resubmit at a later date.” It’s not known by this publication precisely why Mastery withdrew from the ISCSC appeals process. Dr. Lee could not be contacted for comment.
After Mastery’s ISCSC appeal was withdrawn, Dr. Lee went before the District 89 board again, on December 13, 2012, where she was subject to a barrage of questions from board members regarding the written proposal she’d presented a month earlier. Dr. Lee and the school board will take up the issue once again at an October 29, 2013, school board meeting. VFP
Part two of this series will document the December 13, 2012, exchange between Dr. Lee and the District 89 board. To read the raw minutes, click here (the exchange spans pages 3-14).