District 300 chief concerned about charter school compliance
Community Unit District 300's top administrator says the district's charter school is not meeting state and federal requirements on supporting students with disabilities, special education students, and English language learners.
District 300 Superintendent Fred Heid said the state board of education also has cited Cambridge Lakes Charter School in Pingree Grove on its admission policy for a kindergarten readiness summer camp.
"They felt that it was discriminatory," said Heid, adding that a parent had complained their child was denied admission to summer program last school year.
Heid outlined his concerns at a recent school board meeting. Leaders at the Algonquin-based district have asked the charter school's administrators to take corrective measures.
District 300 officials decided to audit the school's policies regarding special education students, English language learners and response to intervention after receiving complaints from some parents and former students.
"We clearly found that there were some deficiencies," Heid said. "As a result, we require a corrective action plan outlining for us their enrollment policies. We've received complaints in the past from parents of special education students that their child, unless they agree to receive fewer services, the parent had to agree to change the IEP (Individual Education Plan) or their child wasn't allowed to attend. It's not a private school. It's a public school. It receives public dollars. Every child is entitled to attending there."
Heid said he wants to know how the school's administration is addressing these complaints and changing its practice to prevent such issues from happening in the future.
"At the end of the day, if we were to get audited, the school would not be the one that gets sanctioned and penalized. The district would," he said. "We are going to be held responsible."
District 300 officials have received the charter school's response addressing their concerns and are in the process of renewing it.
Larry Fuhrer, Cambridge Lakes Charter School executive director, said he cannot comment on District 300's concerns, but added Heid has not provided specifics on the parent complaints.
"We've always met state and federal guidelines," he said. "We've never been cited for being outside of the guidelines. We've never discriminated against anybody coming (to the school). We've accepted every child that ever applied."
Charter schools operate within the public school district's boundaries and are funded through property taxes. However, they are run by a separate board and administration.
Cambridge Lakes, which opened in 2007, is in the process of renewing its charter contract with District 300. The current five-year contract expires at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
Fuhrer said he would work with the district administration and school board to address their concerns and get the contract renewed.
"We've been a high performing school," he said. "We've outperformed the district. We've outperformed the state since the day we opened."