Cambridge Lakes given Monday deadline to revise charter renewal application
Cambridge Lakes Charter School in Pingree Grove might stay open after this school year and next, after all.
The Community Unit District 300 school board has set a Monday deadline for Cambridge Lakes' management to submit a revised renewal application.
District 300 Superintendent Fred Heid this week told the school board his administration is pleased with the progress made on the charter school's renewal application, which was submitted July 1.
"We've reached consensus on all of our requirements and requests to date," Heid said. "There are a handful of revisions that are being done currently."
Leaders of the Algonquin-based district earlier gave the charter school's management until July 1 to fix problems identified over the past two years, or the charter would not be renewed.
The current five-year contract for Cambridge Lakes, which opened in 2007, expires at the end of the 2017-18 school year. Charter schools operate within public school districts' boundaries and are funded through property taxes, but they are run by a separate, nonelected board and administration.
Heid said he feels confident with the management's corrective action plan to resolve issues, including compliance with state and federal requirements for supporting students with disabilities, students in special education, and English language learners, as well as some financial concerns revealed by audits.
"They did agree to an accountability plan," Heid said. "It's not just a means for annual auditing and accountability purposes ... unlike our current contract, it clearly delineates what metrics are used for the renewal process. We derived and took the accountability plan directly from the Illinois Charter School Commission. It is comprised of three basic component areas: fiscal responsibility, academic performance and compliance ... those encompass all of the concerns that we've outlined in the corrective action plans to date."
A special board meeting and public hearing on the application are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hampshire High School, 1600 Big Timber Road.
The board of Northern Kane Education Corp., which runs the charter school, has changed the school's management structure following heated public meetings in June.
Larry Fuhrer, the school's executive director who was criticized for his handling of concerns raised by parents and District 300 administrators, stepped down from his post and managing day-to-day operations of the charter school. He returned to his previous role as vice chairman of development.
"A very vocal group of parents, along with current and former staff, expressed their belief that issues they have had at the school, along with the protracted charter renewal process, can be attributed to one person, Mr. Fuhrer," Julie Mahaffey, Northern Kane Board chairwoman said in a news release. "Once expressed in a public forum, these opinions become reality and we as a board need to take steps to address them. Northern Kane is fortunate to have an experienced management team that can adapt to these changes and seamlessly move into the new roles."
The board tapped Sylvia Polletta, the senior vice president and chief operating officer, to assume the role of chief executive officer.
Cambridge Lakes' management will have an opportunity to present the renewal application during Wednesday's meeting, and the District 300 administration will present its recommendation to the school board.